Archive for Lost Highway

I Understand

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Television with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2017 by dcairns

No I bloody don’t!

Still wrestling with Twin Peaks: The Return/Twin Peaks season 3, a show whose troubling ambiguities extend even to its title. Of course, you can’t SOLVE a David Lynch (& Mark Frost) mystery, and you’re not meant to. Except MULHOLLAND DR., which comes equipped with clues and Lynch helpfully told us where to look and a lot of the film DOES make a kind of sense when you apply them. but some bits still seem to have no logical reason to be there.

But I like puzzling things out. I even spent a certain amount of time trying to interpret MARIENBAD, and that one REALLY isn’t meant to be solved.

Who is Judy? I want to solve that one, for the sake of poor old Mr. C, who asks that question.

“You’ve already met Judy,” says Philip Jeffries, in the form of a big kettle. So, Judy was at some point known to Mr. C, or two BOB who is inside him, or to agent Cooper whose life he’s taken over. That narrows it down, but not by much. The three-in-one-meet a lot of people, some of whom even survive the experience.

Judy was first mentioned by Jeffries back in FIRE WALK WITH ME, when he was David Bowie. “We’re not going to talk about Judy,” he insisted. Well, you brought her up, mate. In episode 19 of The Return, FBI director Gordon Cole (Lynch himself) tells us that Judy is a corruption of Jowday, an extreme negative force he and Jeffries were investigating. OK, so probably not Lucy, then. And maybe not even female, as the name has apparently been distorted over the centuries.

In THE MISSING PIECES, a collection of outtakes from that movie — Twin Peaks‘ answer to TRAIL OF THE PINK PANTHER — we see Bowie in Buenos Aires, asking if Judy has checked into a hotel. An oddly mundane thing for an extreme negative force to do, but I suppose she/he/it has to sleep somewhere. But back when this was filmed, Judy was supposed to be the twin sister of Josie Packard (Joan Chen). Furious retconning has since occurred — still, I think it’s legit to look for clues here. In this version of events, Jeffries says, “I been to one of their meetings. It was above a convenience store.” Also, that he found something in Seattle, at Judy’s, and then, “there they were. And they sat quietly for hours.” Which seems to link Judy to the Black Lodge entities.

Things play out differently in FWWM, where Bowie’s recollections are interrupted by what seems to be a garbled flashback, breaking in like interference. The viewer assumes that this sequence showing the room above the convenience store inhabited by sinister characters is Bowie’s memory of something he somehow spied on. We get our first look at a couple of woodsmen (but they haven’t gotten all dirty yet), there’s Bob, there’s Mrs. Tremond/Chalfont and her grandson, and the malign, doppelganger version of the Arm/man from another place (I’m pretty sure it’s not the nice one we’re used to, though I only just figured this out: the film doesn’t bother to remind us that he has a doppelganger). But the first person we see is this geezer ~

He’s billed as The Jumping Man. He wears a loud suit exactly like The Arm’s, a sort of flat-top afro, and a plaster mask with a pointy, Commedia Del’Arte nose.

Now, there’s an old prison song, recorded by folk music specialist Alan Lomax, one version of which goes like this ~

Jumpin’ Judy, jumpin’ Judy, hanh!
Jumpin’ Judy, jumpin’ Judy, hanh!
Jumpin’ Judy, jumpin’ Judy, hanh!
All over dis worl’, hanh, all over dis worl’, hanh!

So there’s a connection of sorts between jumping and Judies.

In Episode 15 of The Return, this fellow makes one of his rare appearances, as Mr. C. goes above the convenience store, which apparently has the ability to TARDIS about from place to place. On this occasion, the JM has Sarah Palmer’s face projected on top of his mask.

But there’s another jumping man, or anyway jumping boy, in FWWM. He’s the grandson of Mrs. Tremont/Chalfont, who appears in both season 2 of the original TP, and in FWWM, though he’s played by different kids each time. Leland sees him jumping in one scene. Here and in the convenience store scene, he wears a mask like the Jumping Man’s, and at one point whispers “Judy.”

The grandson (who may be the Magician of that bit of Black Lodge doggerel — he performs magic tricks in the original series) and his grandmother are quite hard to figure out, in terms of their intentions. They seem associated with negative things, turning up around the time of Teresa Banks and Laura Palmer’s murders, but they also give Laura valuable information. But then, there they are, sitting calmly with BOB and the woodsmen etc. And this guy.

So, we might infer that the grandson and the Jumping Man have to do with Judy. It would certainly make sense of Jeffries’ comment, “You’ve already met Judy.” Mr. C. literally passed the Jumping Man on his way in.

There are other candidates, however. In Episode 1 we meet The Experiment, a violent, faceless woman who appears in a glass box apparently constructed at the behest of Mr. C. Mr. C. is looking for something with a sort of bug-like aspect, and it’s probably The Experiment. In Episode 8, she turns up inside the first atomic test, sneeze-ejaculating BOB into the world. So it feels like Mr. C. is looking for BOB’s mother. But he doesn’t know the name Judy until Phillip uses it. He has no clue why Phillip has brought her up.

(But then, does Phillip ever really understand which Cooper he’s talking to? He was apparently part of a task force with the real Cooper to find Judy. Although in FWWM it’s obvious they’ve never met before. Still, when you’re floating in a tin can, it’s slippery.)

I like the idea that BOB is looking for his mother. Sweet.

Meanwhile, Sarah Palmer has an extreme negative force lurking inside her. It rips a trucker’s chin off. It seems to feature Laura’s smile, and her finger. (Both Sarah and Laura apparently have faces that open on hinges. Not sure what this means.) So a lot of people think this is Judy. Poor Laura: with BOB inhabiting her father and Judy in her mother, what chance did she have in life?

“You’ll find Judy in here,” says Phillip, before sending Cooper into the past. Cooper eventually ends up in the present but in Odessa, Texas (arguably worse than the past) where he finds a diner called Judy’s, which leads him to Laura Palmer, living under a new identity with no memory of her old one. He then takes her to Sarah Palmer’s house, but instead finds a Mrs Tremond, who bought the house from Mrs. Chalfont.

Ever since LOST HIGHWAY, Lynch has been exploring the slipperiness of identity. This series is probably the most convoluted and involuted rendition of that theme, even more so than INLAND EMPIRE. When the new Mrs. Tremond gives her name, and her predecessor’s name, we can be pretty sure that she’s the same character (whatever that means in this universe) who previously bore that name (sure, the show is full of Bobs, Mikes, Philips, but surnames have a specific quality). Also, she has an offscreen husband she talks to, lurking within the house, reminding us of the “something” in Sarah Palmer’s kitchen.

So, has Coop found Judy as he was promised? In this universe, is she merely the name of a franchise of threatening diners? Has she gone abstract, the way Mabuse did? Or does this extreme negative force still attach to human vessels, sometimes? Is Alice (through the looking glass) Tremond and her troublingly abstract husband also Mrs Chalfont, the Jumping Man, the inside of Sarah Palmer, AND Judy?

It’s quite a houseful in there.

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Just think of BOB and JUDY

Posted in FILM, Mythology, Television with tags , , , , , on September 6, 2017 by dcairns

Preliminary responses…

It’s like David Lynch wanted to give us a penultimate episode that’s pure Twin Peaks and a final episode that’s pure LOST HIGHWAY.

As with that 1997 “twenty-first century noir horror,” you get call-backs in lieu of closure — the names Chalfont and Tremont are significant and suggestive to TP regular viewers, but can serve only as an invitation to make up our own stories about what might be going on at the end of episode 18.

Do I wish there were more answers? Kinda. Audrey Horne’s storyline seems like a prolonged tease without a pay-off, which would matter so much if it were delightful in itself, but quite a bit of it was pretty well the opposite of delightful. It eventually became genuinely intriguing but then… no resolution. Though you might exercise your imagination by trying to connect Audrey’s last scene to the alternative world of the last episode… somehow.

Do I wish the resolution were happier? Yes. Although episode 17 gave us lots of the things we would hope for, episode 18 ended with Agent Cooper lost in another realm much as season 2 had. And we still don’t know How’s Annie?

How do I feel about all the throwaway fragments? Ashley Judd’s entire role… the roadhouse customers and their mini-soaps… the sick girl in the car… Some of them were genuinely crazy, unsettling, amazing scenes. Some of them weren’t. At the time of WILD AT HEART Lynch took to saying that he collected ideas for scenes on index cards, and once you had around 65 cards you had a movie. Not necessarily. WILD AT HEART was a book, first, and many of the bits in it that stem from the book are more satisfying than the bits that feel like interleaved index cards. But I think it’s worth accepting all these scenes, so we get the good ones.

How do I feel about the Twin Peaks story strands? Nadine and Norma and Big Ed added up to, well, not quite ba storyline, but a beautiful end to a story begun back in the original series. Shelly and Bobby and Red and Becky and Steven and Gersten gave us quite a number of terrific scenes but I couldn’t really say it added up to a satisfactory story at all. But if they ever made a series 4 that’s one of the things I’d be keenest to see more of. Ben & Jerry, fine, amusing. James ended up as a tagalong for Freddie Sykes, but that was fine. What a team.

Las Vegas? All that stuff was great fun, and came to a surprisingly satisfying resolution, allowing for about a million loose ends. A lot of those plot strands frayed away to nothing, but in amusing ways. Nothing to complain about there.

Buckhorn? The loose ends far outnumber the knotted ones here. What was going on with Matthew Lillard’s wife and why did Mr. C. shoot her? The caretaker at Ruth Davenport’s apartment building? Why was Dougie Jones’ wedding ring inside the Major’s torso, and why didn’t he have a miniature letter E under his fingernail? Amusing to note that the FBI achieve basically nothing in this show, apart from shooting a tulpa who would have been perfectly harmless if they’d left her alone. All their investigations lead them at last to the Twin Peaks sheriff’s station where they arrive just in time to do… nothing. If they had just taken one look at Ruth Davenport’s head and the Major’s body and concluded, “We’re never going to figure THIS one out,” the result would have been the same.

I would have liked to see Joan Chen and Heather Graham — I particularly wondered how they could do without the character of Annie Blackburn. And it turns out she did leave kind of a hole, since we couldn’t just forget she’d been there. At times Frost & Lynch seemed to be trying to retcon her out of the history, but then they admitted she’d been there.

But I have to say — I will enjoy wondering about some of these mysteries. And Twin Peaks will be one of the main memories laid down for me by summer 2017. It actually slowed time down — a precious thing when one is nearing fifty. Both by durational tricks (take a bow, floor-sweeping guy!) and by making the weeks stretch out like Cooper’s face as it nears that big power socket, as we waited for the next exciting installment.

Fiona, on the other hand, is quite cross. But we still have to watch the last three episodes again (we’ve been watching everything twice) and she may come around.

When I complained about the lack of explanation at the end of Lost (yeah, we watched the whole thing), a very wise friend said, “Well, look at how crummy that show got whenever it tried to explain stuff. Did you really want more of THAT?” Mind you, the same friend insisted the makers had a clear, coherent plan all through those middle series when it turned out they were just winging it. Deduct ten points.

Audrey is the dreamer, it seems. Is her awakening in that white psych ward/UFO interior space linked to the “real” world Cooper finds himself in at show’s end? Audrey has been dreaming the roadhouse, it seems, but has she been dreaming the whole show? If so, it’s really smart that they finished her narrative three episodes early, so rather than being a corny “It was all a dream” cop-out, it becomes one more frustrating/intriguing element.

To the extent that non-diegetic info is admissible to help us understand an artwork, the fact that the “real” owner of the Palmer house we meet in the last scene is played b the REAL owner of that house in our reality does seem to suggest that Cooper/Richard has crossed over into OUR reality, or a version thereof: A world where the essentially Manichean character dynamics of Twin Peaks no longer function, where Cooper has some of the dead-eyed violence of his defeated doppelganger (it makes sense that he‘s somehow acquired the first name of his doppelganger‘s asshole son), where the new Laura Palmer has a sullen, slatternly quality and a chirrupy, girlish quality, and a murdered man in her front room… his arms raised off the armrests, recalling the recalling the uncanny standing, moving corpse in BLUE VELVET.

(Lynch was asked to comment on that guy in BV. “Well, the lab phoned. Normally they’re only supposed to phone if there’s something wrong with the negative. The wanted to know what was going on. Is he supposed to be dead? We see him moving!”)

Okay, a final theory. One of the many frustrations and bafflements is that Cooper receives instructions from the Fireman/Giant/???????, and seems to follow those instructions, but it’s not clear that the result is a good one. In fact, it MIGHT be — Laura is evidently remembering who she is at the end… but everything about the presentation makes this conclusion seem bleak, desolate, incomprehensibly and frightening. Why has Cooper ended up at this terrible outcome? He did as the Fireman advised.

Well, the Fireman isn’t like you and me. I think it’s possible he sincerely believed this ending would make Cooper happy.

Auto Camp

Posted in FILM, Theatre with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 29, 2017 by dcairns

So, I don’t know these things, not being American — is Big Ed’s Gas Farm in Twin Peaks a recognisable kind of thing? Do service stations get called stuff like “gas farms” in the US? In pre-code HEAT LIGHTNING, sisters Aline McMahon and Ann Dvorak run an “auto camp” out in the desert, and the characters who pass through (a multifarious bunch) accept the name as if it were an entirely familiar concept. To us, it’s like a service station with a tiny motel out back.

Brilliant film. Part of Warners’ unofficial program to document the full panoply of American life. They had to do an auto camp eventually. I’m a little sad they never got around to making a film based entirely in an automat. I love automats.

McMahon & Dvorak and Preston Foster & Lyle Talbot provide drama, while such interlopers as Frank McHugh, Ruth Donnelly, Glenda Farrell, Edgar Kennedy and Jane Darwell provide comedy. The balance is spot on. It has the structure of a play, but never seems theatrical, thanks to the WB house style and the atmospheric location shooting.

Something strange and interesting — since the cafe is a central part of the action, and it has big windows, the film features an unusual fluidity between indoors and outdoors. Some scenes are simultaneously both, like a conversation conducted by the sisters through a screen door (in which Mervyn Leroy is guilty of one of his semi-regular confusing line-crosses). Either Warners shot on location at a real auto camp or they built the whole place in situ.

Never do this.

And then a funny thing happens when night falls. Since location night shooting without obvious light sources would be a real headache, and since the story requires lightning bolts to illuminate the sky, the second part of the film switches to the studio. The whole set of buildings is reconstructed in an artificial landscape, with each rock, each joshua tree replaced by an identical replica.  We seem to have relocated, yet not to have moved. The black cyclorama representing the night sky is lit up by quick flashes, and it’s some of the most convincing movie lightning I’ve seen, far better in terms of realism than all those jagged animations, which always wiggle about too long, determined to be appreciated as spectacle.

The slightly uncanny doubling of the film’s sole setting reminded me of another service station, the sinister Convenience Store known as The Dutchman’s, recently seen in Twin Peaks. (We have convenience stores too, sort of, but usually without petrol pumps.) And that in turn reminded Fiona of the fatal service station in Sapphire and Steel, which TP co-creator has surely seen…

The Lynchian conceptual link is cemented by the fact that this seems to be the ur-text of a persistent noir meme, in which a character — McMahon in this case — leaves behind a shady or corrupt life in order to work at a service station — a meme continued by Burt Lancaster in THE KILLERS, Robert Mitchum in OUT OF THE PAST, Brian Donlevy in IMPACT, and finally (to date, so far as I’m aware) and most strangely, Balthazar Getty in LOST HIGHWAY…