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TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, Kyle MacLachlan, Chris Isaak, Keifer Sutherland, Harry Dean Stanton, Moira Kelly, David Lynch, David Bowie, Miguel Ferrer, Grace Zabriskie, James Marshall, Frank Silva
Director: David Lynch
Audio: DTS HD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Criterion
Features: See Review
Length: 135 Minutes
Release Date: October 17, 2017

"I don't know when I can come back...maybe never..."

Film ***1/2

WARNING: If you don’t know who killed Laura Palmer, now is the time to hit the back button on your browser.

Now that Twin Peaks: The Return has come and gone, it’s finally a good time to revisit the sadly maligned prequel film to it all, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

The film had only a week’s theatrical run where I lived at the time, but I managed to see it twice in that week. I thought it was brilliant. I felt very alone in that opinion.

When Twin Peaks first arrived to television from the minds of creators David Lynch and Mark Frost, it was a revolution and a revelation. “Who killed Laura Palmer?” became the new generation’s “who shot J.R.?”. It was imaginative, filled with quirky, loveable characters, and introduced us to a new but familiar Lynch-ian world, where small town goodness masked a dark underbelly.

The first season was masterful.

Then the second season came around, and it suffered from much less involvement from Lynch and Frost, who were both attuned to other projects. The mystery was solved, and the show just kind of ambled on…the narrative mistake was in placing SO much emphasis on finding Laura Palmer’s killer, that when that was over, there was a void. Interest waned, ratings came down, and though the show ended on one of the most brilliant pieces ever put on television, it inadvertently became a cliffhanger, as the network pulled the plug on the show.

Lynch, having more to tell, and without much involvement from Frost, announced his intent to do a feature film. Fans were hoping for a continuation and resolution, but those words just aren’t in Lynch’s vernacular. Instead, he opted for a prequel film, telling the events that led up to Laura’s death.

If that disappointed fans, they were even more appalled by Lynch unchained…without the constraints of network TV, Lynch was true to himself, delivering a work that his long time fans would grasp, but the casual ones who only came to David Lynch through his TV show could not have imagined. Critics hated it, but even worse, so did fans, who couldn’t wrap their minds around this twisted tale of sex, drugs and violence galore. Gone were the bits of humor and winks that kept the show within the bounds of network decency. Gone was the friendly banter over pie and a cup of joe. Here was a tale of surreal horror that upended the safe television world and showed the town of Twin Peaks without a filter.

I came to Twin Peaks as a die-hard Lynch fan, so the movie didn’t shock me. It did, however, rattle me, and raise more questions than answers, and, as it turned out, laid much of the groundwork for the revival 25 years later.

Now that we have a complete picture with the new third season (complete unless an unlikely fourth comes about), fans are finally starting to realize what a work of genius this movie actually was and is. I’m happy to welcome them all to the party.

The film opens with a new FBI agent, Chet Desmond (Isaak), who investigates the strange murder of Teresa Banks, hinted at in the original series. He becomes the first agent to disappear.

The second is Philip Jeffries (Bowie), who seems to make only a brief entry into our world after being missing for two years before leaving it again. He babbles on about “Judy”, mentions the meetings above the “convenience store”, and exits our existence.

A year later, we join Laura Palmer (Lee, in a breathtakingly brilliant performance). She’s a homecoming queen with a dark side and many secrets. The main secret is the entity known as Bob (Silva), who has been haunting her and “having his way” with her since she was 12. Her tortured life involves cocaine, sex, and a darkness she can’t begin to comprehend, including the horrible revelation that her own father, Leland (Wise), is the human host to Bob.

Laura’s steady is Bobby (Ashbrook, and no relation to the other Bob), who keeps her drugs coming, but her love is the sweet biker James (Marshall), who wants to save her from her own darkness, but of course, has no idea of the forces who have a hold on her.

The night of the murder plays out in grim detail, and we may not understand fully why Laura must wear the strange ring with the owl symbol, or what ultimately happens to her after death. Some of these questions will have resolution 25 years later, but not all.

Our beloved Agent Cooper (MacLachlan) has some appearances, but is not the star here…another sore spot for fans. Word is, he wasn’t that keen on the script, but agreed to make a small showing for his friend and mentor Lynch.

I thought the film was brilliant without qualification, but now, in the expanded universe of Twin Peaks, shows the genius of a creator with a full vision in mind. Some parts seem disconnected, but they do connect with hindsight. I like to believe that Lynch had an ultimate design all along, a belief that may have been confirmed by the final episode of season two where Laura tells Cooper she’ll see him again in 25 years. And she did. In this movie, during her final meeting with James, she screams at something we never see. But something WAS there. Something that would literally change EVERYTHING.

Does this sound frustrating? It may be. If you’re not a fan of David Lynch, I can’t see much to recommend here, and certainly, if you haven’t watched the first two seasons of Twin Peaks, you may as well give up. But if you have, and you’ve watched this film, and proceeded to digest the magical wonder of The Return, you will see an almost complete picture. I say almost, because David Lynch has always been an artist who leaves some of the spaces blank for his audience to color in. That’s what I love about him, and that’s especially what I love about the world of Twin Peaks.

Video ****

Criterion does a remarkable job with this 4K transfer approved by Lynch. From the bright superficial worlds to the darkness lurking in corners, this Blu-ray delivers on all colors and details.

Audio ***

This new 7.1 mix is mostly good; not a lot of surround usage, but the music sounds terrific. Occasionally the background sounds seem to be stronger than the dialogue, but that happens in a lot of Lynch’s work. I recommend subtitles…in fact, without them, I never noticed the ominous whisper of “Judy” near the end…hmm…

Features ***

The extras include new interviews with Sheryl Lee and composer Angelo Badalamenti, plus 2014 interviews with cast members conducted by David Lynch.

Best of all is “The Missing Pieces”, which is 90 minutes of deleted/extended scenes arranged by Lynch into almost a movie unto itself. This is a must-see, as many parts of the pieces have become crucial to the lore of Twin Peaks.

Summary:

Once reviled, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is finally starting to get the acclaim it always deserved. If you’ve never seen the show, I implore you…check it out right away. Then watch this Criterion Blu-ray. Then check out The Return. Then become like the rest of us; obsessed with an amazing world and mysteries that will play on forever in your mind.

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