I find Twin Peaks, David Lynch’s 1990-91 television series, mannered, by which I mean that Lynch selfconsciously concocted there Lynchian images and atmosphere rather than tapping into his unconscious to create a visionary work. In Inland Empire (2006), it seems to me, he is also either off the deep end or insufficiently off the deep end, missing his mesmerizing capacity to conjure a whole intricate dream (Lost Highway, 1997; Mulholland Dr., 2001).
My disappointment with Twin Peaks has kept me from viewing Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me until now. This theatrical prequel brings quirky hilarity to Philadelphia and to Portland, Oregon, where F.B.I. agent Chet Desmond investigates the macabre murder of Teresa Banks, a kinless waitress who lived nearby at Fat Trout Trailer Park. “We live within a dream,” a little person says, and Desmond has altogether disappeared. Agent Dale Cooper: “The killer will strike again.” One year later, cocaine-addicted highschooler Laura Palmer, in Twin Peaks, Washington, is en route to becoming the next victim. A cohering motif: the dots and noise of a nonbroadcasting TV screen. Another: a ring.
Our guide through this eerie, harrowing, haunting film is our knowledge of Laura Palmer’s fate. We navigate convoluted family lives and social lives, a voluminous number of suspects and a shifting, dreamlike series of images, such as that of a photograph of a mysterious door interrupting walls, which an elderly woman, accompanied by a small boy whose face is covered, gives to Laura, who hangs it on her bedroom wall. The narrative drifts from conventional mystery into deeper territory: a contemplation of the sanctity of the murder victim’s life. We learn who murdered Laura Palmer, but by that time other things matter more.
This film is bizarre, entrancing, poignant, humane.
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