Saturday, November 21, 2009

Film Review: TWIN PEAKS- FIRE WALK WITH ME (1992, David Lynch)

Stars: 5 of 5.
Running Time: 135 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, Grace Zabriskie, Kyle MacLachlan, Eric DaRe, Heather Graham, David Bowie, Chris Isaak, Harry Dean Stanton, Kiefer Sutherland, Jürgen Prochnow, Miguel Ferrer, Dana Ashbrook, Mädchen Amick, Frances Bay, Walter Olkewicz, James Marshall. Music by Angelo Badalamenti.
Tag-line: "Meet Laura Palmer... In a town where nothing is as it seems... And everyone has something to hide."
Best one-liner: "Hey, slow pokes... Guess what? There's no tomorrow... Know why, baby? 'Cause it'll never get here!"

David Lynch's TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME is a misunderstood masterpiece, a surrealist treatise on the psychology of abuse, the nature of evil, and a host of other (domestic) horrors. It's chilling, expressionistic, and punctuated by moments of genuine terror. Thematically, Lynch picks up where his near-apocalyptic finale left off. If the series was about peeling the veneer away from quirky, small-town America; then the movie is about peeling the veneer from the show itself. In fact, the first image of the film is, literally, a television being smashed-

Lynch is wiping the slate clean for this even darker tale; similar to the off-handed, undignified manner with which he disposed of Windom Earle (who had stolen Season 2's focus from the pure, calculating evil known as BOB). FIRE WALK WITH ME goes through the proverbial looking glass, and we're entreated to many scenes that mirror ones in the series, but which are twisted and contorted by evil (and our knowledge of the future).

In the Deer Meadow police station, we're presented with a creepy, cackling deputy and secretary who offer days-old coffee and give the FBI (Kiefer Sutherland and Chris Isaak) the runaround- it's a warped, 'other side of the mirror' reflection of Andy, Lucy, and Sheriff Truman's genuine playfulness and hospitality when we meet them in the Pilot.

At Hap's Diner, we're given a skewed version of Norma's pride and joy. Where Norma Jennings would heartbreakingly roll out the 'fancy' plastic checkered tablecloths at the thought of a notorious food critic coming to town, Irene assholishly announces, "You want to hear about our specials?.... WE DON'T HAVE ANY."

And yet, I still love Irene.

We're shown 'The Pink Room,' a north-of-the-border bar which makes One-Eyed Jack's look wholesome and serves as a depraved version of 'The Roadhouse,' with its semi-'safe' 50's juvenile delinquent-style fisticuffs from the Pilot.

The Pink Room is a veritable hell on Earth, and Ron Garcia's wobbly, disorienting cinematography makes it probably the most accurate depiction of being dangerously inebriated that I’ve ever seen.

Lynch's use of violence is startling (and similarly disorienting) at times- much like Cronenberg, he's a big fan of the one over-the-top moment of violence in the film that really pushes the envelope, even if only for a split second. Look at the decapitation-by-shotgun in WILD AT HEART, the point blank head explosion in BLUE VELVET, the rotted corpse in MULHOLLAND DR., or the dissection by glass table in LOST HIGHWAY.

Here, it's the scene where Bobby shoots a "drug dealer" whom we've seen earlier in the picture. I'd be interested in seeing Lynch's reactions when these scenes are being shot- is he beside himself with juvenile glee, or is he troubled by what 'must' be committed to celluloid in order to complete his vision?

Is this mysterious, uncredited woman really David Lynch himself in drag? I think so.

David Bowie with a Southern accent is well worth the price of admission and serves as proper penance for THE LINGUINI INCIDENT.

David Lynch's Gordon Cole. Quite possibly my favorite character.

Harry Dean Stanton does in just two scenes what most actors can't aspire to in an entire career. The quiet desperation which he breathes into "That godammed trailer's more popular that Uncle's day in a whorehouse, you see what I mean? It just means I've....more shit I gotta do now," ...goddamit, I'm about to cry over here.

The man exudes pathos with the ease that a fat man sweats. It reminds me of his big scene in DILLINGER when he says, "Things ain't workin' out for me today..."

Then, Eric "THIS IS WHERE WE LIVE, SHELLY!" DaRe brings more of his vein-bustin' ponytailed douchery to the table,

and Walter "Jacques Renault" Olkewicz is given the opportunity to revive his sloppy, slobbery French Canadian sleazebag.

Sheryl Lee channels the tradition of wide-eyed, doomed silent film heroines,

Ray Wise brings his brow-furrowing intensity to a level the series only alluded to,

and Grace Zabriskie's bug-eyed, off kilter energy is always incredible.

The denial of the victims and the rift in believing (or wanting to believe) the abuser and the ‘good’ person are two different entities has never rung so true.

Ultimately, Lynch and Badalmenti heighten the murder to such a degree that it becomes almost a religious experience- the rail car transformed into a cathedral, each blow like a strike of lightning.

We're left with a reflective ending which hints that the shitstorm at the end of Season 2 could possibly be rectified, and that perhaps the murder was necessary to properly disarrange the pieces of BOB's hateful, interdimensional puzzle (I will debate this in the comments section, if you'd like). But FIRE WALK WITH ME gazes deeply and powerfully into the abyss- a soothing enigma and a shriek unto the night- and still it leaves you with a touch of comfort and a spark of hope.

Five stars.

-Sean Gill

Well, it is one of the scariest movies of all time, so I guess it goes on the list:


J.D. said...

Amen, my brother! I love this film and it may be, quite possibly my fave Lynch film... well, BLUE VELVET is probably it if push comes to shove but this is a damn fine film (to paraphrase Coop!). Even though not many people regard it as such, I've always felt FWWM to be a horror film with Lynch using supernatural baddies like BOB as a metaphor for incestuous abuse at the hands of Laura's own father.

And have Sheryl Lee and Ray Wise ever been better? That their startling performances were not heaped with all kinds of awards is criminal. The scene between them at the dinner table where he cruelly chastises her for dirty fingernails is somehow comic and frightening simultaneously. I don't know how Lynch does that but there ya go.

And I also think that this is Angelo Badalamenti's best score, from the lazy jazz music that plays over the opening credits to the insane rockabilly twang of the Canadian roadhouse band, the score is almost a character unto itself and really helps establish that creepy, Lynchian mood that we all know and love.

I remember how vilified this film was back in the day, even by TWIN PEAKS fans who were expecting a feature-length version of the show but freed from network constraints, Lynch returned to the edgy, intense R rated fare of his feature films and I think people were pissed off that the folksy charm and quirky humor was replaced by the snarky, cheeky humor of the first third with Chris Isaak and Kiefer Sutherland (I'd love to see their characters get a spin-off film of their own). Oh well... I think that FWWM has finally enjoyed some reappraisal by fans and critics alike.

Sean Gill said...

Totally agree. Usually my favorite Lynch is BLUE VELVET- but this is such a perfect, terrifying, affecting, darkly magical piece of work that it, in my mind, frequently gives BV a run for its money.

The dirty fingernails scene is flawless, SOMEHOW striking all those disparate notes. And I don't know if there's ever been a better visual metaphor for the dirty, empty, 'morning after' post-abuse feeling than Laura grimly staring into her soggy cereal after experiencing her (weekly) dose of nocturnal hell.

I would also agree that it's Badalamenti's best score- at times it's his jazziest, catchiest, most rockin', or most terrifying. "The Pink Room" and "Blue Frank," both co-composed with Lynch himself, I believe, set the perfect mood for those hellish bar scenes. (The upright bass [played with a bow] run through ear-shattering speakers goes a long way.)

And allow me to second the need for an Isaak/Sutherland spin-off film. I don't even care if Lynch does it in DV.

J.D. said...

Oh yeah, "The Pink Room" and "Blue Frank" are my fave tracks off that soundtrack and I'm so glad that they finally released "Blue Frank" on CD!

I guess I will always have a soft spot for BV because it was the first film that really made me think of films as more than entertainment. Plus, the atmosphere of it is so incredible as is the performances from Dennis Hopper, Isabella Rossellini and Dean Stockwell.

I guess it depends on the day or the hour which film I prefer.