Twin Peaks: A Postscript

We’ve already talked about Twin Peaks – The Return for an hour on our recent podcast – but, if anything, the process of thinking and talking about the series has generated more thoughts. While watching The Return, I greatly enjoyed it, but I’ve come to realise that I’m finding it quite difficult to reconcile it with the original series. At the same time, my idea of what Twin Peaks is (or was) is a highly selective one: when I think of “that Twin Peaks feeling”, as I put it on the podcast, I think of BOB and the Little Man dancing in the Red Room; I think of Leland Palmer crying and dancing and crying again, I think of the Giant going, “It is happening again.” I think of nightmares, which The Return offered in spades – but its nightmares feel very different.

Twin Peaks

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #12: Twin Peaks – The Return

d1ad56da-abce-4afe-9f45-79294aede9e3Tune in for episode 12 of A Damn Fine Cup of Culture, in which we finally return to the quiet (or is it?) town of Twin Peaks, say hello to Special Agent Dale Cooper and talk about death, nostalgia and David Lynch over a slice of pie and a fresh cup of joe. Did Twin Peaks – The Return deliver what we wanted or did it give us what we deserved? We also briefly visit the Civil War US and the land of the dead in Lincoln in the Bardo, experience the horror, the horror in Apocalypse Now Redux (now with more Playboy Bunnies!) and answer that age-old question – can a used condom be art? – as we chat about The Square.

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Wrapped in plastic

When I was 16 or 17, I had a crush on Laura Palmer. Not Sheryl Lee – Laura. And not because I’d actually seen Twin Peaks, but because of the little photo of her in the Twin Peaks soundtrack by Angelo Badalamenti. Yes, it’s sad – but somehow it also fits the series. The little town of Twin Peaks has a clear image of who Laura is, symbolised by the framed photo of her as Homecoming Queen. They’re in love with that Laura, and many of them have no clue of what’s going on behind that all-American façade.

She’s dead, Harry… wrapped in plastic

It’s been years since I last watched the series, and coming back to it now is weird. I watched the pilot yesterday, and my emotions were intertwined so strongly with nostalgia from the first note of the title tune and the first shots of the sawmill that I found it difficult to step back and look at it somewhat more objectively. I didn’t want all my feelings towards the series to be copies of my earlier feelings, reheated moods from the early ‘90s. Especially since television has come a long way since then: back when it first came out, Twin Peaks was clearly revolutionary, but nowadays, there is more varied, more unconvential television. (HBO, I’m looking at you! Don’t screw it up!)

The series still looks surprisingly good for television. Even at 4:3 format, it’s clear in the pilot that Lynch put a lot of effort into framing his visuals. There’s none of the stagey flatness of much of ‘80s television (American television, that is – there are some real gems of English miniseries at the time). In short, Twin Peaks still looks good.

What looks less good from a distance of 15+ years is some of the acting. I never watched the series for its acting, but I don’t think I was quite that aware of how badly acted Bobby Briggs was, for instance, or Shelly and Leo Johnson, or James “Nomen est omen” Hurley. Obviously, Twin Peaks is the wrong place to look for naturalistic acting – but there’s a difference between stylised acting that works (say Kyle Maclachlan’s Dale Cooper or Russ Tamblyn’s Doc Jacoby) and the thespian crime you get from Eric Da Re, for instance.

Special agent, in every sense of the word

Nevertheless, the series still holds up pretty well, and that’s mainly thanks to the strong undercurrent of, well, Lynch. There’s a dreamlike intensity even to the first episode which is rather short on the director’s trademark weirdness. It’s not as strong as in his most cinematic work – Twin Peaks does feel like Lynch Light – but it’s there nevertheless. It’s there in the shots of douglas firs swaying in the wind or of lone traffic lights at night. It’s there in the train waggon where Laura died. It’s there in battered, bloodied Ronette Pulaski stumbling across the railway bridge in her torn chemise. And it’s there in the synthetic sounds of Angelo Badalamenti’s unforgettable soundtrack.