Monday, March 23, 2015

We are living through a golden age for Twin Peaks fans, despite recent concerns about a snag in the new Twin Peaks (my take: rest easy, neither Showtime nor David Lynch wants to lose this opportunity). In addition to the return of the series and the release of the deleted scenes from the film, new Twin Peaks books are finally hitting the shelves. If Brad Dukes' oral history Reflections explored the offscreen world of the series, Andy Burns' brand new Wrapped in Plastic (Twin Peaks), part of the ECW Pop Classics series, examines what's onscreen. Through seven elegant chapters, Andy investigates the partnership of David Lynch and Mark Frost, the fifties influence, the complicated relationship to soap opera, the theme of doubles, the treatment of family, the supernatural mythology, and the impact Twin Peaks has had on subsequent TV series.

In our discussion, Andy describes the process of creating the book, but we also delve deeply into the show and film itself: charting its rapid rise and fall, analyzing the twists and turns of Lynch's mass media image, and parsing a revelatory Jennifer Lynch quote featured in Wrapped in Plastic, in which she offers her own analysis, and critique, of the "Bob" issue. If that's not warning enough, there are major spoilers on the horizon.

Monday, March 16, 2015

When Wanda Jakubowska entered the gates of the women's camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau as a political prisoner of the Nazis, she seized upon a goal that may have kept her alive in the months and years to come. Although she had joined the Polish Resistance early in World War II and been committed to the Left many years before that, this was not a political goal (at least not primarily). Jakubowska had also been a filmmaker for over a decade, founding the film group START and crafting experimental films throughout the thirties, climaxing with a feature film whose only print was destroyed during the German invasion of Poland in 1939. Inside the concentration camp, Jakubowska conceived the idea for her second feature even as she herself, not just her work, faced destruction. If and when the Nazis were defeated and Auschwitz was liberated, she would create a film about life in the camp. And so she did.

Monday, March 9, 2015

It has been a month since I completed Journey Through Twin Peaks. This four-hour video series ended up being the most ambitious project I've ever created for this blog, is on its way to becoming the most popular (it certainly received more positive feedback than anything else I've ever done), and is definitely among my favorite. While I'm ready to move forward, you haven't heard heard the last of Twin Peaks from me.

When Showtime presents the original series before debuting the continuation in 2016, I will probably present a new written episode guide as accompaniment for new viewers (maybe two posts for each episode - one spoiler-free, one looking at the larger context). The guide would incorporate elements from my previous work alongside new observations. And when the new series airs, I will definitely be sharing my reactions after each episode. In the mean time I will continue to offer Twin Peaks posts, probably once a month - starting in two weeks with my interview with Andy Burns, author of the new Pop Classics title Welcome to Twin Peaks.

But I also have much more in store. I am currently working now on resuming the long-abandoned series on Neon Genesis Evangelion, (also check out my visual tribute to a favorite episode, from last fall), as well as my Favorites series detailing my choices for the "100 of My Favorite Films" list. I also still want to pursue the idea of a "Collection" series in which I review all the videos I own that have not yet been written up for this blog. Some of these projects will take years to unfold, especially since I don't intend to resume/begin posting any series until I finish it (having learned my lesson in the past). In fact over the past few years I have written Evangelion and Favorites posts that remain unpublished for that very reason. I don't want to play my cards until I've got a full house.

I am also drawn to a new idea: discussing many TV shows through a short viewing diary, writing up a page in a journal after I watch each episode (again, this would not be shared until I finish a given series). Among the shows I will be watching soon, for the first time in every case (other than stray episodes or occasionally stray seasons): True Detective, The Prisoner, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Wire, Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and The X-Files. The possibilities are endless and I suspect that in upcoming years these viewing diaries will provide much of the material that appears on Lost in the Movies.

Meanwhile, I have several video essay ideas hovering in the back of my mind. None will be as extensive as Journey Through Twin Peaks but each in its own way will hopefully be rewarding and exciting, for viewers as well as myself. This is the form of blogging I am most interested in, and I plan to keep pursuing it. If you enjoyed Journey, I also recommend checking out my previous video essays - including meditations on Lady and the Tramp, David Lynch's early work, Modern Times, Fists in the Pocket, and three of Brian De Palma's films. (These are also available on Vimeo, if you prefer.) And you may also enjoy this voyage through film history via clips from my collection.

Thanks for following, and stay tuned for more. Next week I want to post a movie review, my first in nearly six months. Of what film? I'm not sure yet. With all the plans, it's nice to leave some things uncertain...

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

This series was selected as one of the "best video essays of 2014" by Kevin B. Lee at Fandor

Twin Peaks has entertained, frustrated, and challenged generations of viewers - and will continue to do so when it returns in 2016. Once you fall under its spell, the presence of this moody, mysterious world is hard to shake. I created Journey Through Twin Peaks as a companion for all kinds of Twin Peaks fans: the passionate enthusiast, always looking for new clues and avenues; the veteran viewer, who hasn't seen the show in years but is considering a re-visit; the enthusiastic newcomer, fresh from a first viewing and bursting with questions; and even the curious outsider, ready to take a first trip into these dark woods.

Each chapter avoids plot spoilers for upcoming episodes, but you should check my descriptions and spoiler warnings just to be on the safe side. If you don't want to know anything about the narrative shape of the story - if/when the mystery ends, who/what the film is about - don't scroll beyond the episodes you've seen. I would love to hear feedback from anyone who watches these videos alongside their first viewing of Twin Peaks; however, there's also something to be said for flying blind. I had no idea what I was getting into when I pressed play on that first disc years ago, and have been reeling from the aftershocks ever since.

Journey Through Twin Peaks analyzes the Twin Peaks narrative in chronological order, from pilot to feature film (with occasional character/subject asides that look back but not forward). You can break it into installments, watching each chapter as it becomes relevant to your own journey. Or you can jump directly into the chapters that interest you most - "The Twin Peaks Mythology" and "7 Facts About Fire Walk With Me" have proved particularly popular as standalones. Some have also marathoned the videos immediately after finishing Twin Peaks, treating them as a lengthy documentary epilogue. "What did I just see?" is a pretty common response to a first - or even second, third, fourth - viewing of the show and film. I've asked that myself many times, which is how this project came to be.

The first Twin Peaks cycle was born an acclaimed television phenomenon and died a reviled box-office flop. In between, David Lynch's and Mark Frost's visions sharply diverged, on everything from the central mystery to Cooper's character - they even disagreed on what the show was fundamentally about. These videos do visit the creative differences between Lynch and Frost, and touch on the larger context of Twin Peaks' reversal of fortune (a subject explored more extensively elsewhere on this blog), but their primary purpose is to reveal the series and film, together, as a complete, effective work of art. Despite the detours, dead ends, and disagreements involved in its making, Twin Peaks is not simply the failed experiment that media narratives lead us to believe.

So pour the coffee, slice up the cherry pie, and queue up the pilot episode. The journey starts right now, with this preview...

Sunday, February 1, 2015

First, let me mention that Part 4 of Journey Through Twin Peaks ("Laura is the One") just went up. Instead of posting these images with that presentation, I wanted to give them their own space. One of the most enjoyable parts of this video series for me has been using superimpositions and split-screens to juxtapose scenes from different episodes or films. I've also been mixing printed quotations with images, and Part 4 upped the ante on both counts. So here are some of the comparisons, contrasts, and complements I created for the final stretch of Journey Through Twin Peaks. I have included explanations and context to go with the pictures though you should watch the videos for the full picture. There are spoilers for Fire Walk With Me and Twin Peaks.

With this entry, Journey Through Twin Peaks is finally complete. It took over four months and this entry is appearing exactly two months after it was originally scheduled. I had no idea how in-depth this project would be, but it's become a tremendous opportunity for me to use all of the Twin Peaks knowledge and ideas I have been gathering over the past year, to explore new avenues (I knew virtually nothing about Theosophy or Hinduism before I researched them for these videos), and to challenge myself with writing and editing a lengthy video series.

I thought Part 4 would be the easiest because I've already written so much about Fire Walk With Me and besides, it's just a feature film (the last entry covered over a dozen hours of material from the show). Instead this became the longest entry yet and brings the total length of the series to over four hours. This is such a rich work to dig into and doing so has taught me so much more about it. A year ago, as the world of Twin Peaks began to lure me back in I considered Fire Walk With Me a brilliant but messy, flawed masterpiece. Certainly I still see its compromises and complications, but there is a more fundamental unity there than I realized. Most of all, it makes an effective conclusion to the original Twin Peaks cycle and has a spiritual core that I initially missed. Chapter 25, my reading of the train car sequence, is probably my favorite entry in the whole Journey.

Part 4 also covers the impact of Twin Peaks on Lynch's later work, additional entries into the saga (like the Missing Pieces) and looks forward to 2016. After this goes up, I will also be posting dozens of images from "Laura is the One" - usually I combine these with the video posts but there were so many juxtapositions, superimpositions, and quotations in these chapters that I wanted to give them their own space. And tomorrow, hopefully, I will post a complete round-up of the entire Journey Through Twin Peaks in one convenient spot. For now, you can visit the individual posts to watch Part 1 (Harmony of the Dark Woods), Part 2 (The Center Cannot Hold), and Part 3 (The Whole Damned Town).

I hope you like watching these videos as much as I liked making them.

Monday, January 12, 2015

If you are asking yourself, "Did I just see TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME or the deleted scenes (THE MISSING PIECES) or some other fanedit/mix?" this post is for you.

Because Fire Walk With Me (the 1992 Twin Peaks prequel) is not available on most streaming services, many people attempt to download it. Unfortunately, this can yield alternate versions of the film. I've been noticing on Twitter, and elsewhere on the internet, that first-time viewers often emerge confused as to what they actually just saw.

Well, I'm here to help.

Below I have laid out the content of the deleted scenes, as well as the scenes from the actual movie. But first, some context. There are four possibilities...

1. Congratulations! You did just see Fire Walk With Me. With its abrupt shift in tone, dual narrative, and fragmented style, the film itself has perplexed viewers over the years. That said, it still plays like a feature film. Chances are if you think you just saw a collection of deleted scenes then you probably did just see a collection of deleted scenes.

2. Good news (sort of)! You just saw The Missing Pieces. This past summer, David Lynch released 90 minutes of unseen footage originally cut from the film. This is good news (sort of) because you haven't actually seen anything from Fire Walk With Me out of context (except for a few scenes that are extended in The Missing Pieces). Surprisingly, the deleted scenes actually make a good transition into the film. They are more in the style of the series (longer takes, wider shots) than the actual movie, and they bridge between the town's and Laura's perspective. If anything, you may enjoy the film even more now, so get to it! Word of advice, though, try renting the disc from Netflix or borrowing it from a friend before tossing the dice in Torrent-land once again...

3. Bad news (to my mind)! You just saw Q2's four-hour fanedit combining Fire Walk With Me and The Missing Pieces. Just to be clear, I am not necessarily knocking Q2's efforts (which I haven't seen, although enjoyed his/her fanedit Northwest Passage, boiling Twin Peaks down to the Laura Palmer investigation). This compilation sounds like an interesting experiment...that should be watched only after you've already seen the film and deleted scenes in their proper context. Lynch presented them separately for a reason; the scenes, while entertaining on their own, mostly detract from the power of Laura's story. What's more, he cut and mixed them in a very different way from the film so I can't imagine they would gel aesthetically. If you watched this, my advice is to revisit Fire Walk With Me as it was meant to be seen, in its theatrical cut.

4. Worst news of all! You just saw some other fanedit that not only combines different material, but leaves out scenes from the movie. I've heard rumors that there are numerous "remixes" out there, playing fast and loose with what is and isn't in the actual film. Again, potentially interesting as an experiment but...not the best way to see this movie for the first time. If this is what you encountered, or think you encountered, then you are the one most in need of this list.

Just watched the film and you still have questions? Who doesn't?! Feel free to check out my video 7 Facts About Fire Walk With Me. It explores the context of the film's controversial relationship to the TV series. And more videos are on the way, with much to discuss. Fire Walk With Me is a rich, provocative movie that deserves to be seen in its proper context. Here is a list of deleted scenes, followed by a list of scenes in the actual movie:

Monday, January 5, 2015

Last week I posted chapter 21 of Journey Through Twin Peaks - "7 Facts About Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" - because I wanted it to go up before New Year's. To do so I had to skip a chapter, but with this video (the introduction to Part 4 of the video series) we're all caught up. I will probably not post again until I'm either done with the project or one last chapter remains. I'm expecting four more videos in the series. The first focuses on the FBI, Cooper, and the Teresa Banks investigation. The second explores Lynch's extension of the Twin Peaks mythology in Fire Walk With Me (including, hopefully, connections to the Rig Veda and Upanishads, which I am reading now). The third, which will probably be the longest chapter of the series, covers the last seven days of Laura Palmer and, finally, her death: a grim premise transformed - perhaps - into a spiritual climax (this may require a separate fourth chapter; we'll see). And then the final chapter traces the legacy of Twin Peaks mostly through the subsequent additions (Log Lady intros, Missing Pieces, Between Two Worlds, etc.) and feature films of David Lynch.

For now, you can watch Chapter 20: "Introducing Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" which sets up the themes (particularly through the title montage) that will be explored in the upcoming chapters, especially the Laura one.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

And now we (begin to) reach my favorite part of Twin Peaks, and also one of the most troubled and controversial: Fire Walk With Me, the 1992 prequel film by David Lynch. Although the film's reputation has improved since its disastrous reception two decades ago, it remains greatly misunderstood and underappreciated. I explore the context for positive and negative opinion in the following video (an excerpt from the upcoming Part 4 of Journey Through Twin Peaks, it can still be watched on its own). There are obviously many other details that could be pointed out: the film's structural messiness, the difficulty getting Kyle MacLachlan to do more than a cameo, the hour and a half of deleted footage. But these will be addressed in upcoming chapters and did not seem as integral to me as these seven fundamental facts. While some of these statements can seem more like opinions - how do we "prove" that Fire Walk With Me fulfills Twin Peaks? - they remain solidly rooted in visual and/or historical evidence which I present onscreen.

Needless to say, there are spoilers and graphic/disturbing content.

The video is presented below, alongside screen-caps of each of the seven facts for easy reference. Happy New Year - see you in 2015. Meanwhile, if you are new to Journey Through Twin Peaks you can watch Part 1 (Harmony of the Dark Woods), Part 2 (The Center Cannot Hold), and Part 3 (The Whole Damned Town). You can also start directly with Chapter 1 on YouTube.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Well, it's finally here, just in time for Christmas...after nearly two months of preparation, I've finished Part 3 of my 4-part video series analyzing the narrative cycle of Twin Peaks from the pilot through Fire Walk With Me. This is longest video yet (split into 8 individual chapters on YouTube or a single 75-minute presentation on Vimeo), and certainly the most ambitious. Half of Part 3 continues the progression through the second half of the series, including the very weak episodes of the mid-season and the astonishing David Lynch-directed finale. The other half makes room for essential asides embracing the Twin Peaks as a whole, focused on the colorful ensemble, the palpable spirit of the show (including its early celebration in the media), the development of Agent Cooper as a complex character, and in the chapter which took the most time and effort, the mythology of the series.

If Part 2 hinted at divisions between Lynch and Frost in their interpretation of Laura Palmer, "The Whole Damned Town" further explores their fruitful creative tensions: their varying takes on Cooper (whom Lynch idealizes and Frost humanizes), and their individual contributions to the mythology - Lynch through personal, dreamlike images, Frost through concepts imported from Theosophy, the nineteenth-century spiritual movement begun by Madame Blavatsky. Visually, I had to get more creative in this part of my series, since much of the time I'm speaking of abstract ideas rather than something specifically happening onscreen. I had a lot of fun overlapping images, combining montages with pertinent quotes, and creating collages-in-motion. I've reproduced some of the images below.

Next up is Fire Walk With Me, hopefully early in January. It's my favorite piece of Twin Peaks and will conclude our journey so I'm really looking forward to it. Meanwhile, you can start with Part 1 (Harmony of the Dark Woods) and Part 2 (The Center Cannot Hold), or jump right into Part 3: The Whole Damned Town...