Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Greatest Show On Earth

I recently finished watching the two seasons of the show "Twin Peaks" and the movie that followed it.

I must say it was one of the best television series I have ever seen. It was like nothing that came before it and so many of the shows I know and love probably were obviously influenced by it. ("Six Feet Under", "Carnivale", "Picket Fences", "The X-Files", "Dexter"- pretty much every lauded TV series owes some thing to "Twin Peaks".)

Charming, haunting, and refreshingly weird and campy, "Twin Peaks" is one part "Twilight Zone", one part soap opera, one part film noir and one part crime drama. All shaken together with a cast of characters that you'll never forget.

The show centers on the small town of Twin Peaks, Washington. The homecoming queen and popular local teen Laura Palmer is found murdered. FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper is sent to investigate the murder. The eccentric and compelling townsfolk each have a part to play in the plot as the mystery slowly unfolds.

The story and direction is just fantastic. There are so many themes and metaphors, it's one of the most stylistically sophisticated I've ever seen. The look of the show is just gorgeous. The women look like they just walked out of 1940, the men are rugged, and everyone is a little mysterious. The costumes say so much about the characters. Dramatic lighting, dynamic camera angles, and symbolic imagery are constantly showing up on the screen. The other character in the show is the forest surrounding "Twin Peaks". It is almost always dark, foreboding, and hiding secrets.

The acting is just incredible. Kyle MacLachlan (you know him from other Lynch work such as Dune and Blue Velvet) is smooth, cool and the consummate professional as Special Agent Dale Cooper. Sherilyn Fenn is the perfect Lolita as Audrey Horne. Lara Flynn Boyle channels a Hitchcock heroine as Donna, Laura Palmer's best friend. And Sheryl Lee, oh Sheryl Lee. The image of her face, playing a corpse wrapped in plastic, will never leave my mind. She is so powerful and magnetic when she is on-screen that it's no wonder Lynch found another role for her in the show. And in Fire Walk With Me she brings down the house. She's a natural talent. The entire cast create a community populated by true individuals. The cast brings the town of Twin Peaks to life in a way few casts ever do. It seems like a real, living community that you're observing. The way they interact with each other is just perfect. You will never forget Catherine Coulson as the infamous Log Lady (see picture above). She is so delectably weird. When you watch the DVDs you must must must watch the Log Lady intros. The Log Lady will tell you what to look for, what to remember and what to know. It adds a whole new layer to each episode.

The dialogue is, at times, very cliche. But this is intentional. It ties into the real-life-soap-opera atmosphere of the story and place. it was this obvious soap opera style that, at first, turned Dan off to this show. After a few episodes, when the mystery starts to become deliciously complicated, he became as hooked as I was.

This show is addicting. And now that I've seen every episode and watched the movie, I'm experiencing the crash after the entertainment high. I'm sad because I know as hard as I try, I won't experience anything quite like it ever again. I am also extremely disappointed that the show had to leave off where it did. It was cancelled, so the last episode is not a series finale. It leaves off where the creators intended the third season to begin. Only there was no third season. The movie answered a few of the questions, but there's still a lingering feeling of dissatisfaction. On the other hand, the many mysteries of the show, in a way, are better when left a mystery. We are left to question, to draw our conclusions, to invent explanations, and to interpret them in any way we wish.
The last episode was, by far, one of the scariest things I've ever seen. No one knows how to capture the look and feeling of a dream like David Lynch.

The movie Fire Walk With Me is a whole different animal. This is a David Lynch joint. It is surreal, disturbing, and the perfect end note to the series. It's not as soft and charming as the show, but that's a good thing. It allows us to glimpse at the dark underbelly that was only hinted at in the show. When I say dark, I mean ten times as dark as the show ever was. Plus, David Bowie is in it! So, you know it's worthwhile and the best kind of bizarre.

The only things I suppose I will truly miss about Twin Peaks, besides the high level of entertainment it provided, are the characters. Each and every one was so alive, so unique. Being from a small town myself, it somehow reminded me that all small towns have their characters, their mysteries and their indisputable charm.

Pass the coffee and pie.


No comments: