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Non-Review Review: Twin Peaks – Fire Walk With Me

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a fascinating piece of work, in no small way due to how it has been re-evaluated and reclaimed since its premiere.

Despite the urban legend, Fire Walk With Me was not booed on its premiere at Cannes. Nevertheless, the widely-reported rumour that it was says a lot about the film’s reception and the ensuing mythology around it. Young provocateur Quentin Tarantino even took the opportunity for a pot shot at David Lynch, lamenting that the director had disappeared so far up his own ass.” The film earned just over four million dollars at the United States box office. Those watching at the time would (fairly, in context) have deemed the film’s failure as the end of the line for Twin Peaks.

In darkness…

Of course, hindsight has reversed a lot of these opinions. Critics like Mark Kermode are willing to make impassioned arguments in support of Fire Walk With Me, and the tone of coverage of the film leading into the television revival two decades later was largely positive. Modern reviews tend to speak about Fire Walk With Me as a “harrowing tour de force”, and as a key part of both Lynch’s evolving filmography and in the development of what Twin Peaks could be. It is an impressive reversal of public opinion, in a relatively short amount of time. (Lynch’s in-between success with Mulholland Drive might have helped.)

It is possible to see both of those films wrestling within the finished product, to understand how the film could once be a provocative disappointment and an insightful statement. In some ways, this wrestling match within Fire Walk With Me feels entirely appropriate with the themes of both the film itself and the series leading into it. Lynch’s oeuvre is populated with doppelgangers and twisted reflections, and it feels strangely appropriate that Fire Walk With Me should exist as its own shadow self.

A singular maniac.

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Twin Peaks – Northwest Passage (Review)

This is Special Agent Dale Cooper.

Gary Cooper?

Agent Cooper. Agent.

Twin Peaks remains something of a pop cultural oddity.

Despite its trappings and its pedigree, Twin Peaks was not a niche phenomenon. It was an event. The pilot was the most-watched television movie of 1990, and set about a wave of speculation and engagement. The series inspired a whole generation of television copycats, from Picket Fences to The X-Files. It redefined what was possible on television. It was a water-cooler show. This fact is somewhat obscured by the underwhelming ratings of the recent relaunch and even the sharply declining ratings of the original run.

And yet, in spite of all of that, Twin Peaks is undoubtedly the product of David Lynch. Of course, Lynch was working with writer Mark Frost, who deserves a great deal of credit for fashioning Lynch’s surrealist tendencies into something as coherent and accessible as Twin Peaks. Nevertheless, Twin Peaks is very much “of a piece” with the rest of the director’s work. Even beyond its use of familiar faces and its unmistakable tone, there is a clear sense that Twin Peaks belongs alongside Lynch’s films like Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire.

However, the beauty of the original Twin Peaks is the way in which so skillfully distills that illusive and ethereal Lynchian quality into something that is much more conventional than a lot of his cinematic output; something that has the same depth and uncanniness that defines so much of Lynch’s work, while also seeming very much in tune with the popular consciousness. It is a rare quality, a piece of art both universal and specific.

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