A few things, most of which I've said before.
But first, I just want to say how much I love Jerry Horne's idea that Cooper entered into Laura's dream in Part 18. I had never heard that before, but it totally fits with the theory of her mother's voice calling to her, and her waking up in bed the morning she should have died. Also, Reindeer's thoughts on how Season 4 could be are uncanny and seem right to me.
Things I've probably said before:
1. I've always been a big fan of INLAND EMPIRE. It is the most extreme and free use of digital in "mainstream" narrative cinema and therefore must be held in high regard. I know that it's a harsh film and not everyone's cup of tea; see Mordeen's opinion on it, for example. What bothers me is the fact that across the internet, in random articles about Lynch, the film is more or less viewed as some experimental misfire that nobody cared about. That's simply a fallacy, regardless of personal taste. The thing barely had a release yet placed highly on year-end polls (Film Comment, Indiewire, Cahiers) as well as decade-end polls. It also scored five votes in Sight and Sound's 2012 edition of the Best Films of All Time. This doesn't apply to Mordeen's comments at all, btw. That's just a general overview of how I feel INLAND EMPIRE is misunderstood by the larger community.
That said, I waver on where I rank it in Lynch's filmography. I usually rank it 4th, behind Eraserhead, as those remarkably (used to) bookend his career and show an artist at his most uncompromised. But I went through a five year phase in which I suddenly preferred Lost Highway, Fire Walk With Me, The Straight Story and The Elephant Man to it. But, and here's all I really wanted to say, after watching The Return and then revisiting Lynch's films, the two that I had the best experience with were those that sit alongside The Return as what are his purest works: INLAND EMPIRE and Eraserhead. After absorbing the slower pacing and narrative structure of The Return, I had arguably my greatest viewing of INLAND EMPIRE; Lynch's latest film always ends up clarifying his previous, just as the previous always ends up guiding you through the next. I've always thought of it as Lynch's "corrective" to Mulholland Drive, wherein he creates something purely based on feeling rather than something that sleuths could simply solve and be done with. And for the record I think it's about a lot more than a woman being devoured by Hollywood, though that is certainly a large part of it and what has also made so many people think of it as a retread of Mulholland Drive. Even granting that it has some of the same story, it has totally fresh grooves, imo.
2. I would agree with people who say that The Return is not as scary as some of Lynch's other works. It only occasionally taps into the heightened viscera of his scariest films, such as the first hour of Lost Highway, the end of Mulholland Drive or portions of INLAND EMPIRE, and it certainly doesn't equal the final hour of Fire Walk With Me, which I've said is a nearly impossible task since that accounts for some of the most intense pure horror cinema in history. But, there are caveats. The Return maintains a sustained feeling of dread for 18 hours, while at the same time being about so much more than dread. There is more sheer humanity in it than in any of Lynch's other avant-garde films; ie, The Return possesses all the humanism of The Elephant Man or The Straight Story. That doesn't mean that he still couldn't have made "poo flow" better during the scarier moments, of course. But I will say that the examples that MT listed are all wonderfully effective moments, if not quite at the level of what we've come to expect. I think The Return is better "art" rather than better horror, and that emphasis on the art is a tradeoff.
All that said, the entirety of Part 18 is pure unease on a level that both feels different and possibly surpasses anything Lynch has previously conjured. He does more with less than he's ever worked with, and that's why it's so effective. As far as individual moments, that sex scene is the scariest I've ever seen. And the one place I disagree with everyone about Lynch never equaling the poo-flow moments of his previous works - and I'm surprised no one else has brought this up - is in the final 20 seconds of the series. The atmosphere aided by the way the wind is subtly blowing through Laura's hair, Cooper stumbling about, Laura gearing her face up for her scream and then unleashing it...sure, that's a subtler brand of horror and the intensity of it doesn't last very long, but it is in my opinion the single most chilling and lingering moment of Lynch's career.
3. Neither here nor there but kind of bouncing off those two points and other things said throughout Dugpa, but I find it interesting that there has always been less gushing praise on Dugpa for The Return than almost anywhere else I look. Sure, almost all of those who are still here truly love it, and with a thing like The Return you want to absorb every corner of it and that takes time and it's hard to compare to 2-hour films and there's no point making concrete declarations, but there's very few here who seem to consider that it just may be Lynch's greatest work, as evidenced in a few posts on this thread alone. I just find that kind of interesting, both because of the way it has been received in other pockets of the 'net as well as from my own personal experience with it. I just think it's a deeper and more layered, more philosophically and politically powerful, truer and more original, more ambitious and simply more a-r-t than pretty much anything made in recent history, and serves an actual historical purpose, coming at the time it does as film and TV continue to merge and all that that entails and implies for the future. I think it's a towering achievement, a career summation and culmination, that is impossible not to at least consider putting at the top of Lynch's filmography.
And all that said, I do sometimes worry about a Season 4 coming out. Oh, I want it, and I want it bad. Whether its more streamlined and visceral and immediately pleasurable, whether its better at certain things but less ambitious overall, that's all good with me, and I'd love for it to somehow be "better," or to win fans that The Return lost. But what I totally irrationally worry about is that a new season will somehow lessen the impact (the feeling of time slipping away, actors aging and passing away, the theme of being unable to ever truly return, etc.) and overall importance of The Return, which right now seems like both the most unlikely (a once in a lifetime event, pulled off in unexpected fashion to surpass the hype) and the most important thing to happen in years (since Sopranos?) in terms of the advancement of the art form (artistic freedom, personal expression, experimentation, etc.) and also through the convoluted means in which it is predicated on fighting nostalgic impulses in the corporate age of the remake/sequel. Will all of this within and surrounding The Return feel as special or ring as true in the event of a Season 4? I suppose if they went through with it they'd be acutely aware of what needs to be done, and my worrying is even more senseless than it appears.
Last edited by LateReg
on Fri Feb 15, 2019 11:26 am, edited 1 time in total.