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Non-Review Review: Twin Peaks – The Missing Pieces

It says a lot about Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me that there were enough deleted scenes that they could be structured into a ninety-minute feature film. It says even more that the resulting feature film is almost coherent.

Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces is a strange piece of work, essentially a narrative film stitched together from the cast-offs of a theatrical release two decades earlier. It is a collection of deleted scenes, but deleted scenes that have taken on an uncanny importance. These deleted scenes have been edited together into something approaching a linear narrative by David Lynch, the director who shot them in the first place. They even come packaged with an introduction and a set of closing credits. They are vitally important to the revived television series. They are, in other words, like a real movie.

“Yeah, he’s going to need about twenty five years to recover.”

Some of this is because Fire Walk With Me is a notoriously inscrutable and abstract film, one defined by strange choices and bizarre imagery. David Lynch is a surrealist, and Fire Walk With Me reflects this; it is full of odd cul-de-sacs and strange segues. Fire Walk With Me was also a film heavily cut before its release, which accounts for why it feels like a film defined by what is absent so much as what is present. The incomplete nature of Fire Walk With Me makes the incomplete nature of The Missing Pieces more understandable. They fit together like the two pieces of Laura Palmer’s heart-shaped necklace.

However, The Missing Pieces is illuminating for more than just the little details of continuity and the appearances of familiar faces. It is a film that in some ways shades Fire Walk With Me, existing as a remainder of the absences carved from that earlier film. The Missing Pieces defines Fire Walk With Me through contrast, revealing the elements of Fire Walk With Me that were deemed inessential to the theatrical release. In keeping with Lynch’s recurring fascination with doppelgangers and doubles, The Missing Pieces illuminates Fire Walk With Me by presenting an alternative; it is what Fire Walk With Me chose not to be.

Past prologue.

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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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