Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me ★★

Imagine, if you will, that you are a studio head at New Line Cinema in early 1992. David Lynch walks into your office and shows you the film you've agreed to distribute. Throughout the 2 and a quarter hour film (you only agreed to see it after the glowing praise your underlings gave Lynch's 5 hours of footage), you start noting, with mounting horror and growing anxiety:
-- It is a prequel instead of an epilogue to the series, giving fans no resolution to the fate of Cooper, et. al.
-- It is completely inaccessible to anyone who has not seen Twin Peaks.
-- It opens with a 30 minute prologue containing virtually none of the Twin Peaks characters.
-- Even for fans of the series, a majority of the supporting characters are either missing entirely or get a scene or two.
-- The movie is NOT about Dale Cooper.
The fact that Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was even released is some kind of miracle. Unfortunately, the film doesn't live up to the lofty obstacles is surpassed to see the light of day.

If anything, Fire Walk With Me made me realize that there is one character even more integral than Dale Cooper to the mythos and feel of the series and this film: Lynch's bizarre sense of humor. It fleshed out the characters in a show that was otherwise mostly melodramatic soap opera storylines in a crime show setting. It turned Twin Peaks from a small, no name town full of bad folks into a real, unique world. It both soothed the horror of B.O.B. and the malignant spirits that haunt the town, and in turn accentuated the specific episodes of violence that occur. And it is completely missing from Fire Walk With Me.

I keep trying to step back and ask myself if this film would be enjoyable if all the elements of Twin Peaks were removed, and it was instead a self-contained Lynch feature. I think it would be a little better, because there are definitely those addictive Lynch trademarks of surrealism. I still don't, however, think it would be anywhere near the storytelling or technical efforts of his other major films of that era. And because it's tied so closely to, yet missing the essence of, Twin Peaks, it's doubly disappointing.

As for good things, Badalamenti's score is the most evocative of the series and the most welcome aspect of the film. The surreal and supernatural elements of The Black Lodge and its inhabitants were some of my favorite parts of the show, so it was great to see additional tidbits of mythology (however small) added here. Ray Wise and Harry Dean Stanton were great as always, but both Kyle MacLachlan (understandably) and David Bowie (inexplicably) were merely used to tease. And of course, that Lynch weirdness is always a draw in and of itself (Holy shit, that talking monkey damn near killed me with fright).

I was not expecting closure going into Fire Walk With Me. Hell, based on a majority of reviews, I was not even expecting a very good movie. Both were correct assumptions, of course, but the worst part is that Fire Walk With Me, while wonderful to visit that strange little town again, is a ghost of Twin Peaks. It looks like what it used to be in the prime of its life, but you try and grab it, and there's nothing there.

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