I don't know which threads people read and anyway posts easily get lost in the crowd - so I will allow myself to quote underneath the whole post of David Locke, which he wrote for the Profoundly thread but it belongs here as well since the author clearly has both positive and negative feelings about The Return. I think it's by all means worth reading if you somehow missed it. Probably worth re-reading as well. I found it to be the best post I have read on dugpa yet and great thanks for it.
David Locke wrote:I thought Part 14 was one of the best of the season. As with the other best ones, it becomes better the more I think about it.
And yet somehow it, like The Return as a whole, also gets worse the more I think about it.
How can I simultaneously say I'm quite enjoying The Return and consider what we've gotten so far to be 14 hours mostly well spent - while also finding the thing a massive disappointment on many levels?
The thing is, while the new episodes are rarely terrible, they're also seldom if ever on the same rarified level as FWWM or Episodes 29, 14, 2, Pilot, 9, 8, most of Season 1, and so on.
I've been entertained, thrilled, surprised, and even deeply moved at times by the best Return installments: 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, and 14.
But I struggle to think of more than a handful of scenes that I'd actually put up against the best of Peaks or Lynch. Mauve world? Awesome. Much of Part 8? Masterful. Traffic jam scene? Pure Lynch.
But it's not Lynch at his best. Well, maybe those examples... but TR as a whole? No way.
Look, I can't lie. Lynch has good claim to the title of greatest living American director, while also being about 15, if not 18, years past his prime.
Let's say 15. Mulholland Drive was an accidental masterpiece, and its seams show far more than with any of his prior work. This is visible in everything from the smallest aesthetic detail on up: the very bright, TV-friendly soft-focus glow of the Betty section happens to be thematically perfect, but notice also the severe lack of headroom in this portion - caused by cropping to widescreen an image that was originally shot for full-frame.
Regardless, MD is the last Lynch work that feels like it has that same magic to it. Not even the strongest moments he's captured since have had the same electricity, and it is absolutely in large part because the look and feel of celluloid was so central in cementing the uncanny and dangerous yet seductive beauty of Lynch's cinema. He may be fine with a digital camera, but I think DKL is truly one of the masters of film, of celluloid, and I also think the more constrained nature of shooting on film (especially back before AVID/digital editing, and just the whole digital culture of the past decade or two) seemed to force Lynch to sharpen his skills as a craftsman, as an artist.
He may be an Artist above all, but in his best works (most of all TP & FWWM, Blue Velvet, and Lost Highway) Lynch had an undeniably firm grasp on all the aspects of his craft... composition, color, focal length, editing, proportion, contrast, serving the story, form melding with content, etc.
Just look at how tightly directed Lost Highway is. How it knows precisely where it's going even as it seems so off the rails. Look at the economical grace of The Straight Story. Or the deeply humanist, visceral FWWM. Or Blue Velvet, which is painstakingly composed and color coordinated as if a painting, even more than anything else he's done. Even Wild at Heart, which I like but am not crazy for by any means, looks far more appealing compared to the free-floating, wishy-washy, frankly lazy manner of working which has helped sully Lynch's digital work.
There's simply a comparative lack of discipline, a kind of aesthetic laziness, that marks even the better parts of The Return. Form dictates content in this digital Lynch era, but in the unfortunate sense of cheap camcorders or nicer HD cameras allowing a Lynch to let loose and improv it up and work on the fly and indulge his passion for the ugly, the uncinematic, the banal - whatever catches his eye at a given moment.
It's very much purposeful. If Lynch wanted to he could still make a beautifully shot season with digital, but for some reason he wants these cold, flat, lifeless images with either little color grading or grading that gives everything an unattractive, antiseptic sheen.
And that's the thing. How could a filmmaker so intensely entrenched in the subjective, subconscious mind of his characters, the man who made FWWM and LH and MD and BV... all of a sudden turn the other way and, at least with The Return, serve up a cold and distant and mannered product. The visceral feeling of the earlier films is mostly gone as we now see the world through what I can only describe as the eyes of a misanthropic absurdist comic. No brilliant, God's eye view Kubrick/Antonioni-esque detachment here; we're at a distance, but it feels arbitrary and represses more than it reveals.
Just think of all the scenes, so so many, where we watch beloved old characters (or new ones) trade generically stilted dialogue in medium-close ups or two-shots or wide shots. There are other problems at play, but it's hard to get involved or interested in Norma or Ed or Nadine or Jacoby or Diane or Gordon or Albert or Shelly, etc, when both the dialogue and the visual presentation is so.. almost disinterested.
There's little passion or fire here. That's sad; that's a big part of what makes Lynch great. Even Inland Empire has that.
But something has just happened in the intervening years, and the interdimensional of subconscious or supernatural creatures of TR too often seem more a museum exhibit or an art installation than a disturbing jolt of pure uncanniness to the brain, as it was with the Episode 14 and 29 and FWWM and the rest.
Human beings like Laura Palmer and Jeffery Beaumont and Diane Selwyn and Alvin Straight and Fred/Pete and Renee/Alice and Sailor and Lula seem so insignificant to the preoccupations of TR, which is one half Frostian overcomplicated sci-fi exposition-dump and one half Lynchian bleak, absurdist, formalist game-playing directed at no one in particular. Just moving around a bunch of beloved characters and settings and ideas like pieces on a chessboard, most characters lacking much of any interiority, agency, depth, or redeeming qualities.
There's no heart and certainly no sweeping, humane, operatic and soulful sense of the Romantic that marked many of the best Lynch works.
It's dead. Barren. And yet it lives - I do enjoy it for what it is. But things are so abstracted and hermetically sealed in their own postmodernist playground. Part 8, one of the very best if not the best of TR, still lacks an emotional core - besides a scene in which the Giant/Fireman does some alchemical business to better combat the forces of Evil. It works somehow despite the ridiculous notion of Laura being tied up in this sci-fi mythos, purely from the strength of its haunting score and images. But there's not much to grab onto there. Again, lack of a human element. Interdimensional beings are just not the same thing. I feel like TR is finally giving us that self-serious sci-fi-horror-soap that some bits of mid S2 seem to hint at.
It's all left brained mythology building and abstract metatextual constructs, and precious little right brained pathos, deeply felt emotion. I want back the Lynch that had the affective cinematic power to make us cry with Laura in the Roadhouse, then right after that throw us into a 10-minute-plus hypnotically drugged strobe light and loud guitar stupor. Or the Lynch that composed, like a great symphony, the sequence of Maddie's murder and the Roadhouse aftermath. The decrepit old waiter speaks the only words, and they never fail to move me to tears: "I'm so sorry." "The World Spins": something both beautiful and broken but unchanging, unforgiving. We can do nothing but look for solace in Donna's silent sobbing, Bobby's little-boy-lost-in-the-universe look of utter shock and sadness, Cooper staring up and out into the void as if contemplating every solemn mystery of the universe at once; and then, curtains. Silencio, for no more can be said.
I want to feel something approaching that visceral style of image, sound, editing and direction of actors. It's too bad that Lynch is just either uninterested or incapable of producing such potent pure cinema that is felt in the soul instead of deconstructed in the brain like so many encrypted text messages, Clearly Intentional continuity errors, exposition feasts, or over-determined mythos dumps tracing out for us the ever-so-fascinating heritage of the Arm and its latest incarnation.
Geographically we may have made a return indeed; but, more pivotally to me, it's just not in the same emotional universe at all.
Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk