Film Review: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (dir by David Lynch)


“It was a dream!  We live in a dream!”

— Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie) in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

Even among fans of the show, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is controversial.

If you read Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks, you’ll discover that many members of the television show’s cast either didn’t want to be involved in the film or didn’t care much for it when it came out.  Fearful of being typecast, Kyle MacLachlan only agreed to play Dale Cooper on the condition that his role be greatly reduced.  (Was it that fear of being typecast as clean-cut Dale Cooper that led to MacLachlan later appearing in films like Showgirls?)  Neither Lara Flynn Boyle nor Sherilyn Fenn could work the film into their schedules.

When Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me premiered at Cannes, it was reportedly booed by the same critics who previously applauded Lynch’s Wild at Heart and who, years later, would again applaud Mulholland Drive.  When it was released in the United States, the film was savaged by critics and a notorious box office flop.  Quentin Tarantino, previously a fan of Lynch’s, has been very outspoken about his hatred of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.  When I first told people that we would be looking back at Twin Peaks for this site, quite a few replied with, “Even the movie?”

And yet, there are many people, like me, who consider Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me to be one of David Lynch’s most haunting films.

It’s also one of his most straight forward.  Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a prequel, dealing with the events leading up to the death of Laura Palmer.  Going into the film, the viewer already knows that Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is full of secrets.  They know that she is using drugs.  They know that she is dating Bobby (Dana Ashbrook), while secretly seeing James (James Marshall).  They know about her diary and her relationship with the reclusive Harold (Lenny Von Dohlen).  They know that she is a friend to innocent Donna Hayward (Moria Kelly, somewhat awkwardly taking the place of Lara Flynn Boyle).  Even more importantly, they know that she has spent the last six years of her life being abused by BOB (Frank Silva) and that BOB is her father, Leland Palmer (Ray Wise).  The viewer starts the story knowing how it is going to end.

Things do get off to a somewhat shaky start with a nearly 20-minute prologue that basically plays like a prequel to the prequel.  Theresa Banks, who was mentioned in the show’s pilot, has been murdered and FBI director Gordon Cole (David Lynch) assigns agents Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) and Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland) to investigate.  Chester and Sam’s investigation basically amounts to a quick reenactment of the first season of Twin Peaks, with the agents discovering that Theresa was involved in drugs and prostitution.  When Chester vanishes, Dale Cooper is sent to investigate.  Harry Dean Stanton shows up as the manager of a trailer park and David Bowie has an odd cameo as a Southern-accented FBI agent who has just returned from the Black Lodge but otherwise, the start of the film almost feels like a satire of Lynch’s style.

But then, finally, we hear the familiar theme music and the “Welcome to Twin Peaks” sign appears.

“And the angel’s wouldn’t help you. Because they’ve all gone away.”

— Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992)

A year has passed since Theresa Banks was murdered.  The rest of the film deals with the final few days of the life of doomed homecoming queen Laura Palmer.  Laura smiles in public but cries in private.  She is full of secrets that she feels that she has to hide from a town that has literally idolized her.  She has visions of terrifying men creeping through her life and each day, she doesn’t know whether it will be BOB or her father waiting for her at home.  She knows that the world considers her to be beautiful but she also know that, within human nature, there is a desire to both conquer and destroy beauty.  When she sleeps, she has disturbing dreams that she cannot understand but that she knows are important.  At a time when everyone says she should be happy to alive, all she can think about is death.  Everywhere she goes, the male gaze follows and everything that should be liberating just feels her leaving more trapped.  For all the complaints that Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is somehow too strange to be understood, it’s not a strange film at all.  This is David Lynch at his most straight forward.  Anyone who thinks that Laura’s story is incomprehensible has never been a 17 year-old girl.

This is the bleakest of all of David Lynch’s films.  There is none of broad humor or intentional camp that distinguished the TV show.  After the show’s occasionally cartoonish second season, the film served as a trip into the heart of the darkness that was always beating right underneath the surface of Twin Peaks.  It’s interesting how few of the show’s regulars actually show up in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.  None of the characters who represented goodness are present.  There’s no Doc Hayward.  No Sheriff Truman.  No Deputies Andy or Hawk.  No Pete Martell.  No Bookhouse Boys.  Scenes were filmed for some of them but they didn’t make it into the final cut because their tone did not fit with the story that Lynch was seeking to tell.  The Hornes, Dr. Jacoby, Josie, none of them are present either.

Instead, there’s just Larua and her father.  As much as they try to deny it, Laura knows that she is going to die and Leland knows that he is going to kill her.  Killer BOB and the denziens of the Black Lodge may be scary but what’s truly terrifying is the sight of a girl living in fear of her own father.  Is Leland possessed by BOB or is BOB simply his way of excusing his own actions?  If not for Leland’s sickness, would BOB even exist?  When Laura shouts, “Who are you!?” at the spirit of BOB, she speaks for every victim of abuse who is still struggling to understand why it happened.  For all the talk of the Black Lodge and all the surreal moments, the horror of this film is very much the horror of reality.  Leland’s abuse of Laura is not terrifying because Leland is possessed by BOB.  It’s terrifying because Leland is her father

David Lynch directs the film as if it where a living nightmare.  This is especially evident in scenes like the one where, at the dinner table, Leland switches from being kindly to abusive while Laura recoils in fear and her mother (Grace Zabriskie) begs Leland to stop.  It’s a hard scene to watch and yet, it’s a scene that is so brilliantly acted and directed that you can’t look away.  As brilliant as Ray Wise and Grace Zabriskie are, it’s Sheryl Lee who (rightly) dominates the scene and the rest of the film, giving a bravely vulnerable and emotionally raw performance.  In Reflections, Sheryl Lee speaks candidly about the difficulty of letting go of Laura after filming had been completed.  She became Laura and gave a performance that anchors this absolutely terrifying film.

“Mr. Lynch’s taste for brain-dead grotesque has lost its novelty.”

— Janet Maslin

“It’s not the worst movie ever made; it just seems to be”

— Vincent Canby

If you need proof that critics routinely don’t know what they’re talking about, just go read some of the original reviews of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

And yet, having just rewatched the show and now the movie, I can understand why critics and audiences were baffled by this film.  This is not Twin Peaks the TV show.  There is no light to be found here.  There is no comic relief.  (Even Bobby Briggs, who had become something of a goofy anti-hero by the time the series ended, is seen here shooting a man in the head.)  There is no exit and there is no hope.  In the end, the film’s only comfort comes from knowing that Laura was able to save one person before dying.  It’s not easy to watch but, at the same time, it’s almost impossible to look away.  The film ends on Laura’s spirit smiling and, for the first time, the smile feels real.  Even if she’s now trapped in the Black Lodge, she’s still free from her father.

Since this was a prequel, it didn’t offer up any answers to the questions that were left up in the air by the show’s 2nd season finale.  Fortunately, those questions will be answered (or, then again, they may not be) when the third season premieres on Showtime on May 21st.

Previous Entries in The TSL’s Look At Twin Peaks:

  1. Twin Peaks: In the Beginning by Jedadiah Leland
  2. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.1 — The Pilot (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  3. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.2 — Traces To Nowhere (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  4. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.3 — Zen, or the Skill To Catch A Killer (dir by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  5. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.4 “Rest in Pain” (dir by Tina Rathbone) by Leonard Wilson
  6. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.5 “The One-Armed Man” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Jedadiah Leland
  7. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.6 “Cooper’s Dreams” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  8. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.7 “Realization Time” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  9. TV Review: Twin Peaks 1.8 “The Last Evening” (directed by Mark Frost) by Leonard Wilson
  10. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.1 “May the Giant Be With You” (dir by David Lynch) by Leonard Wilson
  11. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.2 “Coma” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  12. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.3 “The Man Behind The Glass” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Jedadiah Leland
  13. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.4 “Laura’s Secret Diary” (dir by Todd Holland) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  14. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.5 “The Orchid’s Curse” (dir by Graeme Clifford) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  15. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.6 “Demons” (dir by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  16. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.7 “Lonely Souls” (directed by David Lynch) by Jedadiah Leland
  17. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.8 “Drive With A Dead Girl” (dir by Caleb Deschanel) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  18. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.9 “Arbitrary Law” (dir by Tim Hunter) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  19. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.10 “Dispute Between Brothers” (directed by Tina Rathbone) by Jedadiah Leland
  20. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.11 “Masked Ball” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Leonard Wilson
  21. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.12 “The Black Widow” (directed by Caleb Deschanel) by Leonard Wilson
  22. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.13 “Checkmate” (directed by Todd Holland) by Jedadiah Leland
  23. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.14 “Double Play” (directed by Uli Edel) by Jedadiah Leland
  24. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.15 “Slaves and Masters” (directed by Diane Keaton) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  25. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.16 “The Condemned Woman” (directed by Lesli Linka Glatter) by Leonard Wilson
  26. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.17 “Wounds and Scars” (directed by James Foley) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  27. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.18 “On The Wings of Love” (directed by Duwayne Dunham) by Jedadiah Leland
  28. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.19 “Variations on Relations” (directed by Jonathan Sanger) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  29. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.20 “The Path to the Black Lodge” (directed by Stephen Gyllenhaal) by Lisa Marie Bowman
  30. TV Review: Twin Peaks 2.21 “Miss Twin Peaks” (directed by Tim Hunter) by Leonard Wilson
  31. TV Review: Twin Peaks 22.2 “Beyond Life and Death” (directed by David Lynch) by Lisa Marie Bowman

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A Movie A Day #115: Zero Tolerance (1994, directed by Joseph Mehri)


In Zero Tolerance, Robert Patrick plays Jeff Douglas, an FBI agent who is sent down to Mexico to pick up a recently captured drug dealer.  Ray Manta (Titus Welliver) is the head of the White Hand drug cartel and he is not happy about having been arrested.  When Ray tells Jeff that his entire family is being held hostage and will be killed unless Ray is allowed to escape, Jeff demands that Ray give him his word that no harm will come to his wife and children.  Ray gives his “word of honor,” not realizing that his associates have already killed Jeff’s family.  Jeff is now out for revenge and he is not going to let the FBI, with its rules and procedures, stand in his way.  Jeff is not only out to get Ray.  He is also going to track down and kill every member of the White Hand, which includes everyone from Mick Fleetwood (yes, that Mick Fleetwood) to Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter (playing almost exactly the same role that he played in Marked for Death and Only The Strong) to Ator the Invincible himself, Miles O’Keeffe.

(How much keeffe is in this movie?  Miles O’Keeffe!  Ha ha, that never gets old!)

Robert Patrick is one of those actors who can make any movie worth watching and Zero Tolerance, an otherwise forgettable revenge flick, is proof of that.  No one plays a revenge seeking killing machine with as much panache as Robert Patrick.  After his family is killed, Patrick crosses the country, stopping everywhere from New Orleans and Las Vegas and seeing vengeance with a determination that almost makes Charles Bronson and Clint Eastwood seem mellow by comparison.  This is the type of movie where Robert Patrick literally drives his car through the side of a helicopter and, even after the helicopter explodes, still emerges unscathed.

There’s only one man who could pull that off.

Robert Patrick.

Film Review: Queen of the Desert (dir by Werner Herzog)


Last night, I finally saw the latest Werner Herzog film to be released in the United States, Queen of the Desert.

Queen of the Desert has actually been around … well, I was going to say forever but actually, I first started to hear about it in 2014.  It premiered (to less-than-enthusiastic reviews) at the Berlin International Film Festival in February of 2015 and was released in Germany later that same year.  Originally, it was going to get a wide release in America but then IFC acquired the distribution rights and ended up sitting on it for two years.  (During that time, Herzog went on to direct another film, Salt and Fire.)  Only last month did Queen of the Desert finally get a very limited theatrical and VOD release here in the United States.

Despite all of the bad things that I had heard, I was still looking forward to seeing Queen of the Desert.  Why not?  Werner Herzog is one of my favorite directors.  The star of Queen of the Desert, Nicole Kidman, is one of my favorite actresses.  Of course, there was also the Franco factor.  I knew that Queen of the Desert featured James Franco in a small role and, if you’ve been reading this site for a while, y’all know how I feel about James Franco.

Having now watched it, I can say that Queen of the Desert is not the disaster that so many have been insisting.  That doesn’t mean that it’s a great film or even a good film.  It’s a very middle-of-the-road film, one that is too well-made to really be a disaster but, at the same time, is never as memorable as it should be.

Queen of the Desert tells the story of Gertrude Bell (Nicole Kidman), who abandoned a safely comfortable but restrictive life in turn-of-the-century Britain so that she could explore the world.  In the film, Gertrude falls in love twice and, following the unhappy (and tragic) conclusions of those affairs, she always returns to the Middle East, where surviving the harshness of the desert and exploring the ruins of past civilizations brings her peace and gives her life a greater meaning.

That’s a theme that should be familiar to anyone who has watched any of Herzog’s documentaries or feature films.  The problem is that, as told in this film, there’s no real spark to the story or to Gertrude as a character.  Herzog’s best work has often dealt with people driven to the point of madness by their obsessions.  Think about Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.  Think about Timothy Treadwell, obsessively living with the grizzlies until one them ate him in Grizzly Man.  Consider the introverted eccentrics who explored The Cave of Forgotten Dreams or even Christian Bale’s refusal to allow himself to be broken in the POW film, Rescue Dawn.  Think about Klaus Kinski in just about every film he ever made with Herzog.  For that matter, just think about Werner Herzog himself is Les Blank’s documentary, The Burden of Dreams.  Nicole Kidman would seem like an ideal choice for Gertrude and she does a good job with the role but, as written, Gertrude never has that touch of madness.  Unlike Aguirre, she’s not looking to conquer nature.  Unlike Fitzcarraldo, she’s not trying to bring “civilization” to the isolated spot in the world.  Unlike Timothy Treadwell, she’s not even trying to literally become one with nature.  Instead, she’s just someone who deals with heartache by going on a trip.  I do that every time I spend the weekend up at Lake Texoma.

(The real-life Gertrude Bell died, under somewhat mysterious circumstances, of an overdose of sleeping pills.  Whether it was suicide or an accidental overdose is not known.  In the film, the circumstances of her death — which seem very Herzogian, to be honest — are glossed over by an end title card that simply informs us that she died in 1926.)

As I said earlier, Queen of the Desert is disappointing but it’s not terrible.  Visually, it’s quite stunning and the scenes of the sand blowing in the desert are often a hundred times more interesting than the film’s storyline.  Whenever Herzog is letting his camera focus on the desert or glide over the ruins of an ancient palace, you can understand why Herzog wanted to make this film.  But, unfortunately, the film keeps returning to a story that’s about as middling as an old soap opera.

Nicole Kidman does a good job as Gertrude but she runs into the same problem that she ran into with Grace of Monaco.  She’s stuck with a script that repeatedly tells us that the lead character is fascinating without ever really giving her a chance to prove it.  (Before I get any angry comments, I know that Grace Kelly was fascinating and I’m sure that Gertrude Bell was too.  I’m merely talking about the way that they were portrayed in their biopics.)  As the men in her life, James Franco and Robert Pattinson are both ideal but Damian Lewis is a bit on the dull side.

All in all, this is not one of Werner Herzog’s best but, with all that said, I’ll still follow him anywhere that he chooses to go.

Music Video of the Day: Goodbye To You by Scandal (1982, dir. ???)


I’m not really saying goodbye to you. However, these posts are going to become sporadic for at least the next couple of weeks. I’ve had a chronic cough since I was a little kid. The pulmonologist I am seeing has started me on large doses of prednisone that even he said my system might not be able to handle. But it’s been at least 25+ years of this cough, so I’ll try it. It just means I won’t be able to keep up these posts consistently for a bit.

Anyways, remember that video for The Warrior that Patty Smyth didn’t like, and called an off-Broadway production of Cats? I don’t blame you if you don’t. It’s that video where Smyth was in crazy makeup, there was a dance battle, and some guy breaks a girl’s back, but the video barely calls attention to it. I’ve loved that crazy music video since I saw it a while back. This one I didn’t see until a few years ago.

From what I can tell, this was Scandal’s first music video, which explains the PBS text at the start, and it being a performance video. According to Songfacts, Smyth credits MTV with this song’s success since it didn’t get much radio airplay, but did get played on MTV a lot. Assuming that’s accurate, and MTV could see the results in the marketplace, I bet they played this frequently since they needed to prove that their network could affect record sales.

While saying that it is a “performance video” might make you think of something bland, I don’t think so. I like the set, lighting, and costumes. As far as that area is concerned, I think this looks better than Jump by Van Halen. No, I’m not just saying that since Smyth was the one who was initially approached to replace David Lee Roth. Jump is great, but I still like the look of this better. I also like the rest of the band members trying to do the most eye-catching things in response to whatever Smyth is doing at given moment.

Speaking of Smyth, she is all over the place here. I would love to know what direction she was given.

Patty. You’re hot, spunky, have a great voice, and are a good performer. As long as you play to those strengths, then do whatever feels right in the moment. I’ll get it on camera.

Right up in Ivan’s face! I love it!

You and Zack, that’s great! Keep it up!

Spin, Patty! Spin!

Yeah, drape yourself on the keyboard too.

A little leg can’t hurt.

Get in on this Benjy!

A heel shuffle across the floor. Perfect!

You wrote the song Zack, so always feel free to jump in with one of those looks.

Jump around and point at things.

That’s a rap!

From all the really early 80s music videos I have looked at, the two types that were typically successful were either all over the place like Harden My Heart by Quarterflash, or were stage performances with a charismatic lead-singer like Patty Smyth or David Lee Roth. The video for The Warrior was the first, and this earlier video is an example of the second.

One thing specifically about the song is that while not shown in the video, Paul Shaffer plays a solo on the keyboard based on Runaway by Del Shannon. I only really bring it up because Bon Jovi also did a song by the same title, and apparently Jon Bon Jovi was briefly the guitarist for Scandal in 1983. You can see him below in the early low-budget version of Love’s Got A Line On You.

Enjoy!