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“One chants out between two worlds…” – Twin Peaks, cinema and television

July 30, 2014

Twin Peaks

I reviewed the latest release of David Lynch’s Twin Peaks for Total Film this month. The review isn’t online but I’d like to share this paragraph, which covers my reaction to watching the original Twin Peaks series in high definition.

What it leaves us with is an excellent, clean transfer, but also, perhaps unexpectedly, a sense of loss. There’s something about the fuzzy 1:33 image of old broadcasts and DVD releases that works silently with the character and history of the show. Twin Peaks is Lynch on television, which stands consciously distinct from his theatrical work because it is a format about which he’s often been skeptical and an institution with which he’s endured an agonising, antagonistic relationship. It’s that tension, between Lynch’s cinematic ambition and the square, glowing limitations of TV sets as they were 25 years ago, that shaped Twin Peaks. It was a journey through the tube into a world of the uncanny and the idiosyncratic, facilitated by that soft-edged glow. Something intangible, something more than nostalgia, has been cleaned up along with the image.

I had limited room to be extravagantly self-indulgent in the magazine, so I couldn’t mention the various things I was also thinking as I wrote this. But they include Lynch’s quote about Blue Velvet – “It’s a song, and a texture” – and the fact that Twin Peaks, like all his work, feels textured, like a humming cathode-ray tube. And they also include the quote in the headline above, from Twin Peaks’ sinister poem recited by Mike the One-Armed Man, which catches something of Lynch himself, and his career-long oscillation between cinema and television. I thought of how Blue Velvet pre-figured Twin Peaks, how Mulholland Dr was planned as another ABC series and then warped and wrangled into a prismatic self-contained cinematic whole.

I guess this strikes at what I enjoy about Lynch, or more specifically, what I find rich and consistently rewarding about his work. His career comes packaged with a sense of contortion: from the prolonged, penniless production of Eraserhead, through the daily death of blockbuster pressure on Dune, and on to the formal convolutions of network television. What’s struggling to emerge in each instance, what persists throughout, are ideas. To quote Lynch again (and it really is best if you read it in his voice, full of ’50s deliberateness and emphases)

I always say ideas are the most important thing, and the idea tells you everything. The idea is like a seed. The tree is in the seed, but it doesn’t look like the tree. So, when you finally see the tree, you might make some changes, but when you get an idea you really do see the whole tree, but it’s in an abstract form.

I’ve long since stopped searching for solid, dirt-in-hand meaning in Lynch’s films. Instead what I think is more beautiful is that his ideas – sometimes a texture, sometimes a feeling – emerge from a just-so arrangement of image and sound and surrounding. And the form, as he says, is mutable, abstract. The idea is the whole thing.

Next up: an exploration of why, despite how much I enjoy Lynch’s films, nothing I ever write about them makes them seem fun in any way.




2 Comments leave one →
  1. Laurie H. permalink
    August 4, 2014 10:15 am

    You know, there is something different about today’s technologies streaming old movies or TV shows. Although it is quite nice to see new life breathed into them, they also lose a bit of their magical old-fashioned atmosphere. I would personally much rather see Twin Peaks or any other vintage talking pictures at matinees than on cinema screens or on HD televisions.
    And I have similar feelings towards 3-D as well. It doesn’t bring anything special into a movie, on the contrary, the head-ache is not worth it at all. I wonder, where is the movie business going these days, since there is a fast paced technological progress in film making, but where the hell did the progress in quality movies go?
    Hollywood Future
    seems much more distant to me than its Golden past. I am a huge fan of Lynch’s films myself and today’s cinema offer just makes me miss the movies from the 30s.


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