Sunday, January 8, 2012

Revenge of Netflix-a-thon (#6) David Lynch's TWIN PEAKS (Pilot)

 Here it comes - the first 'repeat' viewing in the Netflix-a-thon.  I hadn't seen the show in five years - much too long for a damn good cup of coffee if you ask me - and I realized I had never seen the pilot the way it was originally aired.  Suffice to say the way the first episode ends is actually much the same as the pilot movie - that is, "Northwest Passage", the edit that Lynch did just in case the pilot wasn't picked up (which is what happened for Mulholland Drive not-too-oddly enough).

I've decided for the sake of, well, laziness frankly (and cause I thought I did a competent job previously) to re-print my original review of the pilot-movie.  The way this version ends should be noted, the one on Netflix I mean - this cut adheres to how it was seen on TV.  Which means - SPOILERS - Bob is not even revealed in this cut of the episode-movie.  The episode ends with the *hint* of Bob, via the nightmarish vibes that Mrs. Palmer (the fantabulous Grace Zabriskie) gets in her living room late at night (oh, and that one shot looking up the stairs and at the upstairs hallway of the Palmer residence is a haunted, beguiling shot that suggests so much terror while seeming to be a normal shot - quintessential Lych actually just in that one composition).  However it leaves open a lot, and in the 'First 24 hours' storyline, nothing is resolved really, certainly not how Laura Palmer died exactly before the autopsy or much else. 

In that sense I prefer the 'Film' version actually, even as its revelation is not at ALL how the show goes (or, not exactly, you can interpret the world of Twin Peaks in so many ways 99 different term papers would just scratch the surface).  But still, about 90% of the pilot-episode and the pilot-film are the same really - same introductions to the characters, same twisted satire mixed in with the harrowing tragedy of a dead teenager on a small Washington state town, same not-so-underlying sexual current from Audrey Horne (woof), and good ol' Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigations Dale Cooper, who hates Philadelphia, loves good coffee, and has a thing for that Diane person.  (for the sake of help I've actually italicized parts of my review that featured references to the pilot-film).  It's still a classic of pure mystery-mayhem that has to reveal itself slowly, like a girl who has something on the tip of her tongue as her arms bend back.

"She's filled with secrets..."

"The Twin Peaks pilot- the original version made by David Lynch (in collaboration with Mark Frost)- was quite different from how it ended up being done on the show's real beginning. I decided before watching the series itself to see the pilot though, with the 'bonus footage' as said on the tape box, and I was glad I did. While in comparison with the show's major revelation(s) in season two it pales, it still provides one huge wallop in its surreal revelations. Bottom line, this is the kind of work you'll either get all the way and totally become absorbed in, or will turn off from fervently. 

 Or, perhaps even, just a milder reaction in comparison to Lynch's other work. I found it to be something very clever and cunning on Lynch's part- it's like the wildest, sliest, and of course with the usual term weirdest take off on TV drama series, the kind that have the ultra melodramatic music and actors practically made for TV. I haven't laughed so hard at a Lynch film possibly, well, ever completely, with the only work coming close being the Cowboy and the Frenchman. It gives random eccentricities in human behavior a good name, while the comedic barbs, as black as the dark side of Lynch's mind goes, stick out excellently through what is actually a compelling, haunting drama...or so we might expect.

Laura Palmer is found dead, and there is an investigation into what happened, the night of, the killer, the circumstances and secrets and very ambiguous bits of information that turn up. That's the bones of this TV pilot, and from here Lynch and Frost concoct an entire village of shattered small-town folk, with the off-kilter outsider FBI agent coming in to investigate (Kyle MacLaughlan in one of his very best performances, with the same sincerity of Blue Velvet but with a brilliant streak of playing dead pan and other expressions).

 The story may not be totally coherent at times, which is part of the point Lynch has. I could- and will- watch this again for the finer plot details that might have gone over my head the first time around, and they are to be found. But it was also the sort of case where I didn't mind, because there was always something to grab onto with the scenes going by and by. Some lines are classically Lynch, like with the device Cooper talks into ("Diane, I'm holding in my hands a small box of chocolate bunnies", and "I'd rather be here than in Philadelphia"), or when we see the man who happens to own the half of the truck and what he has to say to his woman (and what hair the tough guy has!) and the little bizarre touches that seem so easy and obvious but which makes them all the funnier behind the dire subject matter (like the kid who does a weird movement of some kind across the hall for a moment in the hallway at school).

And even through TV, with its pan & scan format at 1:33, Lynch is still able to fashion a devilishly stylized picture. Sometimes it's very subtle, like when we see a secret being told from one teen to another outside in the dark, but with the two characters put into such an ominous pose. Or when he reveals the killer- or who may be the killer- and the actual uncovering of him. Although they changed around the pieces of this long-version (which should be judged on its own as, like Mulholland Drive, was intended as a stand-alone in case it didn't get picked up), the way this one ends is makes what 'weirdness' that came before go beyond the limit. 

 The actual revelation of Bob is a little unnecessary despite its frightening pay-off, as the whole fun is seeing this insane mystery having to wedge in logic with the absurdities that pop up. Even so, one of Lynch's most deliriously insane dream sequences (if it even is a dream, it's like Little People Big World meets Stroszek), complete with backwards-forwards dialog and a little dance too. More than any other time during the special I felt a little uneasy and wondered 'why' when I could only answer in kind 'eh, why not'.

Lynch is able to achieve with Twin Peaks his uncanny ability to go far with his digs at small town cooks and the quirks and oddities hidden beneath the small-town normalcy by having the good actors (some cast to type, and all the better for it, like James Marshall and Sherilyn Fenn and Jack Nance's bit especially) to pull it off, and by making it both not always self-consciously hilarious in satire/the randomness of absurdism with the occasional wildly surreal touch, and a very believable dramatic effort that skirts past the usual melodrama with a sense of truth to it.

It's not an easy thing to do by any means, even if I could understand how it could be off-putting too. But damned it all if I didn't find it amazing to see one minute a very sorrowful scene of parents finding out the death of their own child, and the next comments that break the tension piercingly. It's not perfect, but it's some of the bravest dark comedy since Dr. Strangelove, and in the unedited form here it should be available for all fans and even first-timers to check out."

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