The evolution of David Lynch and Twin Peaks (Spoilers)

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AgentEcho
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The evolution of David Lynch and Twin Peaks (Spoilers)

Postby AgentEcho » Wed Sep 13, 2017 6:48 pm

Early on during the run of The Return, there was this idea expressed about a dichotomy between Twin Peaks fans and David Lynch fans. I was a bit baffled by that, being that I'm very much both. How can someone be a Twin Peaks fan and not be a Lynch fan? No way would Twin Peaks be something that people continue to obsess over today without David Lynch.

But now that it's all over, I think I might have a bit more empathy with some of the fans who were "Twin Peaks" fans and not so much Lynch fans, even if I don't agree with them. I admit I got lulled into thinking that Lynch might be returning to some of the storytelling tendencies during a period of his career that culminated with the original run of Twin Peaks, and I was initially shocked and bewildered by the finale. But then I realized it's very much in keeping with what Lynch has been doing in the latter half of his career. I've also come to terms with the shock and bewilderment being very much what the experience of watching the finale was meant to be, and my appreciation for it increases with every passing day since it aired.

It's interesting to note how his storytelling has evolved through his career. He started with highly surreal shorts and of course, Eraserhead, but then moved into a phase of his career that seems almost conventional by his standards. The Elephant Man was largely a straightforward drama. Dune was definitely an odd big budget sci-fi spectacle but a big budget sci-fi spectacle none the less. For all the strangeness and darkness, Blue Velvet climaxes with a rather conventional confrontation and happy ending. The Twin Peaks pilot that aired on television was a sublime piece of conventional storytelling. The supernatural cliffhanger may have been quite unusual back then but in retrospect feels quite grounded. The dream in episode 2, that was also from the European pilot, was wrapped in the context of a dream. Wild at Heart was wild but also had a fairly easy to swallow denouement.

I'm not entirely sure where I'd pinpoint the shift. The rest of his work with the original run of Twin Peaks certainly wasn't indicative of what would mark the latter half of his career, but I definitely sense a shift back to some of the more challenging, surreal tendencies that marked the beginning of his career. It was dark and bleak. The season 2 finale wasn't meant to be an ending but for some time it was, and what a bleak one it was. FWWM had as happy an ending as a story about the inevitable demise of the heroine could possibly have, but it certainly marked a shift into more challenging material.

The Straight Story excepted, Lost Highway was a definitive shift into the tendencies that marked the second half of his career, with challenging, ambiguous endings and shifting identities and realities. He's really been obsessed by this since. Thinking about it all I feel like I should have seen the finale of The Return coming. The signs that these are still the things he's interested are all over The Return. Hell I even construed Frost's TSHOTP intentional discrepancies as an indicator that they'd be taking Twin Peaks in this direction, but I forgot about that when it hadn't come to pass by the time the finale came.

But the finale made clear that Twin Peaks has evolved in the same direction as Lynch has. No doubt more challenging after 18 hours of investment, but perhaps all the more potent because of it. In a way, now that I've had some time to process the finale, I'm glad I didn't see it coming and was floored by it.

I understand the resistance to embracing this evolution. But I also think this resistance was very much a subtext that Lynch used and toyed with to great affect. There was so much knowing about the fans yearning for nostalgia. I knew they were toying with expectations but I never really got to what end they were doing it. Initially I thought they were doing it to make it all the more emotionally resonant when we did get what we wanted, and that seemed to be playing out momentarily, but even that was part of a bigger game of playing with expectations. They gave us what we wanted, albeit very briefly, and almost comically, before pulling the rug out.

Why did they do it? I think this is central to what The Return was about. And ultimately what Twin Peaks has always been about. Twin Peaks came back because of this insatiable thirst modern audiences have for nostalgia. At least that's what made it financially viable. But there's something about giving people that that is too false and empty for someone like Lynch.

I remember going to Disneyland when I was about 10. I thought it was the greatest place on earth. A few years later, as a young teen (ironically about the time I started watching Twin Peaks), I went back. I was very excited, but the magic was gone. And I was dreadfully bored. There's no recapturing how I felt about the place when I was 10. Every time they blow up a new Death Star in Star Wars, is it even remotely as magical as it was the first time? It's not even close.

What was Twin Peaks really about anyway? Was it about cherry pie, coffee and jazz? Those were accents, but at its core Twin Peaks was always about this girl who was murdered. It's about trauma. Garmonbozia. All those accents that we loved 25 years ago, it's never going to be the same. The world has evolved. The characters have evolved. Lynch has evolved. We have evolved. And like it or not, Twin Peaks has to as well. It is inevitable if the show is going to be about anything real. And what is real about Twin Peaks is the trauma of Laura Palmer. Encapsulated by what may go down as one of the most haunting, blood curdling screams the cinematic medium has ever produced. It may not be what you wanted it to be about. But that's what it's always been about.
Last edited by AgentEcho on Thu Sep 14, 2017 4:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The evolution of David Lynch and Twin Peaks (Spoilers)

Postby mtsi » Wed Sep 13, 2017 8:12 pm

Great

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Re: The evolution of David Lynch and Twin Peaks (Spoilers)

Postby claaa7 » Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:56 pm

thanks for an eloquent post. i very much agree with you. the ending was a real gut punch coming off 3 months build up, it sure was like having the rug pulled out from under you which is quite wonderful, but as you say maybe we should have seen it coming considering the way Lynch has evolved over his career. but then again he hadn't really done much film work for the last 10 year so it was very fresh and exciting to see where this would land.. i think if this had happened two years after Inland Empire we would have felt less suprised by the path the series followed.

one thing I thought about yesterday when watching a screening of the new IT movie was how brave David Lynch's direction in The Return really was. it takes lots of guts to follow your instinct and throw out so many conventional cinema tropes and do it your own way. IT was so conventional filmmaking that it was really saddening as i had hoped it might've been a new horror classic. The Return is 100% it's opposite and for that i truly salute Lynch.. just imagine the guts to chose to edit something like the Mauve Room in ep. 3 or the Convenience Store scene in ep. 8. and that's a big reason why this season felt new, exciting and fresh.
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Re: The evolution of David Lynch and Twin Peaks (Spoilers)

Postby referendum » Thu Sep 14, 2017 12:20 am

@agent echo - You talk about the last episode in your interesting and thoughtful post.

For me, the shot that changed everything that sticks in the mind emotionally was when Coop drives up to Judy's diner and you see him walk up to the door.
Watching that, I had no idea atall what was going to happen, be inside, everything was new and strange, a new world with new rules, Yet all it was was a POV shot of approaching a diner and opening the door. This is where I get on board 100% with Lynch and am prepared to sit through the crap that this series sometimes threw at us tto get there. Anyone that can show you a picture of approaching a crappy diner and charge that image with so much apprehension and so many possibilities is doing it right in my book. When Lynch gets this kind of thing right, he really takes you on a journey; approaching that door i could actually feel a kind of mental safety catch clicking off in my mind, a slight vertigo or re-alignment, a sense of '' ok, here we go then...', being open to whatever happens next. That kind of connection doesn't happen for me in films very often.
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Re: The evolution of David Lynch and Twin Peaks (Spoilers)

Postby AgentEcho » Thu Sep 14, 2017 5:52 am

claaa7 wrote:one thing I thought about yesterday when watching a screening of the new IT movie was how brave David Lynch's direction in The Return really was. it takes lots of guts to follow your instinct and throw out so many conventional cinema tropes and do it your own way. IT was so conventional filmmaking that it was really saddening as i had hoped it might've been a new horror classic. The Return is 100% it's opposite and for that i truly salute Lynch.. just imagine the guts to chose to edit something like the Mauve Room in ep. 3 or the Convenience Store scene in ep. 8. and that's a big reason why this season felt new, exciting and fresh.


Agreed. One of the great triumphs of The Return was that an avenue was provided for something uncompromisingly unconventional, to the point that it when it used conventional storytelling it almost always was subverting it in some small or big way. I understand the resistance to this, but I hope The Return proved more that there is space for this kind of unconventional cinematic experience more than the backlash proves there isn't.
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Re: The evolution of David Lynch and Twin Peaks (Spoilers)

Postby Novalis » Thu Sep 14, 2017 6:32 am

I kind of view Twin Peaks as a vehicle for telling certain stories. I mean this both figuratively and concretely.

In the original run it was a vehicle with many articulated parts, something like a train. It took the best parts of contemporary soap and drama and utilised them to do something very different with TV. Different drivers could come and go and take it here and there, mix it up a bit, but it essentially remained what it was, and ran its course.

Today, Twin Peaks is still a vehicle for telling stories, but it is staffed and piloted very differently. It no longer runs along a linear and episodic track, for example, and diverges into multiple narratives in places.

If I'm honest about my involvement with all this, I'd probably have to tell you that, in the long run I 'came for the Twin Peaks, stayed for the Lynch'. But, if I'm even more honest, I feel guilty then that I'm not giving enough credit to Frost (and Engels, Peyton and the rest), or that am somehow selling-out the TP fans who loved the original series over and above the films of Lynch. Because there are aspects of the original series I adore that are very much unique to it, and are not so easily circumscribed in my interest in Lynch's work. I've cracked open The Entire Mystery BD more times recently than since it first arrived, and dived wholeheartedly into watching the original series. I've had time to appreciate all over again those aspects of Twin Peaks that were not at all saturated with David Lynch's touch but were, more or less democratically, left open to other writers. Rediscovering that beautiful world again is pure magic. So these things don't exist in a vacuum; the initial pique of interest circa 1990/1 led me directly into Lynchiana; Lynchiana has, inevitably, led me back there. I'm somewhere in the vulval region of a Venn diagram.
As a matter of fact, 'Chalfont' was the name of the people that rented this space before. Two Chalfonts. Weird, huh?
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Re: The evolution of David Lynch and Twin Peaks (Spoilers)

Postby referendum » Thu Sep 14, 2017 7:25 am

Novalis wrote:I kind of view Twin Peaks as a vehicle for telling certain stories. I mean this both figuratively and concretely.

In the original run it was a vehicle with many articulated parts, something like a train. It took the best parts of contemporary soap and drama and utilised them to do something very different with TV. Different drivers could come and go and take it here and there, mix it up a bit, but it essentially remained what it was, and ran its course.

Today, Twin Peaks is still a vehicle for telling stories, but it is staffed and piloted very differently. It no longer runs along a linear and episodic track, for example, and diverges into multiple narratives in places.


novalis, i often read your posts and find that you have the same interest in and view of TP TR on a structural level that i do, and have often said the same thing that i have been trying to say, but more clearly. There isn't a thread ( yet) about how this thing is structured and all the patterns and echoes and connections that are built into it as ( for lack of a better term) part of it's grammar. For a couple of months now I have thought about starting a thread about this, and started several times to write something about it, and then not wanted to, because i don't want it to be another way of pinning things down. I am not interested in explaining what is going on, so much as exposing the mechanism. I don't think this is a dry subject atall, I think the way it is structured is what both gives it it's emotional tug and equally what pisses people off. It is deliberately ambivalent, people don't like that, they want it to vote one way or the other. It doesn't, and actually for me, this is it's emotional spine.

Fancy collecting your dispersed thoughts on this and starting a thread? Counterpaul is also very good on this...
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Re: The evolution of David Lynch and Twin Peaks (Spoilers)

Postby Novalis » Thu Sep 14, 2017 9:10 am

referendum wrote:
Novalis wrote:I kind of view Twin Peaks as a vehicle for telling certain stories. I mean this both figuratively and concretely.

In the original run it was a vehicle with many articulated parts, something like a train. It took the best parts of contemporary soap and drama and utilised them to do something very different with TV. Different drivers could come and go and take it here and there, mix it up a bit, but it essentially remained what it was, and ran its course.

Today, Twin Peaks is still a vehicle for telling stories, but it is staffed and piloted very differently. It no longer runs along a linear and episodic track, for example, and diverges into multiple narratives in places.


novalis, i often read your posts and find that you have the same interest in and view of TP TR on a structural level that i do, and have often said the same thing that i have been trying to say, but more clearly. There isn't a thread ( yet) about how this thing is structured and all the patterns and echoes and connections that are built into it as ( for lack of a better term) part of it's grammar. For a couple of months now I have thought about starting a thread about this, and started several times to write something about it, and then not wanted to, because i don't want it to be another way of pinning things down. I am not interested in explaining what is going on, so much as exposing the mechanism. I don't think this is a dry subject atall, I think the way it is structured is what both gives it it's emotional tug and equally what pisses people off. It is deliberately ambivalent, people don't like that, they want it to vote one way or the other. It doesn't, and actually for me, this is it's emotional spine.

Fancy collecting your dispersed thoughts on this and starting a thread? Counterpaul is also very good on this...


Sure. I'll happily take part. Can't promise a huge commitment over the next twelve months as I have a lot of research to do and a dissertation to write, but I'm not going away as far as dugpa/Twin Peaks is concerned. It's a good source of inspiration/motivation in its own way.
As a matter of fact, 'Chalfont' was the name of the people that rented this space before. Two Chalfonts. Weird, huh?
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Re: The evolution of David Lynch and Twin Peaks (Spoilers)

Postby David Locke » Sun Sep 17, 2017 2:12 am

referendum wrote:@agent echo - You talk about the last episode in your interesting and thoughtful post.

For me, the shot that changed everything that sticks in the mind emotionally was when Coop drives up to Judy's diner and you see him walk up to the door.
Watching that, I had no idea atall what was going to happen, be inside, everything was new and strange, a new world with new rules, Yet all it was was a POV shot of approaching a diner and opening the door. This is where I get on board 100% with Lynch and am prepared to sit through the crap that this series sometimes threw at us tto get there. Anyone that can show you a picture of approaching a crappy diner and charge that image with so much apprehension and so many possibilities is doing it right in my book. When Lynch gets this kind of thing right, he really takes you on a journey; approaching that door i could actually feel a kind of mental safety catch clicking off in my mind, a slight vertigo or re-alignment, a sense of '' ok, here we go then...', being open to whatever happens next. That kind of connection doesn't happen for me in films very often.

Wow, great post. This shot also really impressed me; I didn't expect anyone else to have noticed it much, let alone expressed its impact so eloquently as here. But I suppose I didn't think through and verbalize the precise meanings of it or why it impressed me like it did. For me, it definitely struck me on a sheer formal level as well. A simple shot of a door with Coop exiting his car in the parking lot outside and approaching that door... as you said, ostensibly simple. And it is a simple shot, I guess, but it's a beautiful idea, beautifully integrated/edited in there. The main thing about it is the length; we're given time to not only contemplate Cooper (Richard?) from such a distant, detached POV as he approaches (rather unusual in the series, I feel - usually Cooper is not shot at quite this distance), but we're also simply given time, period. Time to contemplate what we've just seen. To ready ourselves for the next scene, which will turn out to be harsh, ugly, brutal, alienating.

Overall though I would connect a shot like this to the aesthetic of the rest of Part 18 (specifically the wide, stark framing and use of silence). This is a big part of what made 18 so brilliant I think. Though obviously I thought Lynch turned in well-directed, well-shot, visually interesting hours throughout the previous 17 Parts, I still do feel like 18 was a notable departure for how it slightly tweaks the formula and also simply for the virtuosity of the direction, editing, et al. (The 3 Cowboys scene is surely one of Lynch's most tightly-directed of recent years, no? He might make a great action director ;) ) There were Parts before like 8 of course which similarly tweaked the formula and seemed rather self-contained, though I think it's mainly 8 and 18 that changed things up or feel "separate" in any big way.

Honestly the direction of Part 18 reminded me a bit of Kubrick, specifically 2001. Very abstractly, but I feel it was coming from a similar place somehow. I also couldn't help but see No Country For Old Men in the use of silence on the soundtrack and the desolate desert/Texas landscape (the Odessa of 18 was oddly bereft of people, besides those in Judy's and Carrie and the dead body in Carrie Page's house!) I could perhaps tie this back to Antonioni as surveying desert landscapes with a stark, long-take style and use of complete silence is completely a trademark of his... though I didn't find the tone of 18 to be very similar to any of A's work, and generally have a hard time seeing parallels in Lynch's work outside of some of the first section of Lost Highway. Finally, I know Lynch loves Mad Men and I really felt a kindred spirit between the last 2-3 episodes of that show and 18 - albeit MM is much sunnier in its general outlook and conclusion. But the archetypal lone American "hero" on a quest, identity becoming unstable along the way, in the American Southwest... definitely reminded me of some of those last couple episodes. So 18 kind of felt like all these aforementioned influences put in a blender... and then given a special Mulholland Drive identity-scrambling ambiguity lemon to really complete things.

To get back to the start, though, I think basically what Lynch is doing with shots like that of the door is aiming for the pure Sublime... Zen, Nirvana, whatever you call it. A blissful emptiness. If you can't guess by my avatar, The Passenger is a favorite of mine and I think Antonioni nailed precisely this sense of emptying the mind in order to gain pure, clear perception of the world. I mean, he was after that for years but I think with that film he did it more masterfully than ever. Lynch generally goes for a different formal approach so it was surprising and wonderful to see him embrace that emptiness so clearly via formal means in 18. Previously in Lynch's work, one would have to go to The Straight Story for the closest analogue.

All in all, I think 18 is Lynch's greatest work since Mulholland Drive. I'd honestly have been fine if he made more of these stylistically experimental "mini-movies" like 8 and 18 throughout TR, probably could have done a few more and not deprived us of anything too pivotal in terms of plot or whatever.
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Re: The evolution of David Lynch and Twin Peaks (Spoilers)

Postby referendum » Sun Sep 17, 2017 3:58 am

David Locke wrote:
To get back to the start, though, I think basically what Lynch is doing with shots like that of the door is aiming for the pure Sublime... Zen, Nirvana, whatever you call it. A blissful emptiness.


I see it in a slightly different way. The french writer George Perec had a notion of the '' infra-ordinary'' - a kind of psychological examination of everyday things that would normally be taken for granted or overlooked where, far from being 'blissful emptiness' the ordinary was charged with all kinds of subjective memory- baggage and associations which were neither blissful nor empty.

In a way, ( going out on a limb a bit here ) you could say that this diner approach shot worked in the same kind of way to the shot at the start of Blue Velvet, (with the macro swoop down into the grass and the ear, the start of another ' Coop' journey...) but there is a kind of clinical or forensic quality to Lynch's way of presenting scenes in TP TR which previously he would have done with expressionistic camerawork or mildly hysterical overstatement ( cf first part of Lost Highway), that now he does with restraint and minimalism - i suppose why you mention Antonioni. I don't find it atall ' cold' as some people have said- i find it very 'loaded'. Lynch achieves the same level of attention as he did 20 or 30 years ago but without having to turn up the volume so loud or feeling the need for a bunch of pyrotechnics to grab it. As you say, he's twigged that it's enough just to give the image some time and let it resonate and do it's work for him.

I actually think that this shift in approach is a byproduct of using HD digital cameras, which by their level of detail precisely lend themselves to this kind of ( for lack of a better term) forensic way of filming ordinary things, often in broad daylight, as if they were a kind of 'evidence'. I think Lynch really got his head round digital filming in this series and fell in love with the quality of image and the level of detail and resolution it gives. ( Inland Empire was more like trying out a new bag of weird camera tricks). For me this was clear from ep #1 scene #1. As soon as we were inside that NY warehouse with the wide shot, I just thought : YES. :)
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