Jacob wrote: But Part 17's softness is precisely why it fails to really work in my opinion.
I can see your point, but this seemed to be the point of those scenes. The climax came on startlingly quickly, especially after the long build up to getting there. Everything seemed awfully tidy for a long moment which contrasts with what happened before. There seemed to be an awareness throughout the Return of audiences expectations which were consistently subverted. Here we are given a kind of approximation of a crowd pleasing denouement, only to the rug pulled out from under us and be presented with something far more challenging and unsettling. Much of this seemed to serve as a contrast to what follows. You mentioned it seemed like a joke and I think it may have been a joke about the absudity of what audiences expect from stories.... he gave us momentarily what "audiences" would expect and highlighted the absurdity of it, right down to having a comic book super hero battle Bob. I think Lynch's counter to what your saying part 17 is soft would be to say, "expecting a tidy ending is soft, and I was just showing you that."
It's true, and that's why I said in my post that Part 18, in comparison, felt really tragic and honest. But still : you can't justify a part's flaws by saying it was conscious. It reminded me a bit of how Part 8's pure imagery was balanced by the really dynamic and narrative-driven Part 7. But here, even if Lynch's intentions are understandable, it's never beautifuly "absurd". Honestly it's bad.
Anyway, I really don't get the "Laura is the embodiment of nirvana" theory. I mean, come on : the girl was a prostitute and on coke even before she turned 18. Don't get me wrong, I know she was a victim. But I really can't see how we can make her an icon of detachment and nothingness. The girl has always been wild.
So I can't help myself to be really suspicious when we're talking of Laura like a "pure innocence" figure. Look at her when RichardCoop is coming to get her : there is a fucking dead body in her living room ! She's doomed to be surrounded by chaos. If she's the embodiment of Nirvana, well, no wonder Cooper and her are fucking lost god knows where. I've seen better Buddha.
I know I may be the only one here, but I still believe that Laura is maybe an incarnation of Judy. And maybe that's what she's telling Cooper during the final credits.