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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2005 4:31 pm 
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I have always found this to be one of the most criminal underrated films of Lynch's career. I have always found it fascinating how, with this movie, Lynch went from media darling to media pariah. Critics hated it and even many fans of the show thought it stunk.

I think that what pissed off fans so much is that Lynch never resolved the show's multiple cliff hangers and instead decided to make a prequel to the series that most fans already knew. However, I think that Lynch had it both ways, making a sequel (sort of) and a prequel simultaneously (if you notice he messes around with time) but with an obvious focus on the prequel part of things.

A lot of fans were not ready for the much darker mood and atmosphere of the movie -- which is brilliantly set up in the opening credits (a television is set to an abstract, white noise image only to have an axe come crashing through it) The first third of the movie sets up a sharp contrast to the show with two FBI agents going to a town that is the antithesis of Twin Peaks. The sheriff and his deputy constantly give the agents a hard time and the locals don't know "shit from shinola" -- a far cry from the upstanding Sheriff Truman and the friendly townsfolk of Twin Peaks.

One of the criticisms of Fire Walk With Me is its lack of humor. I disagree. The first third of the movie is one of the best examples of Lynch's wry, absurdist sense of humor. The first appearance of Agent Desmond has him and several other agents busting a school bus full of crying kids. We are never told why or what the deal is -- a classic, surreal Lynchian image. Other examples of his dry sense of humor are Sam Stanley's estimation of how much the local sheriff's office furniture is worth and so on. It is not what they say, rather how they say it that makes these moments funny, IMO.

I ran across a review in Sight and Sound which basically said that it was one of the most disturbing horror films of the '90s... It got me thinking that maybe Lynch's movie is a horror film but doesn't seem as such because it pushes the conventions so far out of whack. It certainly flies in the face of all the ironic, self-reflexive horror films of this decade -- Scream and its ilk. What do you all think?


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2005 5:32 pm 
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The guys at Slant, or more specifically Ed Gonzalez, enjoy(s) the film enough to include it among their Essential Films selections (but, you know, they're just trying to be different).


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2005 7:00 pm 

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Last edited by Arcadean on Tue Aug 01, 2006 3:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 05, 2005 8:30 pm 
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I have a real problem with this movie, the same way I have a problem with most prequels -- they try to make a movie out of exposition. The same happened to Star Wars I, II, and III. Twin Peaks was scary as hell, and most of it was because after you realized who killed Laura Palmer, imagining the murder was terrifying. Not in FWWM, though. Seeing her murder wasn't terrifying. In fact it made too much rational sense. There was too much explanation, too much time trying to set up reasons and logics to her death that it took the horror out of the ambiguity -- not to mention the murderer.

The obsession with this movie and its DVD is a waste for me. Seeing all the deleted scenes wont make the movie better, it will make it worse.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2005 4:20 am 
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This is difficult for me to really write about now but eventually I will probably write out my detailed thoughts about Twin Peaks. I have recently worked my way through the Pilot Episode, S1, S2, and through Fire Walk With Me. I agree with JustLeblanc in that with the death of Laura Palmer the ambiguous images and details during the series certainly were preferable to actually seeing the horror on the screen.

I find Fire Walk With Me to be a worthwhile film though because of how it brings more time to Laura Palmer (whom I personally wanted to learn more about) and the character of Bob in the life of the Palmer's. Even if seeing the devastation is a bit less interesting than imagining, I wanted to know more and Fire Walk With Me gave me that and at the same time uncovered the horror of Bob and of Laura's desparation.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2005 8:56 am 
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JusteLeblanc wrote:
I have a real problem with this movie, the same way I have a problem with most prequels -- they try to make a movie out of exposition. The same happened to Star Wars I, II, and III. Twin Peaks was scary as hell, and most of it was because after you realized who killed Laura Palmer, imagining the murder was terrifying. Not in FWWM, though. Seeing her murder wasn't terrifying. In fact it made too much rational sense. There was too much explanation, too much time trying to set up reasons and logics to her death that it took the horror out of the ambiguity -- not to mention the murderer.


Well, I always felt that Lynch had it both ways in FWWM. There was still the ambiguity (like where did Chris Isaak's character disappear to in the first third of the movie? Where did David Bowie's character come from and then go to?) The horror, for me, in the movie is the Jekyl and Hyde schism in Leland Palmer that culminates in that truly terrorifying scene where Laura finally confronts her father in her bedroom. That has to be one of the scariest and disturbing scenes in a Lynch film. Along the way, Lynch peppers some other nice, unsettling scenes (like the dinner scene with the Palmers where Leland menaces Laura about her fingernails) and, of course, the scene in the Canadian night club/bar with Badalamenti's droning, hypnotic score blasting away on the soundtrack.

I think that what primarily makes FWWM work so well is the strong performances of Sheryl Lee and Ray Wise. Lee does an excellent job conveying Laura's overwhelming sadness and we realize that this once sweet girl is rapidly disappearing and there is nothing she can do to stop it. Lee is able to show the different sides of her character: the confident, aggressive Laura that picks up strangers and has sex with them and the scared little girl that is dominated by her father, and the sweet high school girl whose reserves of inner strength are being worn down. It is an intricate portrayal that requires Lee to display a staggering range of emotion that she was never allowed to on the show.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2005 7:03 am 

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Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me is actually my favourite film of all time. I love all of Lynch's films and this is him at his best.

If only the 5 hour version will be released............


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 8:23 am 
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Quote:
Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me is actually my favourite film of all time. I love all of Lynch's films and this is him at his best.


I'm starting to think the same way. FWWM has been playing frequently on cable and I caught it three times lately. The brilliance of most David Lynch films, such as Eraserhead and Blue Velvet are very obvious while FWWM's more hidden or lurking. Its brilliance comes through slowly and you just have to give it a chance. It's really an overlooked classic.

There's not much I can add to Fletch's praise because he hit the nail about everything. FWWM is definitely a horror film. Bob is so fucking creepy especially the way he lurks behind the furnitures or the bedroom window. Bone-chilling, disturbing. I had nightmares about him. Fletch, have you seen Mysterious Skin? Those two films share many things in common. Not surprising since FWWM is one of MSkins author Scott Heims favorite films. Very vivd colors; suburban settings; teenagers; sexual abuse; surreal touches; a rich range of emotions.

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The guys at Slant, or more specifically Ed Gonzalez, enjoy(s) the film enough to include it among their Essential Films selections (but, you know, they're just trying to be different).


Huh? Are you saying that people who love FWWM are trying to be different?


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 8:55 am 
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Michael wrote:
I'm starting to think the same way. FWWM has been playing frequently on cable and I caught it three times lately. The brilliance of most David Lynch films, such as Eraserhead and Blue Velvet are very obvious while FWWM's more hidden or lurking. Its brilliance comes through slowly and you just have to give it a chance. It's really an overlooked classic.


Agreed. I really love the soundscape in FWWM. It contains all of these fantastic layers -- Lynch's sound design and, of course, Angelo Badalamenti's incredible score (my fave of his so far).

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There's not much I can add to Fletch's praise because he hit the nail about everything. FWWM is definitely a horror film. Bob is so fucking creepy especially the way he lurks behind the furnitures or the bedroom window. Bone-chilling, disturbing. I had nightmares about him. Fletch, have you seen Mysterious Skin? Those two films share many things in common. Not surprising since FWWM is one of MSkins author Scott Heims favorite films. Very vivd colors; suburban settings; teenagers; sexual abuse; surreal touches; a rich range of emotions.


It's funny that you mention this film as the Sundance Channel is showing it tonight (a mini-marathon of Gregg Araki films no less) so I will check it out based on your recommendation. Thanks!


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 11:43 am 
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Michael wrote:
I'm starting to think the same way. FWWM has been playing frequently on cable and I caught it three times lately. The brilliance of most David Lynch films, such as Eraserhead and Blue Velvet are very obvious while FWWM's more hidden or lurking. Its brilliance comes through slowly and you just have to give it a chance. It's really an overlooked classic.

There's not much I can add to Fletch's praise because he hit the nail about everything. FWWM is definitely a horror film. Bob is so fucking creepy especially the way he lurks behind the furnitures or the bedroom window. Bone-chilling, disturbing. I had nightmares about him. Fletch, have you seen Mysterious Skin? Those two films share many things in common. Not surprising since FWWM is one of MSkins author Scott Heims favorite films. Very vivd colors; suburban settings; teenagers; sexual abuse; surreal touches; a rich range of emotions.


Definitely not my favorite Lynch (I've gotta nod to the impossible to choose between duo of Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive) but it really is an amazing film. It really amps up the disturbing horror level from the series, and the actual murder scenes are among the most spine-tingling in cinema; really brutal and terrifying. The series is a whole different thing, and I think Lynch quite deliberately wanted to strike a very different note with the film -- one that perhaps couldn't be explored quite as uncompromisingly on TV. If the TV series played more with soap opera conventions, FWWM sets the same material in the genre setting of a horror film. I think Lynch got a kick out of setting his characters in a very different type of generic world for the film. I can't say I understand the complaints about ambiguity, either. True, the film certainly shows a great deal of the events that happened before the TV series started, but it raises and leaves hanging about as many questions as it answers. Lynch is never going to be someone who explains everything in his films, and FWWM is no exception.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 4:24 pm 
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sevenarts wrote:
The series is a whole different thing, and I think Lynch quite deliberately wanted to strike a very different note with the film -- one that perhaps couldn't be explored quite as uncompromisingly on TV.


True. And I always felt the opening bit with Leland putting the axe through the T.V. was perhaps Lynch's not too subtle parting shot at ABC and how they bungled the second season of Twin Peaks, moving it around to different time slots and also how I think he felt Frost and others messed things up while he was away. And that FWWM was Lynch's attempt to set things right (as was the last episode of the show that he directed and rewrote).


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 4:39 pm 

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for me , the frst 20 minutes is amongst his best work...
the opening shot alone sells it...
the wide river , with the body floating by, and the subtitle

"Theresa Banks"

that may be for me the funniest shot he has done.

as usual, my Downey sr. fixation is there, but does anyone else notice the similarities to the opening sequence, and Lynch in general, to Downey's "Greaser's Palace"? maybe only me, ha...

putney


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 27, 2006 5:30 pm 
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putney wrote:
does anyone else notice the similarities to the opening sequence, and Lynch in general, to Downey's "Greaser's Palace"? maybe only me, ha...


Oh christ, that's a memory... I haven't seen FWWM and my one viewing of Greaser's Palace was a while ago and under the influence of a wide array of chemicals, so I'm probably not the best to be responding to this, but I recall feeling beaten left and right and just violated in general by Downey, whereas Lynch seems to have the gentlemanly sense to slip something in my drink first.

All in all, yeah, someone's fucking my skull, but the it's all in the technique. Or something.

-Toilet Dcuk


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2006 1:10 am 

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yeah "greaser's palace" is a pretty bleak and hopeless film. but that and "pound" seem to be the heights of that in downey's films. but the sense of timing, especially repetion of material to point it falls beyond "3 times funny" into an almost existentialist black hole is where i have always been struck by a strange kinship between Downey sr. and Lynch.

oops have to go back to work.

putney


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2006 6:03 am 

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Michael wrote:

Bob is so fucking creepy especially the way he lurks behind the furnitures or the bedroom window. Bone-chilling, disturbing. I had nightmares about him. Fletch, have you seen Mysterious Skin? Those two films share many things in common. Not surprising since FWWM is one of MSkins author Scott Heims favorite films. Very vivd colors; suburban settings; teenagers; sexual abuse; surreal touches; a rich range of emotions.


I think Bob, or BOB (as it is spelt in Laura Palmer's diary), is by far one of the scariest villains of cinema, at least in recent times.

Regarding the use of sound in FWWM, Lynch is a master at using sound effects in film; particulary industrial sounds and screams. This is probably most notable in Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet and FWWM.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2006 8:55 am 
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Solaris wrote:
Regarding the use of sound in FWWM, Lynch is a master at using sound effects in film; particulary industrial sounds and screams. This is probably most notable in Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet and FWWM.


I would also throw Lost Highway in there... esp. the first half of the film with Bill Pullman wandering the dark corridors of his house. Very creepy and unsettling.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2006 10:45 am 
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Fletch F. Fletch wrote:
Solaris wrote:
Regarding the use of sound in FWWM, Lynch is a master at using sound effects in film; particulary industrial sounds and screams. This is probably most notable in Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet and FWWM.


I would also throw Lost Highway in there... esp. the first half of the film with Bill Pullman wandering the dark corridors of his house. Very creepy and unsettling.


While we're at it, Mulholland Drive too. The "silencio" scene in particular demonstrates Lynch's continuing concern with sound, and especially "film sound" -- the obsession with dubbing and artificiality, "there is no band". The MC's commentary in that scene reads like Lynch's own comments on the use of sound in film, how it can be used to trick and play at the emotions and reveal hidden meanings. And the early scene where a dark crescendo on the soundtrack blends into an alarm clock ringing before the music takes on a sweeping, beautifully melodic sound. And the music plays a huge role in that film in general. All his films have amazing use of sound.


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2006 7:02 pm 
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David Lynch has often stated in interviews that 'he is not a director, but a sound designer'


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 28, 2006 7:57 pm 
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The funny thing about Lynch is that he knows how dreams work so it makes sense why he puts so much work into sound design. Granted, atmosphere is what can make for a memorable film, but Lynch uses it to put one in a spell and reveal more about the world of that movie. I'm consistently annoyed by the people who do nothing but point out the sex, blood, and weirdness in his movies and ignore his craft and the reasons for why he makes his movies a certain way.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 3:58 pm 
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This is perhaps my favorite film by Lynch--only Blue Velvet can challenge it and its accomplishment is very different. For me, the experience of seeing FWWM is inextricable from my experience with the series, which was a huge early influence on me. Watching the show was like a religious ritual and I have never since engaged with anything else in quite the same way. I was and am a huge fan of Mcgoohan's Prisoner but that was technically before my time. Peaks premiered when I was at just the right age to be receptive to it and shaped by it and I welcomed the opportunity. Another thing is, watching a series like this in its first run is a terribly exciting thing. The creative possibilities seem limitless (even when limits are being self-imposed) and this is partly because the conclusion is not yet set in place. On a truly great program like Peaks anything could happen and did. Certainly I remember vividly being horrified by the Lynch directed revelation episode of Laura's murderer--that episode alone stands as one of the few high water marks of the medium. The despair was prolonged and palpable (as it was in the pilot) and the gestures toward empathy were the only things left to cling to. And the final episode (revised on the fly by Lynch, or so legend has it) is simply astonishing, surreal and appropriately spurning conventional closure (though this intellectual compensation was hardly adequate for me at the time).

As to the film, I remember seeing it in a suburban theater in Chicago upon its release but I don't remember my reaction. I doubt it was too favorable initially as I have to admit I, too, wanted some kind of more specific narrative closure to the series. But my reaction has developed much over the years and I now see this picture as vital and courageous. It is the spiritual and emotional closure the series needed. Lynch was more focused and clear headed about what his creation needed than many of the fans.

Anyway, one thing I love about the movie (and this happened on the show as well, when Lynch directed the episodes), is the fact that narrative continuity is basically tossed. It traffics in signifiers that were barely touched on in the series and often creates wholly different and new signifiers that seem critical to an understanding of past mysteries. He does not lay down consistent or easily determinable laws to which these things must adhere within the larger context of his mythic world. They are fluid and associative and our response to them must be capable of acting the same way or it will prove inadequate to engage with the film at all. The ring is one of the most obvious examples. Though there is no mention made of it in the series it seems to be the psychic catalyst for Laura's capitulation to her own murder, the suicide Dr. Jacoby speaks of in season two ("She might have allowed herself to be killed"). When she dons it in the train car, Leland/BOB screams, "Don't make me do this!" Of course, the ring itself features a prominent symbol from the last few episodes of the series but one which no one would be blamed for not remembering immediately. There is also the intriguing fact that when we see Leland (as clearly distinguished from BOB) speaking to Laura in the train car, he holds up torn pages of her diary and says, "I thought you always knew it was me." This suggests a more troubling collaborative quality between Leland and his inhabiting spirit than is previously implied. There are many such examples. On the series, Lynch would often change or discard pertinent empirical evidence points that had been established and this always read to me as though he was attempting to scuttle efforts at rational analysis and quietly point his audience toward a more expansive, poetically productive interpretive method. Tension always existed between Lynch the intuitionist and many of his surrogate crew who may have tried to ape his psychic position but were anything but kindred spirits. And the audience was probably along for the wrong sort of ride from the beginning. It explains why shows like Northern Exposure and Picket Fences, which copied the "quirkiness" but abandoned the serious spiritual explorations flourished in Peaks' absence. And that, in turn, has lead to the abandonment of humanity and the embrace of "facts" in the current proliferation of CSIs and Law and Orders.

One other thing about the movie. Its most serious accomplishment, I think, is how far it goes toward recognizing the boundaries of narrative form itself and expanding out beyond them via that recognition. Really the film is full of significant or portentous moments, movements, language, etc. that do not necessarily point to any consistent interpretive method. In other words, more than most quasi-myths in the making Lynch acknowledges that none of what he is showing us means anything at all outside the parameters of a subjectively selected (often almost arbitrary) method of interpretation. He is both non-ironic in investing so completely in Laura's psychic and emotional torment and also absolutely ironic in his acknowledgment of how we process narrative and determine and assign meaning. Laura's story has the iconic heft of myth because her experience deserves and demands it. This kind of thing is what provides his work with its vast sense of mystery.

The more recent films (Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive) are refinements of a sort on this technique, but I find them more problematic. They both seem to want to establish a jejune psychological reading as a foundational entry point (Fred's psychic fugue state and Diane's personality driven dream logic) and then Lynch expects us to recognize these readings as inadequate and transcend them through that recognition. But what Lynch is doing is radical enough to require a little hand holding along the way. These last two films can be understood well enough within the boundaries of those initial readings and do not demand to be taken further. In fact, they seem to resist it, in a way. Let's not forget how much of a breakthrough it was considered to unravel the dream in Mulholland Drive. It certainly is not adequate to fully appreciate or understand that picture but as with our modern empirically driven "culture" it is hard to convince people of how valuable transcending pat and reductive interpretations is when the method of understanding which is directly available seems so all inclusive and definitive (the fact that it is all inclusive and definitive should be the tip off that it is driven by desires for mastery and comprehensible grand narrative). Anyway, only now are some people doing the hard work of taking Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive into new territories. These new interpretations are visionary and rich with possibility.

But maybe Blue Velvet is and always will remain his masterpiece. The surface narrative is clearly insufficient for understanding the vast implications of the material and yet it does not announce a persuasive method to unlock its mysteries. They all remain just out of reach, eluding close inspection. Eraserhead only seems less accessible.


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 29, 2006 8:56 pm 
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John Cope wrote:
The more recent films (Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive) are refinements of a sort on this technique, but I find them more problematic. They both seem to want to establish a jejune psychological reading as a foundational entry point (Fred's psychic fugue state and Diane's personality driven dream logic) and then Lynch expects us to recognize these readings as inadequate and transcend them through that recognition. But what Lynch is doing is radical enough to require a little hand holding along the way. These last two films can be understood well enough within the boundaries of those initial readings and do not demand to be taken further. In fact, they seem to resist it, in a way. Let's not forget how much of a breakthrough it was considered to unravel the dream in Mulholland Drive. It certainly is not adequate to fully appreciate or understand that picture but as with our modern empirically driven "culture" it is hard to convince people of how valuable transcending pat and reductive interpretations is when the method of understanding which is directly available seems so all inclusive and definitive (the fact that it is all inclusive and definitive should be the tip off that it is driven by desires for mastery and comprehensible grand narrative). Anyway, only now are some people doing the hard work of taking Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive into new territories. These new interpretations are visionary and rich with possibility.


Great, great post! I don't have too much to add to your totally dead-on reading of FWWM, but I would like to go (slightly) OT to discuss your points about later Lynch a little further. I have only seen Lost Highway once so far, and as I'm sure we all understand here, that's hardly enough to get anywhere close to its myriad mysteries -- that film is still very much a puzzle to me, one I can't wait to delve further into with more viewings. But Mulholland Drive is possibly one of my most-watched films of all time. It was my first encounter with Lynch, and my initial viewing of it left me in such a state that when I went outside immediately afterwards, the whole bright, sunny summer world seemed literally unreal and bizarre -- it was as if I'd become so acclimatized to Lynch's strange world that my own suddenly seemed weird.

Obviously, I've watched the film many times since then, and I'm not sure your characterization of it is quite accurate. Yes, there is certainly a kind of psychological dimension to it, and the dream interpretation, while not very easy to unravel without multiple very thorough viewings, is satisfying as a simple explanation for a lot of what is going on onscreen. But I think the real key to Mulholland Drive is in its very insidiousness -- the dream interpretation is, initially, incredibly satisfying once one has stumbled across it or "figured it out", satisfying on the level of guessing the murderer in a murder mystery except that this revelation comes only after the film is over. But without going into deeper levels of the film, this interpretation doesn't even explain everything on the surface level. The sheer complexity of the dream, its quasi-independent characters like the director, who seems to have his own separate narrative within the dream, the enigmatic, somewhat frightening mob-type characters lurking around its edges; these things defy simple explanation and twist away from an all-inclusive encapsulation. There's simply too much going on within the lengthy "dream" part of the narrative that can't be put down easily to any psychological motivations in the mind of Betty/Diane. In any case, even more obvious than the dream explanation in the first place are the multiple allusions to Hollywood and film culture: the Vertigo/Persona references, the acting auditions, the "silencio" nightclub with its dissection of film soundtrack norms and the artifice of film. I think these are just as integral to the movie as the psychoanalytical components, and add to its complexity.

Basically, what I'm saying is that Mulholland Drive (and probably Lost Highway as well) is every bit as complex, powerful, and amenable to rich interpretations as his earlier work. I'd even venture to say that Mulholland Drive is possibly his densest work, so stuffed with layers to be unpacked and unravelled that the process can perhaps never be completed. It will always be a temptation with films like this to settle upon one explanation, but I don't think that's a reflection on the film so much as it is on the audiences' willingness to confront difficult works of art in general. Let's not kid ourselves, much of the appreciation of Twin Peaks was at a fairly surface level -- how many viewers took Lynch's soap opera satire with a straight face? A large number of them, I'd wager. That's no reflection on TP, certainly.

Also, as an alternative to the ubiquitous "dream" theory, I find it just as compelling to think of the two uneven halves of Mulholland Drive as representing a split, not so much between dream and reality as between film and reality. The first half of the movie runs through a number of generic conventions and tropes: the idealistic-girl-making-it-in-the-world, the Hitchcockian mystery, the hard-boiled detective, the Tarantino-esque bumbling hitman, the cowboy picture, the erotic thriller... And finally the "silencio" sequence, probably one of my favorite scenes in film ever, lays it all bare, reveals for the audience -- both the audience watching the film, and the audience in the club within the film -- the ways in which film mimics and fakes reality, the separation between soundtrack and events, the artificiality of the whole setup. "No hay banda" indeed. And then the enigmatic transfer through the blue box into a dingy apartment where all Hollywood artifice and glamour has been stripped away, and a largely makeup-less Naomi Watts expresses the kinds of very raw, unfiltered emotions that have never had much place in Tinseltown.

Now I'm not sure if that particular explanation has been posited before (I suspect it has), but I'm just trying to point out that Mulholland Drive is potentially much richer than the reductionist psychoanalytic explanation you refer to above. I think despite some possible pat answers to the many questions this film raises, it's real intent and effect is much deeper, more subliminal and ambiguous.


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Oh, I agree with you 100%, sevenarts. I guess my frustration stems from the proliferation of easy, overly satisfied analyses that rely on the reductive interpretations we referred to. I much prefer to read the dismissive critiques of FWWM and Wild at Heart which ultimately cop to the writers own lack of imagination or engagement. But that attraction is a double edged sword. I continue to circle back around to Blue Velvet as Lynch's best. That film does not allow you to be satisfied finding ultimate meaning in its surface narrative. It is mainly about deconstruction (of genre) rather than construction of an elaborate interpretive strategy. I like it because it always feels like it contains worlds within its very simple set up. The simplicity itself is deceptive, of course. It may be less obviously dense than Mulholland Drive but that enhances its potency. The scene at Ben's, for instance, is endlessly fascinating for the very fact that we will never and can never know what is really going on here; there is just not enough information and it is lazy to reduce all elements to generic "weirdness". The film seems centered on the resonance all the events have for Jeffrey because this is supposed to be a "coming of age" story and the solipsism is assumed if not encouraged. But the genius of it is, once again, in Lynch's recognition of context. When we watch Hopper gnash his teeth during Ben's performance we are aware that he is responding to some wound far greater than Jeffrey is willing to understand and that this is indication of a larger and truly untapped psychic realm which works to create the space for Jeffrey to "come of age" in the first place. The extent of Dorothy's distress (mental illness?) is also intentionally elided but nags at the corners of the mind. These elisions speak to our own desire to contextualize events within a meaningful praxis but one that ultimately diminishes the import of what is threatening or uncontrollable; we simply want to engage with it less. The acknowledgment of how the irrational is made to become rational by tailoring it to fit the requirements of a form is one of Lynch's great visionary breakthroughs. Sandy's confession of her dream of robins over saccharine church music is another example of Lynch's profoundly wise non-ironic irony; he deeply sympathizes with her at the same time as he knows it is ridiculous. And the final scenes disturb in their almost positive depiction of the necessity of repression--the only possible happy ending. For me, Martha Nochimson is one of the few critics who has a handle on this aspect of Lynch's art. I value her work tremendously, though she is an unabashed Jungian and that creates its own limitations of vision (what doesn't?). Fellow Lynch cultist Slavoj Zizek seems to dismiss her but then again his favorite Lynch film is Dune, which Nochimson interprets in a way clearly not to his liking. I assume Zizek's interest in it has something to do with semantics--the voice-overs and all that.

Meanwhile, it is risky to champion FWWM too much for fear one is presumed to be an obscurantist, attracted to the resolutely undefinable for its own sake. And though Mulholland Drive is a great, dense work and its very real subtlety in this regard is a testament to Lynch's evolution as an artist, I can't help but think it will remain largely read in an elementary fashion because it allows for that. As I said, this is not Lynch's fault, unless giving his audience too much credit is a fault, but the willingness of many to settle for the easily scrutable still grates. The points you make about Mulholland Drive are absolutely apt and I hope that you are right and that it is eventually salvaged by critics who will turn it into the next Vertigo, penetrating through the superficial, diagnostic readings to reveal its manifold implications; but that remains to be seen.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 30, 2006 9:18 am 
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John Cope wrote:
This is perhaps my favorite film by Lynch--only Blue Velvet can challenge it and its accomplishment is very different.


I couldn't agree more. For me, my fave Lynch film alternates between Blue Velvet and FWWM (it really depends on my mood). I really believe that these two films are Lynch's strongest and most accomplished for many of the reasons you stated in this beautifully articulated post.

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For me, the experience of seeing FWWM is inextricable from my experience with the series, which was a huge early influence on me. Watching the show was like a religious ritual and I have never since engaged with anything else in quite the same way. I was and am a huge fan of Mcgoohan's Prisoner but that was technically before my time. Peaks premiered when I was at just the right age to be receptive to it and shaped by it and I welcomed the opportunity. Another thing is, watching a series like this in its first run is a terribly exciting thing. The creative possibilities seem limitless (even when limits are being self-imposed) and this is partly because the conclusion is not yet set in place. On a truly great program like Peaks anything could happen and did.


I agree. I remember when the Lynch-directed episode with Agent Cooper's dream sequence first aired. It was unlike anything I had ever see on TV before and was really quite a revelation... that someone could push the boundaries like on TV and get away with it. As you said, the possibilities seemed limitless and the show really felt like that until Lynch was forced to resolve Laura's murder and once that arc ended and Lynch left to do other things, the show was never able to recover that momentum again until Lynch's return at the end of the second season. Instead, we had amusing but inane subplots like James' film noir escapade, Ben's civil war fixation (which is pretty funny) and Coop walking around with lumberjack shirts on (?!).

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Anyway, one thing I love about the movie (and this happened on the show as well, when Lynch directed the episodes), is the fact that narrative continuity is basically tossed. It traffics in signifiers that were barely touched on in the series and often creates wholly different and new signifiers that seem critical to an understanding of past mysteries. He does not lay down consistent or easily determinable laws to which these things must adhere within the larger context of his mythic world. They are fluid and associative and our response to them must be capable of acting the same way or it will prove inadequate to engage with the film at all.


I think that the key here is that Lynch works on a very instinctive level. As most people know he's into meditation and his idea of brainstorming is what he calls "fishing for ideas" and once a key one comes along that often leads to others for Lynch until he gets enough for a movie. They may not always make linear sense but Lynch is smart enough to leave things up to the audience to make sense for themselves.

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There is also the intriguing fact that when we see Leland (as clearly distinguished from BOB) speaking to Laura in the train car, he holds up torn pages of her diary and says, "I thought you always knew it was me." This suggests a more troubling collaborative quality between Leland and his inhabiting spirit than is previously implied.


Yeah, if memory serves, in the episode where BOB leaves Leland's body for good, they basically chalk it up to Leland did bad things soley because of BOB's influence and that once it left its host, the "good" Leland returned but with the horrific knowledge of everything he had done... as if the "good" Leland had disappeared somewhere (the Black Lodge perhaps?) only to finally return. However, FWWM suggests that Leland knew what he was doing and either was unable or unwilling to stop it. And this makes the film so much more disturbing in that respect than anything in the series.

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The more recent films (Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive) are refinements of a sort on this technique, but I find them more problematic.


Well, I think that the first half of Lost Highway takes what you're talking about in FWWM in terms of non-linear narrative and intuitive symbolism and goes to the next level. It's almost as if he was grafting the quiet menace and isolation of Eraserhead (Fred's house seems to have the same kind of darkened, deserted feel of Henry's apartment building.) and fused it with genre sensibilities of Blue Velvet (the film noir conventions). I think the key to what makes Lost Highway so interesting is the inclusion of the Mystery Man (Robert Blake) as the possible source of the video tapes. Also, does only Fred see him? Initially, in the first half of the movie that seems to be the case but then I believe Alice's friend mentions him to Fred... But his presence reminds me a lot of BOB's in FWWM. This otherworldly being that torments our protagonist.

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But maybe Blue Velvet is and always will remain his masterpiece. The surface narrative is clearly insufficient for understanding the vast implications of the material and yet it does not announce a persuasive method to unlock its mysteries. They all remain just out of reach, eluding close inspection. Eraserhead only seems less accessible.


I think you're right about Blue Velvet. It certainly is his signature film because I think it is an ideal marriage of Lynch's thematic preoccupations including his abstractness but with enough elements in mainstream genre conventions to appeal the casual admirer of Lynch's work. I loved your example of Frank's grimacing reaction to Ben's singing and what that might suggest. You're right about that scene, though. There is so much going on in it. For me, I always wonder what the deal is with the ladies that are sitting in the background of the scene and what their backstory might be. I also love watching Jack Nance in this scene and how he claps his hands near Jeffrey's face at one point and says, "I'm Paul." I would've loved to know what his backstory was. I think that's what makes this film so rich. There are so many tantalizing images and characters and so much left unsaid about them that causes endless speculation.


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 2:22 pm 
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I know the deleted scenes to FWWM have been in legal limbo for quite some time. Any word as to whether FWWM will be re-released on R1 anytime soon with these extras? The current R1 looks great, but I am trying to avoid double dipping on this film at all costs.

Nonetheless, this and the entire Twin Peaks series is far and away Lynch's greatest achievement as a filmmaker. I find all of Lynch's films worthwhile, with some masterpieces in there, but the Twin Peaks and Fire Walk with Me is just an endless buffet of Lynch.

I can only imagine how a Mulholland Drive TV series would have compared to the film (which is a masterpiece in my opinion). One can only dream...


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2009 6:32 pm 
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Nobody has yet to mention the final scene of FWWM, when Laura is sitting and the angel is floating in the air and "The Voice Of Love" is playing. That alone for me makes it absolutely one of the best movies for me, and all the experience and all the weird things about this movies, truly a masterpiece and I like the fact that many people don't like it or get it.
I haven't got half of it but I am truly under its spell.


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