Well fuck me it’s darn weird being back here again, after many, many months of neglect. I could barely remember my password let alone the functions of writing a blog post, so please bear with me as I reconnect with an old but terminal exercise. The good news (I guess) is that I’m going to commit to a few year closedown posts of timid length and analysis, the bad news (if anyone really cares) is that this will lead to a final execution of this ten year project once and for all as the day job has officially overtaken this now redundant blog. What have I been doing? Phase 2 of this. What am I involved in from January 2018? This. As such I need to be spectacularly careful of my digital footprint, wary of the press for reasons myriad and numerous, especially since I’m more than positive that some of the comments and jokes I have made on here could easily be located and exploited out of context with horrific consequences. Anyway, back to the matter at hand, here is the usual December montage which isn’t particularly transcendent, and as such representative of a rather average year;
I have been relatively active over the axial orbit movie going wise, but due to project pressures I completely missed the LFF this year (didn’t see a single screening or event) as my schedule simply didn’t gel with other priorities. Ironically I am on target for seeing over 500 films this year on various eyeball assaulting formats, and have managed to cram in some mini seasons on Eric Rohmer, all of Soderbergh’s 21st century material, a revisit of Kieślowski’s Three Colours trilogy, all of the Jarmusch films on Amazon Prime, Ōkami’s Lone Wolf & Cub series and even a revisit of a John Cassavettes box-set. I still don’t chime with the love for him, as much as I can appreciate his ground-breaking achievements in championing independent American filmmaking before Sundance was a faltering glint in Robert Redford’s azure eyes. More montage mischievousness here;
So in order to temper expectations here are my films of the year thus far, presented without commentary or debate and in no particular order – make of this what you will ; Wind River, Personal Shopper, Get Out, Blade Runner 2049, Thor: Ragnarok, Moonlight, mother!, Lady Macbeth, The Death Of Stalin, Logan and maybe Malick’s Song To Song and the eerily prescient Nocturama. Alas I didn’t see The Florida Project, You Were Never Really Here, Brawl In Cell Block 99, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Good Time, The Killing Of A Sacred Deer nor The Shape Of Water, some of which I’m sure could have arisen to the 2017 Menagerie pantheon if I’d seen them at the LFF. As it stands the ultimate event of 2017 was of course David Lynch’s spectacular bookend to his incredible career, maybe there more there will be more on that……later;
Here’s a illuminating little piece on some of the presumed influences on Lynch, including potential spoilers for Twin Peaks for Season 3;
This is doing the rounds, a rare David Lynch commercial for cigarettes which has recently been rediscovered, partially in the wake of the extraordinary episode 8 of the triumphant return of Twin Peaks. It is predictably bonkers;
To say that the Menagerie was excited for the return of Twin Peaks, or rather more specifically the return of David Lynch after a decade hiatus is a spectacular understatement. It is a wider cultural event, with an arch-auteur who has struggled in bringing stories to any screen adding his swansong chorus to the so called third ‘golden’ age of TV broadcasting, by returning to one core text which set the foundations of the modern media landscape of long-form, small screen entertainment. More importantly for me is the simple prospect of another 18 hours of Lynch’s mind – and what a strange, ethereal and occasionally petrifying mind that is – given that he is directing every episode and writing again with his original partner Mark Frost, the stabilising force whom arguably kept Lynch in check to enable some mainstream penetration back in the midst’s of 1990. Given the import of this phenomenon I embarked on a herculean effort of preparation, going to see Mulholland Drive at the cinema which itself was the result of a cancelled TV series, I revisited the criminally unappreciated Fire Walk With Me, squeezed in a screening of Inland Empire and tore through my third re-watch of the original two seasons, all 30 episodes, in a binge watching bloat of three days. To say I am severely Lynched out is another understatement, further compounded by a lovely Sight & Sound reappraisal in this months issue which makes some illuminating observations – given the undercurrent of psychological dread and abuse it references the series Freudian oral fixations (Coffee, Cherry Pie etc.), it situates the series as an early sprouting of contemporary media ‘Hyperdiegesis‘ around narrative properties citing ‘the creation of a vast and detailed narrative space, only a fraction of which is every directly seen or encountered within the text’ and from a cinema history perspective summarises Twin Peaks contours as a molestation of Norman Rockwell Americana by European surrealism, primarily the vein championed by Bunuel and Cocteau – Yeah, I think we may have detected where that serrated Black Lodge zig-zag production design element may have originated…..
So let’s start with some fleeting observations on Lynch’s genuine masterpiece, now widely regarded as one of the greatest films of this teenage century, 2001’s Mulholland Drive which has been blessed with a 4K restoration as part of the surrounding hysteria. I’ve already reviewed the film so this will be more of a collection of further reflections and detections that this screening yielded. Firstly the transfer is exquisite, it heightens the tones and stark symbolism of Peter Deming’s cinematography (a long time Lynch collaborator he’s also back on board for the Twin Peaks revival), which reminded me of David Thompson’s lovely phrase that the opening vistas of LA by night reminded him of ‘a scattering of precious diamonds over a black velvet drape’. For all the deconstructions and analysis of the film that has occurred no piece has ever done the film full justice in my mind, in this hopeless pursuit of connecting the narrative and excavating all the mysteries. Great art should always leave some space for the viewer to bring their experiences to the table, and whilst much of the DNA of the film has been codified I prefer for some elements to remain ambivalent and uncertain, as that makes every viewing a deeply satisfying and diverse experience. Case in point – I’ve seen the film a couple of dozen times over the years, and have never noticed that the man who partially comperes the club sequence is the same man as Justin Theroux’s landlord in the sleazy part of town, another doppelgänger in a film infested with mirrors and obfuscations. I’m sure I’ve digested this elsewhere but the fact that we do indeed see the Cowboy (a Hollywood genre stalwart)after his original appearance another two times signals something, Betty/Diane/Rita’s costume when they discover
their a corpse is clearly modelled on Madeleine/Carlotta/Juila’s attire in Vertigo, (oh, also found this which is good), I’d forgotten how funny the film is (the botched assassination, the audition scene, Billy Ray Cyrus) and for me the entire Silencio sequence still remains one of the most eerily magical orchestrations ever committed to celluloid;
After this screening and that hearty binge watch I was suitably buzzed for the 2am UK transmission, after a patient wait of 27 years to return to this bizarre architecture of cryptic giants, menacing dwarves, and crimson draped para-dimensions. I was adrift in expectations after digesting the revelation that the first and last shots of the entire original series, after the title sequences that is, are both scenes refracted in mirrors – and of course similar elements play heavily in Season 3. Welcome to the labyrinth, perverting genre concepts of the soap and procedural mystery show and driving them into more different and dark terrain, as when all is said and done Twin Peaks gravitates around a disturbing orbit of incestual sexual abuse and murder, revealing a web of moral degradation that lurks within an entire locality. I’m a thick skinned viewer but the killing of Maddy, and the ultimate reveal in episode S2E14 is distressing, even in comparison to today’s thresholds I can’t believe the former got through Standards and Practices a quarter century ago.
As an article upstream notes ‘Lynch convinced a major entertainment conglomerate to pay for 18 hours of new material by David Lynch, at the budget he needed, and with complete creative control. He hasn’t had this kind of financial support since he made Dune in 1984.’ That achievement alone is staggering, no? I loved staying up for this, a shared event around the world with like minded maniacs, and boy did if fucking deliver – as others predicted this is pure, uncut, undiluted Lynch, and I’m still processing much of the first four episodes which are positively infested with his earlier work, including long abstract stretches which are pure Eraserhead. So some scattered thoughts with MINOR SPOILERS – The title sequence elicited a Proustian rush, I was shocked at how much of this was set within the Black Lodge, and it was quite touching to see Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer back on screen, reprising an earlier incident way back in the European pilot. The appearance of Lynch alumni from other material – Brent Briscoe, Naomi Watts, Patrick Fischler & Robert Forster – sets the mind spinning on a shared universe which I’m sure other cerebellum of the internet are already formulating. I thought the Michael Cera scene was fucking hilarious, and that encounter early on, well, I’m genuinely apprehensive at giving it another watch. Especially at night. I am sure it has baffled and agitated some of the audience, even the die-hard fans given where a certain character is taken, but I for one am fully on board as the pieces started to make sense around episode 4, although we still await a revisit to some core characters. Make sure you revisit this series this at night with the lights turned off and the audio on high, as the sound mix alone is staggering. Welcome back, old friend;
Some amusing anecdotes here, and Naomi’s Lynch impression is priceless. Counting down the days now, and the question is does one take a day off work to stay up and watch the return at 2am UK time? Well, what do you think….
Well, as if this week wasn’t already looking grim, my favourite character in Twin Peaks just passed away. Fortunately he is in the new series so he will get some sort of tribute, but this sucks. He was also great in the rarely discussed Tony Scott picture Revenge which is also a fond, historical, under appreciated favourite of mine;
Here’s a trailer for what seems to be a rather different approach to movie making documentaries, naturally I was attracted to the material but I just couldn’t align the screenings with my schedule. Now I’m kicking myself as this looks fascinating, but I guess it will get a VoD release in a few months or so what with the enhanced interest in Lynch in the run-up to next year’s return to Twin Peaks;
Any outtakes of a behind the scenes Dennis Hooper as the truly terrifying Frank Booth could be appropriately distressing, In fact there is another documentary on ‘Jimmy Stewart from Mars’ screening this year, as you can see here;
No, I don’t know what this entirely is, but yes, I have been following some of the sneak peeks that have been slithering from Lynch’s social media accounts – I can only assume this is some precursor to the Twin Peaks revival, and that DL has somehow levered some funds to do ‘something’ else, beyond a mere TV series excavation. With Malk. How and where these are interconnected remans a mystery, at least at this point. Consider me intrigued, but also a little worried;
This revelation comes hot on the heels of my first assignment extension which is a major relief, taking us into Christmas and potentially through Q1 of 2017, for which the signals are positive. So, I’m not saying I’ve celebrated with a spending carnage or anything, I mean, it’s not, like, I’ve pre-ordered the recently announced 4K enabled PS4 gaming sorcery to complement my new A/V portfolio or anything. No. That would be crazy. It’s not like I’m on the cusp of a dream, nay, a vision sparked way back in 1990 of a home use virtual experience which I’ve never forgotten since I first saw it on this long forgotten programme? Or that I’ve pre-ordered the decade in development new benchmark in virtual world entertainment which I’ve been dreaming about playing for months? That would all be a dream, wrapped in a riddle, immersed in a 7th level illusion…..
Another week, another list expertly designed as clickbait discussion fodder, guaranteed to generate the usual furious gentlemanly debate concerning inclusions and omissions. To be fair the BBC do seem to have approached some well established and coherent critics, and the results while mostly unsurprising do reflect some of the best work of the past decade and change. I can’t fault the top place and for reasons I’ll get into shortly I’m not going to be specific on how this gels with my views, but my first impression was it’s a bit safe isn’t it? All a bit like a Cannes and Sight & Sound playlist sanctioned by the serious arbiters of cinema’s contours, with nothing particularly controversial in there, like, say, a Trash Humpers, A Serbian Film, The Hottie & The Nottie or any glimpse of the Noe and Refn’s of this world, although Spring Breakers made the cut which is about as controversial as you’re likely to get. Plus I suppose Von Trier is represented twice with Melancholia and Dogville.
Again, pushing my favourites aside we must beg to differ on the likes of Holy Motors, The Lives Of Others and the utterly detestable Moulin Rogue! and its arrogant, presupposing exclamation mark, quite honestly Baz Luhrmann is just about in the same league as Michael Bay or when it comes to my particular idiom for aesthetics. I’d cite plus Amour as a stronger Haneke than either The White Ribbon or Cache in my book, but I’ve done well with my viewing as the vast majority of these have been viewed, and even reviewed on this very site. The only films I haven’t seen are Tangerine, Toni Erdmann, Moolaadé and Yi Yi : A one And A Two, in fact if I’m honest I’m not so educated on Edward Yang at all much to my shame, but he isn’t exactly a filmmaker with a strong strong distribution infrastructure and I also didn’t realize he died almost ten years ago. So that’s that. It is quite amusing and prescient to see number 83 which chimes beautifully with something I’ve been working on for weeks, watch this artificial space…..
The AICN and fanboy delegates will be outraged at the lack of LOTR, Marvel or Potters no doubt, but have been placated with three Nolan’s which seems like a slight overkill. As others have pointed out apart from Maren Aden, the director of Toni Edelman I don’t think there is a single filmmaker on the list who became active post 2000, which is perhaps problematic for the longer health of the seventh art, although it is good to see so much Iranian material and as a loose approximation of region ‘Asian’ cinema in there which I think maps to the recent critical trends in world cinema. In that vein I would havce although at a push I would have expected a Koreeda or Hong Sang-soo, and no kudos to either Soderbergh or Guy Maddin?
This list arrives at an auspicious time. We have my tenth anniversary coming up in a couple of months and I might, well, I just might do something on my top ten of the century. List posts are generally easier to construct and I guess that would tie back to the blogs life-cycle, and it could be fun to do. Plus it also gives me an excuse to go on a bit of a HD spending rampage to acquire any gaps in my collection now that I have finally rearranged and streamlined my entire media collection, and revisit some of these films on my new 55 inch KU6400 4K Ultra HD TV, supported by the UBD-K8500 4K player which has been s*domising my retinas since I had the system installed a fortnight ago, the latter equipment even upscales Blu-Rays to a near theater projection matching 3840 x 2160 definition which is just, well, my god, its full of stars…..
Oh no, now this won’t do, this won’t do at all. Catherine Coulson wasn’t just the highly regarded Log Lady of Twin Peaks fame, she was an instrumental member of Lynch’s retinue throughout his career, charting back to his early short The Amputee and a crucial production assistant on Eraserhead. She was always in good spirits about her miniscule claim to fame in such a cult TV show, and I think she will be a douglas fir sized absentee in 2017’s return to that small, sleepy Washington town. Heck, she was even married to Henry for a few years, which in it’s own way must have been quite a trip. Rest in peace, and may your sprit fly swift to the White Lodge enigmatic Log Lady;