Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lynchbinge 1: The show that broke my brain

The good news is that, 22 years later, I still love Twin Peaks. 

Oh, hi. Ahem. Welcome back... Anyway...

Towards the end of this year, I will turn 40 years old. (Please hold your applause until the end.) Reminders that this is Very, Very Old multiply by the day. Recently, another one was sprung on me: "Twin what?" asked a 23-year-old colleague at the Day Job, blinking in puzzlement - or perhaps he was still dazzled by the brightness of light outside of the womb.

It was true - he had never heard of the TV show that, for a brief stretch over twenty years ago, gripped the popular culture by the throat, gazing into its eyes with the look of a maniac listening to sounds we can't hear, leaving still faintly visible bruises with its fingertips. That represented the most-unlikely-ever intrusion of avant-garde experimentalism into American network television. That took my developing and delicate teenage brain and squeezed and bludgeoned it into new shapes and then left it to recover as best it could. That, with its wild swings in creative quality, took me from unprecedented highs of ecstatic addiction to previously unplumbed lows of glum disappointment.

(Image: some guy at Tumblr)

I admit, to my shame, that I abandoned Twin Peaks for long years, like a worn-out member of a dysfunctional family who walks away rather than get sucked back into the spiral. I didn't even watch either of the DVD sets (the Season One box and then the later, complete series box) that I got as gifts in the past decade, except for some of the documentary extras. But make no mistake. My life history is charted in years designated B.T.P. and A.T.P. - not just for the show itself, but because it functioned as a gateway drug for the rest of the mind-altering films of its co-creator David Lynch.

This month, I decided to come home. Some conversations over at David Cairns' indispensable Shadowplay blog inspired one of those obsessive fits that characterize much of my life as an filmgoer/reader/music listener/etc. Lo! I am on a Lynchbinge, dominated by what will eventually be my first full re-viewing of the 30 episodes of Twin Peaks since they aired in '90 and '91. If I can muster some uncharacteristic authorial discipline (and find the time while prepping for my Hong Kong vacation in less than a month), this temporary mental breakdown will be charted in these pages. "Pages," whatever.

Yes, Mrs. Palmer, I'll be rewatching the entire 2nd season.
(Image: CHUD)

This will be, among other things,  an ongoing experiment in the difference between my movie brain then and now. Another reason I shelved Peaks for a while was probably my awareness of how long-ago loves (people and arts) can disappoint when looked at with older eyes. My teens were especially fruitful in such obsessions - if you'd told me then that the horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, the British blockbuster stage musicals of Andrew Lloyd Webber and his ilk, or my classmate Michelle [last name redacted] would look a lot less impressive when I was thirtysomething, I'd have cursed my future self for a traitor and possibly destroyed my own eyes and eardrums with an icepick to forestall such a decay in my tastes. As it happens, preferences dating from earlier in my childhood have stood the test of time quite a bit better (e.g., Tolkien, old black and white monster movies, "I Am the Walrus").

(Image: Billie Doux)

In the event, five episodes in, I find Season One to be, so far, only a hair less miraculous than my high school self did - although the nostalgic longing conjured by the languid opening credits and Angelo Badalamenti's melancholy, deceptively sentimental theme music alert me that my evaluations aren't exactly objective. I also find that I still have large chunks of dialogue and arcane moments of image and sound memorized - I'd forgotten the ridiculous amount of time I spent rewatching them on fuzzy VHS tapes.

More telling, perhaps, will be to see how Season Two fares - it let me down so badly the first time around that I mostly preferred leaving it to fade from memory. I have a fantasy that it will turn out to be much better than I remember, and that the same will be true of the disastrous followup theatrical feature Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. But I have my doubts. 

In the meantime, the sixth episode is calling me, as is a rented DVD of Lynch's Wild at Heart. And dinner. So I'll have to come back later to follow up these thoughts. Stay tuned, and stock up on coffee and doughnuts in the meantime.

(Image: Twin Peaks Wiki)

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