Twin Peaks

The work of David Lynch is full of moments that make powerful cinematic sense but with what can feel like a flippant disregard for dramatic or psychological coherence. It seems a fair interpretation of Mulholland Drive, for instance, to say that the first half of the film was conceived to be taken at face value, but Lynch could only manage to draw the film together by appending a coda that recast that first story as a fantasy in the mind of a suicide. Twin Peaks is currently something of an obsession of mine, and the first thing to remember is what writing for television was like twenty years ago. Viewers watched live and details from two episodes back could be glossed over; producers imposed plot developments — famously in the case of Twin Peaks, the revelation of the identity of Laura Palmer’s murderer, which took the wind out of the thing. But the perfect charge of certain moments throughout is untouched by the mess thus created. James Hurley’s on-the-road dalliance with a femme fatale is just fluff and nonsense, but perhaps that gave Lynch the free hand he needed to record its superlative eroticism, as in the scene where the pair drink champagne and kiss perched on the curves of the car James fixed — her husband’s car. Or take the theme of cross-dressing, as seen in the transvestite David Duchovny, or when “Mr. Tojamura” removes his shoe to reveal Catherine’s manicured foot. The surprise of that moment is possible because of Lynch’s weirdness, so that although the viewer knows there’s something fishy about Tojamura, belief remains suspended because there’s no guessing on which fantastic plane the fish resides — a realist explanation is not especially likely, let alone a plausible one, and we know there may be none forthcoming. In all this, Lynch is the playful enemy of the thudding, plodding, middlebrow metaphysics of his genre. Is there an affinity between opera and cinema, revealed in the dramatic virtues they can afford to disregard? The extreme is attained in the character of Josie, whose deceptions make so little sense she ends up vanishing in a puff of smoke. And it’s perfect.


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