Friday, October 21, 2016

A few thoughts on The Secret History of Twin Peaks [SPOILERS]

This is going to be a quick, type-it-as-you-go posting.  Please forgive my mistakes and half-thought comments....

As everyone knows, Mark Frost's The Secret History of Twin Peaks is out and it is getting some strong reaction from fans.  Almost everyone is happy to have it in their hands, to be reading it at long last, and to be returning to the world of Twin Peaks that Frost and Lynch created back in 1989-1990.

But with happiness has come distress.

Some are many who are quite alarmed by the book.

And here is where I get into spoilers.  I'm about to discuss a big, over-arching structural spoiler (not detailed spoilers). If you haven't read the book (or all of the book) you may want to stop reading NOW.




go  . . . .

The "history' recounted in the book is not the history most fans know.  A great many details are just plain wrong.  How can this be? Some suggest that Mark Frost simply didn't do enough homework about Twin Peaks and messed things up. Others think he may have purposefully discarded established backstory in favor of new details which he preferred.

But neither of those seems plausible once you hear what Frost has said in various interviews, and once you see what kind of effort he put into the look, structure, and writing of the book.  Mark Frost knows what's what.  On Twitter, Frost has declared that "all will be revealed in time."  So, clearly there is a bigger scheme at work here: a more intricate plan is in place.

Many are suggesting the new history is the result of time-travel or alternate timelines.  Well, I think they are onto something.  When David Lynch was making Fire Walk With Me, he purposely introduced a time-travel element.  When Annie Blackburne appears to Laura, she is the Annie from the future attempting to alter the past!

How do we know?  Lynch said as much in an interview with Chris Rodley in the indispensable Lynch on Lynch.  Below is the full passage:

Lynch on Lynch, p 187.

Look at that last paragraph!  Lynch says he had hopes that someone would see Annie's message and "sort of see it all." See what?  See the future!

And then he says, "I had hopes of something coming out of that, and I like the idea of the story going back and forth in time."


There it is. I believe Lynch's interest in the story going back and forth in time stayed with him--that he and Frost discussed the idea--and implications--of time travel and then introduced those ideas into the new series. This helps explain the altered nature of the new Twin Peaks history.

What else could explain it?

UPDATE: I just found this quote on p 19 of Lynch on Lynch:

Lynch on Lynch p 19.

Lynch says there's no problem with time (which I interpret to mean time travel is possible). Did Annie go back in time and change the course of events?  Did she end up never visiting Twin Peaks? Could the Good Cooper also go back in time--maybe further back in time--and change even more events?

I'll try to provide a more detailed review of Frost's new book in the next few weeks or months.  I'm still digesting it.  There is much to study . . . . . . .

Research Materials

Monday, October 3, 2016

Collecting Twin Peaks: The Japanese Card Game

Many Twin Peaks fans might be familiar with the two Twin Peaks board games that were produced in the years following the series: The Twin Peaks Murder Mystery Game from the UK, and the Game of Twin Peaks from Japan. But there is a third game: The Twin Peaks Original Card Game, manufactured by WIZ CO., Ltd., in Japan in 1992. 

The Instruction Booklet
This game resembles the popular UNO card game; the deck contains SKIP and REVERSE cards as well as numbered cards of different colors. But, unlike UNO, there are also HOLD, LOCK, and ALL CHANGE cards. There is also a set of BOB cards with different values of 20, 30, 40 and 50 points. Oddly, the cards are printed in English while the rules are printed in Japanese. (Just who was the intended audience for this game, anyway?)

The Backs of the BOB and Play Cards
The card set comes with a small illustrated instruction pamphlet that provides detailed rules of play. There also appears to be a summary card that provides a quick overview of the game on one side and what is probably a character-relationship chart on the other.

The Twin Peaks Original Card Game is a handsomely produced game. The 60 cards comprising the game are all printed in full color and measure 2" by  3".  The summary card measures 3.25” by 6.25”.  The cards and instructions are packaged in a black plastic videocassette case where all pieces are housed in a plastic insert tray. 

Inside the "cassette case" packaging
The Front Side of the Summary Card
Back Side of the Summary Card (relationship chart)
Interior Pages (and Back and Front Pages) of Instruction Booklet
Playing Cards (including HOLD, LOCK, REVERSE, & ALL CHANGE)
Playing Cards (including SKIP and BOB)
After we featured this game in Wrapped in Plastic 66 (August, 2003), readers, Noriko Hara and Phil Eskew, translated the instructions for us. We featured the full translation in WIP 67(October, 2003). What follows is a portion of that translation.

Back of Game Case

The back of the game translated:

Do you know Twin Peaks?

Twin Peaks is a small, rural town located in the Northwest of the United States near the Canadian border.  On the morning of February 24, 1990, Laura Palmer’s dead body was found on the riverbank wrapped in plastic.  FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper has been assigned to solve the murder.  The deeper he digs, the weirder things become.

Twin Peaks, a unique suspense-drama, is the product of the creative genius of David Lynch.

Now Twin Peaks is a card game!

“Diane, it appears that Twin Peaks has become a card game.  It is a damn fine card game that involves people from the town.  I am going enjoy it with cherry pie and donuts.  One thing is worrying me.  What happened to Bob?”

Interior Pages (1-4) of the Instruction Booklet
Page One of the instruction booklet translated: 

The Twin Peaks card game is a game in which players attempt to avoid becoming possessed by Bob who appears in Twin Peaks. 

1) Each player has four “Play” cards and the rest of the “Play” cards and “Bob” cards are stacked separately.  A player picks one of the “Bob” cards and turns it over so the number is showing.

2) Then each player goes through steps A and B in order.
            A) The player picks up one of the “Play” cards [they now have 5 cards]
            B) The player picks one of his [5] cards and places it on the table so the others can see it.  Each player does so in order.  The players add the numbers on the cards as they go around the table.

3) The goal is to avoid being the player whose card causes the total number to exceed the number on the “Bob” card.  The person whose card causes the number to exceed the number on the “Bob” card, takes the “Bob” card. 

Repeat 1) – 3) and at the end of the game the player with the least amount of “Bob” card points wins.

This game is certainly a rare piece of Twin Peaks merchandise and a valuable addition to any Twin Peaks collection. (If anyone would like a translation of the complete instructions, please let me know!)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Out of Shadows: Frederick Elmes on Blue Velvet

Frederick Elmes was cinematographer on three David Lynch feature films (Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart) and one short film (The Cowboy and the Frenchman). In the fascinating documentary about cinematography, Visions of Light, Elmes explained: “My job [on Eraserhead] was to find ways to extract [the film from David Lynch’s mind], to have him explain how it should look in great detail.”  Together, Lynch and Elmes have produced some of the most memorable images on film:  The puzzled/awed face of Henry (Jack Nance) before a field of swirling sparkles (Eraserhead); the voyeuristic face of Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) as he spies through closet louvers (Blue Velvet); the elegant, surreal appearance of Sandy (Laura Dern) on a shadowy sidewalk (Blue Velvet).  These are images which mesmerize.  These are images which demonstrate the unique artistic power of film.

Craig Miller and John Thorne interviewed Frederick Elmes on June 29, 2000. The full interview appeared in Wrapped In Plastic #48 (August, 2000).  The following is a small portion of that interview covering Elmes’ work on Blue Velvet.

Thorne:  Blue Velvet is memorable for its sharp and vibrant colors (the roses and fence, the fire truck).  It also made powerful use of shadow.  One of the film's most memorable scenes is when Sandy (Laura Dern) emerges from total darkness--and she's wearing a light-colored dress!
Elmes:  [Laughter] Yeah, that was a good trick!
JT:  Did you find scenes such as those particular challenging?
FE:  They were good.  They were great.  I certainly hadn't done that exact thing before.  David had a very specific thought in mind, that she really had to come out of the darkness, so what you see in the background is the willow tree blowing in the wind, and she just seems to appear out of it.  But again, it was something we could do in the camera and not do as a trick.  We just did it with the lighting, and make her look beautiful at the same time, because that's her first moment with Kyle [MacLachlan].  It was a very cool moment; I liked it a lot.
JT:  Was it a problem that needed experiments to solve, or did it turn out to be fairly simple to accomplish?
FE:  It was fairly simple to do once we came upon exactly what David wanted, once David could describe the mood of it.  It was pretty easy to do, and very, very effective.  That, and the music together, and the sound, really did it, really made it a beautiful moment in the film.

JT:  There's another great scene when Dean Stockwell sings into the prop light.  We understand that was not originally intended.  Is that true?
FE:  Right.  It seems to me that it came out of scouting a location when we were trying to determine who stands where, and which direction we'd be looking in the room.  And somebody in the art department picked up this light as a prop microphone and said, "Okay, does he stand over here?  Does he stand over there?"  And I think that's kind of what it came from.  David decided it was a great idea, and we would use that.  It turned out to be perfect.  Stockwell picks up the light and sways back and forth to sing the song, and in fact what you see is a little trick, actually, because his shadow on the wall behind him is not his real shadow.  It's an electrician back there with a little paper cut-out making the shadows rock back and forth on the wall.  We couldn't do it for real, so we did it with pretend shadows.  It worked well.

JT:  On a major film, are you often improvising the look and lighting on set, or are things usually planed out?
FE:  Certainly there's a mood and a tone to a film, which is set in the beginning, and which you want to be consistent to.  It is, in a sense, like making a painting--you have different parts of the painting, and different parts require slightly different techniques or different feelings, but it's still one painting.  And so you go into a film with one vision of how it will be, and in a sense every scene is an improvisation on that theme.  So every scene requires a little different handling, even if you're coming back to the same room again and again, like Dorothy's apartment [in Blue Velvet].  It transforms; it changes character a little bit.  Depending on whether it's daytime or nighttime, depending on what action is happening, the mood in the room changes.  We set up what we wanted it to feel like, but then you make little changes and adjustments as you go to make it appropriate for the scene.  So for me, the lighting, the feeling of it is driven by the actors and the motivations in the scene.
JT:  We actually had a question about that further down on our list, which was basically, how does character and plot influence the look of a film?  In particular, do Lynch and other directors discuss the character motivations with you, or is it something you intuit?
FE:  That's a funny question, because each director is really different.  David doesn't often tell a lot of things about the characters.  Others will tell more, but usually they're pretty tight about it.  That's something that they discuss with the actors, and I think it's my job to eke out some of that information, intuit what they're thinking and get them to talk about it a little bit, because it helps me to know what's going on with the characters.  It really helps me to be clear about what the motivations are in a big sense--where they fit in the story, and all that.  That's very important stuff, because I think it has everything to do with the visual style.  So yeah, it's important to me, and I love to spend time with the director talking about that stuff and asking lots of questions.
JT:  In the Visions of Light documentary you mention that you and Lynch had years to talk about the look of Blue Velvet.  What kind of things did you talk about?
FE:  For David and me the advantage was that we had already spent a few years together on Eraserhead, so some stuff started to come automatically and not have to talk about [them].  But the advantage with Blue Velvet was that there was a long genesis period.  We knew the film was going to get made, we just didn't know when.  The schedule changed, and things got pushed back, and we had time to talk.  David had been back there to Wilmington, North Carolina, and had driven around and seen a lot of the local towns and had found one that we wanted to model our town on, so we chose the parts of Wilmington that looked appropriate. 

Dorothy's apartment was a certain style and feeling, and it was a different neighborhood from where Jeffrey lived, where Kyle's character lived.  His was a very little street, and we knew there were lots of scenes that took place walking up and down that street, so it had to have a certain character, a certain feeling to it.  Those were really important things that we could talk about in advance.
JT:  A case can be made that the look of Blue Velvet (the town, the community, etc.) influenced Twin Peaks.  Did Lynch ever discuss any aspect of Twin Peaks with you?
FE:  No.  I wasn't really part of that at all, as much as I like it.  Certainly there are similarities in the small towns, and I know that's right up David's alley.

  You worked on Tim Hunter's film, River's Edge, which was released about the same time as Blue Velvet.  Which did you work on first?
FE:  Blue Velvet was first, and then River's Edge.  It was great to work with Dennis Hopper [in both films].
CM:  Both times he had crazy roles.
FE:  Yeah, both times crazy guys.  It was really a joy to work with him.  It's funny, a story on River's Edge.  There were a lot of young actors, and Tim Hunter's very good at casting young actors, taking advantage of people who had talent who hadn't been seen much--Keanu Reeves, and Crispin Glover, and Ione Skye--there's that handful who have gone on to keep making movies.  He put them together for the first time, and so we were doing a read-through a week before we started production.  All the actors showed up, and they're all sitting around the big table, and everybody's waiting for Dennis Hopper to show up.  This is their hero.  To be in a film with Dennis Hopper is like being in a film with James Dean, and they were all talking in hushed tones about him, and sure enough Dennis shows up wearing a three-piece suit, carrying a briefcase.  It was so completely opposed to their image of him, their jaws just dropped.  They couldn't quite make sense of what Dennis was up to.  But Dennis was an extremely professional and very responsible actor on both films.  He was a joy to work with.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Full of Insight: An Interview with David Lavery

Professor David Lavery, well known to Twin Peaks fans as editor of the book, Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks, passed away on August 30, 2016. Lavery was one of the first people to bring an academic focus to Twin Peaks: He edited a special Twin Peaks issue of Literature/ Film Quarterly and then produced Full of Secrets, a landmark study of Twin Peaks that has remained in print for 22 years. Lavery went on to produce more than a dozen books of academic analysis for other well-known TV series, including Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, The Sopranos, Deadwood, Lost, and Madmen. Although Lavery would achieve great acclaim for these later works, I always felt that his first book, Full of Secrets, was his most important. It laid the groundwork for the decades of Twin Peaks academic study to follow.

When we started Wrapped In Plastic, Craig Miller and I knew that Twin Peaks was ripe for in-depth analysis and we strove to produce such analyses in the pages of our magazine.  We were excited when we heard about Full of Secrets and saw that other authors and scholars were taking Twin Peaks seriously. 

We had a chance to meet and interview David Lavery when he visited Dallas on May 21, 1994. The following interview first appeared (in slightly longer form) in WIP 13 (October, 1994).  Our talk about Twin Peaks occurred at a time when we were only beginning to investigate and fully appreciate the complexities of the series, and, as a result, some of our notions about the show had yet to fully form . . . .

Miller: When Twin Peaks first came on television what was your initial reaction?
Lavery: I didn't watch it.  I missed the whole first eight episodes. During those episodes I kept hearing everyone talking about it at the office; even the secretaries were watching it.  They were always talking about it, and a couple of colleagues of mine were always talking about it.  So, by the time the reruns started I knew I had to start watching it. 
       I was instantly hooked.  I started taping it right away.  I taped all that summer as they reran the eight episodes and had my first Twin Peaks party for the premiere of the second season.  I was just blown away by the opening of that show.  The old bellhop and all of that--and of course that was exactly the point that the secretaries stopped watching it.  I came to the office the next day and they said, "What was that?!  What was that so slow for?"  I think that happened to a lot of people.  The opening of the second season was almost a challenge to the Twin Peaks viewership. 
Thorne: Do you think that might have been deliberate?
DL:  I don't know how deliberate it was.  But all the talk was that people were disappointed because Laura's killer had not been revealed--all the disappointment in the press and outright anger about the fact that we didn't know the killer.  The first fifteen minutes are absolutely endless, up until the Giant appearing.  Of course, I was just fascinated with it.  I like TV the most is when it is so absolutely perplexing.  It certainly put up a challenge to some viewers.  And don't forget, too, there were people coming in for the first time that night hoping to finally pick up on this cultural phenomenon.  And what did it do?  It gave them that opening.   I wonder how many television sets were turned off in that first fifteen minutes?
CM: I was disappointed with the second season premiere.  I agree with David Bianculli who said that every time Twin Peaks needed a blockbuster episode, it fell down.  It was the episode after that really excelled. 
DL:  One of the reasons the network didn't like it, finally, is that they didn't know how to market it.  Genre, as Horace Newcomb has found out over the years, is essentially a marketing tool.  If they don't know what to say Twin Peaks is, then how are they going to push it?  Certainly in one sense it was a soap opera, and yet if it's soap opera, it's a given that the viewer can enter it anywhere and that it exhibits a narrative redundancy.  It allows you back into a series even if you haven't watched it in ten years.  Twin Peaks defied that.  It did some of that, but it didn't do it enough--not for somebody coming in new.
CM: It seemed to be playing into the critics worst criticisms.  Its bad rap was that the producers weren't really concerned about resolving the storyline.  Viewers wanted some hint that they were conscious of these concerns and at least interested in moving the story ahead. 
DL:  Cooper does get clues from the Giant, but they were just baffling utterances that you knew were going to take episodes and episodes to reveal.  Again, it's a matter of expectations isn't it?  If people have been watching it thinking, "this is a night-time soap" then they wouldn't have been so anxious for closure.  That's the definition of soaps--they don't have closure.
JT: That's the argument in Marc Dolan's essay in your book.
DL:  Right.  Twin Peaks did a very bad job of setting up its expectations.  Saturday Night Live had just been on with the parody of the show's endlessness with the suggestion that Cooper was perpetuating this indefinitely!  And the network ran that ad that shows the smoke-filled room with the TV executives sitting around a table saying, "Saturday night?!  You put our best shows on Saturday night?!  Heads are going to roll!"  The network, in self-reflexivity of modern television--the “deride and conquer” strategy that Mark Crispin Miller calls it--was making fun of itself as a peremptory strike.  How could they lose?  "We know we made a stupid mistake, and if it turns out to be the stupid mistake we know it is then we'll claim that we didn't do it, because we've already made fun of it!"  And when they finally changed it back to Thursday night they did that Wizard of Oz spoof, "We've been in an awful place on Saturday night.  That is a bad dream."

JT: Although you didn't watch Twin Peaks' initial first season run, were you aware of the pre-pilot hype?  The media blitz that was going on?
DL:  Yeah.  I can remember sitting in a conference in Birmingham, Alabama and reading a big story in USA Today.  I remember some big magazine articles including one in Connoisseur: "The show that will change television forever."
JT: Do you think the show lived up to that hype?  Do you think it has changed television?
DL:  Of course not.  It hasn't changed TV a bit. They put on an innovative show.  It was canceled.  Where's the change?  Isn't that what Mark Frost said, essentially? 
       You can watch TV today and see an occasional Twin Peaks influence.  You notice how it has changed the visual style.  But TV is so monolithic; it seems incredibly difficult to change it.  I think you could argue that The Simpsons has changed TV.  But I obviously think Twin Peaks is an incredibly significant show.  I have this battle with colleagues all the time.  They look at me like I'm deranged: "You've done a book on Twin Peaks?!"
JT: Many correlations have been made between Twin Peaks and various literary works, as was done in Literature/Film Quarterly.  Since you are chairman of an English department, did you notice these allusions as you watched the show?  
DL: Yeah, I noticed the allusions as we went along.  Of course that was part of the snob appeal of Twin Peaks.  Diane Hume George, in her essay, writes quite well about that.  She wrote one of the first really good articles on Twin Peaks in Ms.  She says that you were just not going to associate with anybody who didn't get Twin Peaks!  I can remember feeling that way.  Fellini used to say about Satyricon that you should take people to it to see who was your friend.  There was that kind of quality to Twin Peaks; that's part of the classic cult experience.  I write about this in my essay.  You want to have this group that you identify with.  They're your interpretive community.  You all know how to read the text.  I was actually quite gratified when the secretaries stopped watching the show.  It was, "I knew you couldn't get it."

CM: How did you go about soliciting essays for your book?
DL:  When the show was canceled I had a letter out within a week.  I wrote everybody I could think of.  I got their addresses out of the Professional Directory.  I said, "I'm going to develop a collection of essays on Twin Peaks, would you like to write something?"  I got a good number of responses.  I wrote the Modern Language Association, which had 65 people who had proposed papers for a session on Twin Peaks, which unfortunately was never held.  I think I got about 40 essays submitted for the book.  I was the sole arbiter--I judged them.  I figured out which essays would go and which would stay.
           A good number of essays that came in were literary in nature.  I wasn't pleased at how literary they were.  I knew this book was going to need a television look so it could be used in television studies classes.  I think the book does have a strong television focus to it.  I took the really good literary essays and talked Jim Welsh of Literature/Film Quarterly into doing a special literary issue.  I actually had another one planned, a Feminist issue.  I tried to talk Camera Obscura into doing that, but they didn't want to do it.
JT: It seems to me there would be a lot of interest in studying Lynch's work from a Feminist approach.
DL:  Well there are four Feminist essays in the book.  I worry that some of the essays may overlap or that there might be a little too much emphasis on the Feminist stuff. 
       I got other submissions that I just thought were hare-brained.  My favorite one was "Twin Peaks and The Fairy Queen."  The Fairy Queen was an epic poem of the early Renaissance by Edwin Spencer.  I thought, "This is what English people do!"  But then by the end of the series we have Windom Earle and Leo in their "verdant bower" which is a direct quote from The Fairy Queen!  The verdant bower is one of the famous scenes from The Fairy Queen.  I thought, "I owe these people an apology!"
       Twin Peaks had an unbelievably rich text.  It could interest people, who were semiotically inclined, on so many different levels.  Even some of the bad episodes are inexhaustibly rich.  Twin Peaks at its worst was still mesmerizing.

CM: Getting back to the book, did you consider how the various essays would "interact" with each other, so that the book would work as a whole?
DL:  Yeah, I always had an overall flow for the book in mind.  I knew there was going to be a Feminist core, and I wanted to have a couple of essays that set the show into the television industry.  I thought Dolan's essay did that very well.  I knew that the discussion section was going to go last. 
CM: Why include some essays that had already been printed elsewhere, such as the Martha Nochimson essay from Film Quarterly, or the Diane Hume-George essay from Ms.?
DL:  Some of those were so well-known that it seemed a definitive book on Twin Peaks should include them.  I think about 75% of the book is new material.  Jonathan Rosenbaum's essay was published elsewhere.  And of course he does not like Lynch.
JT: Why did you choose the Rosenbaum essay, a negative article, to lead off the book?
DL:  Rosenbaum's first for sales.  I worried about it, but Rosenbaum's such a big name.  He's done about ten books and he's one of the really well-known film critics.  Of course, that's the only essay that's totally hostile.
         I tried to get Rosenbaum to write an updated essay, because his is basically a review from when Twin Peaks first came on.  I don't agree with Rosenbaum, either.  I put it first, partly to get it out of the way.  It's a very short essay.  You have to remember that he is not a life-long "hater" of Lynch.  He happens to think Eraserhead is one of the greatest films ever made.  Rosenbaum has always been an avant-garde film advocate.  The point he makes is that Lynch has never had to explain why things happen in his movies.  Would Lynch have explained why the lights are flickering in the morgue if that scene was in Eraserhead?  Nothing is explained in Eraserhead!  It's good enough that it wasn't explained.  His argument is that there has been a gradual coarsening of Lynch. 
JT: Fire Walk With Me doesn't get as much attention in the book as the series.
DL:  That's mainly due to logistics.  The essays were written before the film came out.  I asked the authors to include anything they could about it for their final revisions.  I included a few things for my introduction, but there's not much else.
JT: Opinion of the film varies dramatically depending on who you talk to.  What did you think of it?
DL:  I thought it was interesting, but I was greatly disappointed by it.  It was only after I read the Video Watchdog essay that I thought I could convince myself that I really liked it.  I did go see it again and I liked it better.  A lot of people hated it, though.  I did include a plot summary of the film in the book, but I had a student do that.  I just couldn't force myself to sit down and do it.
CM: Were you disappointed because they did a prequel, or did you think the film just wasn't well made?
DL:  Well, there was just so much missing.  The humor, that wonderful leaven that was there in the series, was gone.  Suddenly it was this incredibly depressing, heavy-handed film.  There's still a great debate about the ending, which I know you guys liked and Video Watchdog liked.  But I disliked the ending about as much as I disliked the ending of Wild At Heart, of which it was a virtual clone, with the angels descending and all of that.  That's when I think Lynch is at his absolute worst.
       Like anybody I wanted to see the story continue.  I wanted to see Cooper get out of the bathroom.  And I guess he's never going to.

JT: But in many respects the fact that Cooper has been possessed by Bob is an ending.  The evil has, perhaps, been victorious.
DL:  Yeah, but we still don't know what happened in Pittsburgh.  If you read the Cooper Autobiography it’s pretty clear that Cooper may have killed Earle's wife.  That's something I suggest in my introduction. 
CM: You suggest that maybe Bob had entered Cooper at an early age just as he had entered Leland.
DL:  We shouldn't work under the assumption that Bob is only in one individual at a time.  I mean, Bob could be inhabiting various beings at various times.  Just because he was in Leland doesn't mean he couldn't have been in Cooper. 
CM: But there's no evidence that he can do that.
DL:  But Bob knew all about Pittsburgh.
JT: Somebody once suggested [to us] that maybe Bob's ultimate goal was to possess Cooper.  He orchestrated this entire thing--including Windom Earle and Laura--to get Cooper to that certain place and point in time where he could possess him.
DL:  As an English teacher, though, if you came to me in a literature class and suggested that theory, I would say, "What in the text leads you to say that?"  I think it's a fascinating hypothesis, but there is nothing in Twin Peaks other than a bunch of strange conjunctions that would lead you to believe that it was true.  I don't doubt for a minute that it might be where the story was going, but if you don't find some evidence for it in the text, it doesn't make any sense. 

JT: Well, excluding the Cooper Autobiography--let's just say only the series is the text--are there any clues that lead you to believe that Cooper was possessed by Bob at one point?
DL:  That Bob knows about Pittsburgh.  How does Bob know about that?
JT:  I might interpret that to say Bob had been possessing Windom Earle.
DL:  Well, we don't know his relationship with Earle.  I mean he dispatches Earle so quickly.  Earle has been this menacing figure for all these episodes and then he's done away with so quickly in the Black Lodge.  That was one of the disappointing things about the last episode. 
Do we know that Lynch and Frost knew?  Did they have it sketched out? 
JT: Frost has said that they he had a vague idea of where they would go in the third season. 
DL:  We're talking wing and a prayer here anyway, aren't we?  As Dolan shows, they were making this up as they went along--to a great degree--because they never knew how long the show was going to continue.  They had to leave it open-ended enough so that they could continue it.
CM: In that Behind the Scenes special that Alan Thicke hosted, both Lynch and Frost were asked about how well thought-out the plotlines were.  Lynch answered, "Not too thought-out."  But Frost answered, "Very thought-out." [laughter]
DL:  And which is it?  Or could it be both? 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Path is Formed by Laying One Stone at a Time

In the spring of 1993, while attending a graduate school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, I met an undergrad named Eric who was showing episodes of Twin Peaks every week to a group of about twenty classmates, most of whom had never seen the series.

When I first heard about this I was thrilled. Twenty people? All new to the world of Twin Peaks? Great! I thought this type of “group watching” had died when the series was canceled. (Remember, in 1993 watching Twin Peaks was no easy task; you had to have home-recorded videotapes of the series in order to see the whole thing properly). Thanks to Eric (a big Twin Peaks fan who knew his fellow classmates would also enjoy the show), a weekly Twin Peaks party was alive and kicking.

Naturally, I had to check this out for myself.

Eric told me that the group was about to watch episode 14—the famous “Bob kills Madeleine” episode. Very soon they would all discover who killed Laura Palmer. I didn’t want to miss watching this with them because I realized I had a unique opportunity to see and hear how all these first-time viewers would react to one the series’ most important episodes. I remembered how stunned I was by the revelations in this episode, and by the brutal murder of Madeleine, and I wondered how these new viewers would react. With this in mind, I arrived at Eric’s early enough to get a seat with a good vantage point from which to observe the audience.

Soon the room was crowded and Eric popped the tape into the VCR. The twenty or so people in attendance had a good time with the program during the show’s first half hour; the various subplots involving Andy and Lucy, the vegetated Leo, and the super-strong Nadine Hurley all brought laughs.

But things got real quiet as the showed entered its final twenty minutes. The Log Lady delivered a cryptic message, Sarah Palmer crawled down the stairs and saw a white horse, Leland Palmer calmly adjusted his tie in the mirror. And then Bob’s face appeared in place of Leland’s reflection.

A couple of people jumped, and then the room went still. As Bob turned to attack Madelaine, the audience was silent and unmoving; everyone’s eyes were locked on the screen. The scene played itself out: Bob/Leland beat Maddy to death while the Giant stonily informed Cooper, “It is happening again.” 

Then the show was over.

And still the room was quiet as each person processed what he or she saw. But the questions began soon after: “Is Madeleine really dead?” “How much of the story is left?”  “Did Leland really kill Laura?”

As everyone threw questions around I realized how different their watching experience had been compared to mine when I first saw this episode. None of these viewers had been exposed to the pre-show hype originally surrounding the episode. They didn’t know that Laura’s killer was going to be revealed in this segment. They came to it cold. I, on the other hand, had seen all the commercials and read the TV Guide blurbs back in November of 1990. I knew the importance of the episode going in. (Even with that knowledge, however, I was still stunned.) But these people had no preparation for what it contained. Clearly shocked, most of them still weren’t sure what they had just seen.

Lots of discussion followed the episode. These people were excited by Twin Peaks and couldn’t wait to see more. They reminded me of how much I enjoyed Twin Peaks and how involved I became in the story. And here, three years later, was a room full of people experiencing it for the first time.

Eric had done a great thing. He gathered together friends and classmates who had never seen Twin Peaks and introduced them to it episode-by-episode. Every person at Eric’s party had the unique opportunity to experience Twin Peaks on a weekly basis, just like it was originally broadcast.

I wonder now, 23 years later, if many people take the time or effort to experience Twin Peaks slowly.

They should. Because Twin Peaks requires time to process. It needs to steep in the minds of viewers. That’s why I’m so glad that the new Twin Peaks will appear weekly on Showtime in 2017 (fingers crossed); the new story needs to unfold through measured doses. And we at home need time to think about what we’ve seen, to re-watch if necessary, and to properly prepare for the next installment.

This summer I watched the entire five seasons of Breaking Bad over the course of about three months. It was a thrilling, engrossing experience. But in watching it so quickly, I did not always take the time to fully appreciate the artistry and nuance of the show. As I watched, I wished I had originally seen the series on a week-by-week, season-by-season basis. There was so much to think about, to absorb and to study. In fact, as I approached the end of the series I did slow down, taking many days (and sometimes a week) between installments.

It is good to be reminded of this—that some stories work better when we experience them slowly, in chapters. And it is good to be reminded that the spaces between those chapters are important, for it is in these times that we contemplate and discuss what we’ve seen. These spaces are almost as valuable as the chapters themselves.

Think about it.

(A much different version of this article appeared as an editorial in Wrapped in Plastic #5, June, 1993.)

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Is a Divided Cooper a Defeated Cooper?

Episode 29 of Twin Peaks depicts two Dale Coopers, a “good” Cooper who remains trapped in the Black Lodge and a “bad” Cooper (probably Cooper’s Doppelgänger) who escapes the Lodge and is essentially free to terrorize the town of Twin Peaks, presumably continuing Bob’s killing (and his hunt for garmonbozia). In my book, The Essential Wrapped In Plastic, I argue that Cooper enters the Red Room as a “whole” person but subsequently divides into two beings: a Good Dale and a Bad Dale. I conclude with this observation:  “Cooper, who was once complex and rich, has been distilled into components of ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ Whole, Cooper was more than the sum of his parts. Divided, he becomes a lost soul.”

When I originally wrote that essay for Wrapped In Plastic, my co-editor, Craig Miller, wondered if the statement was necessarily true.  He posed the question: “Is it a good thing or a bad thing that Cooper divides?”

This question supersedes the real-life demands of TV production. As we all know, Lynch re-wrote the script for Episode 29, significantly altering much of the final act. The original script contained a cliff-hanger in which Cooper was possessed by Bob. Lynch did not accept this terrifying proposition, but to keep the shock ending of the script he decided to have only “part” of Cooper possessed. Lynch was explicit about this outcome when he told Chris Rodley, “Coop wasn’t occupied by Bob. Part of him was. There are two Coops in there, and the one that came out was, you know, with Bob.” (Lynch on Lynch, page 183—emphasis added.) For Lynch, this result was clearly more palatable than having the one-and-only Cooper inhabited by Bob. If Lynch had not been saddled with the pre-ordained, season-ending cliffhanger, he might have supplied a dramatically different ending (and that famous final shot of Bob in the mirror may never have existed).

Still, the question remains:  Is it a negative development for Cooper to “divide”? Perhaps a better way to think about it would be to ask: If the Good Cooper had escaped the Black Lodge, presumably leaving the Doppelgänger trapped inside, would this Cooper be superior to the “whole” Cooper? Would a Cooper who had vanquished his evil side be a better FBI agent? A better human being?

Twin Peaks is all about duality, and virtually all of the characters have their two sides. (The exceptions are few. Bob and Windom Earle are evil; the Log Lady and Major Briggs are pretty close to purely good, though each has suffered tragedy and difficulties.) Unfortunately, the idea of a character shorn of his darker side is not addressed, and neither Lynch nor Frost have provided many clues as to whether this would be a good thing or not.

Craig and I were on different sides of this question.  More specifically, we differed over whether Cooper should “remerge” his two selves or remain divided.  Personally, I saw a divided Cooper as a failed Cooper. For me, the only way to defeat the Bad Cooper was for the Good Cooper to contain him—to make him part of himself in order to keep him in check.  Part of being “good” is the ability to choose to be good, to reject evil by controlling and suppressing your darker impulses.

The Twin Peaks finale is bitter because of the good Cooper’s entrapment. But would the ending be more palatable with the good Cooper free and the bad Cooper trapped? Bob would have been defeated, of course, and the evil would be purged from Cooper, but (in my mind) this ending would leave “Cooper” diminished. He would still be only half-a-person. He would, in all likelihood, be incapable of comprehending the human condition, of understanding the impulses and emotions and weaknesses that contribute to the full essence of human behavior. What’s more, his abilities as a detective would be immediately impaired; it would be impossible for the good Cooper to comprehend the motives and attitudes of criminals and suspects.  (This is illustrated in a memorable scene from the series, Homicide: Life on the Street. Seasoned detective Frank Pembleton tells rookie Tim Bayliss that to be a great detective, Bayliss must be able to think like a criminal. In Pembleton’s mind, Bayliss will never be a great detective because Bayliss is too good; he does not have a dark side that he can tap into in order to understand the criminal mind.)

Bayliss and Pembleton from Homicide
I would argue that a good Cooper cannot see in complex and subtle ways; that he actually fails Laura in Fire Walk With Me when he warns her not to take the Owl Cave ring.  At that moment, he is thinking in a binary way: Take it or don’t take it: Danger or safety.  Laura will later see that despite the dangers of the ring she can take it and defeat Bob, not merely surrender to him.  The good Cooper cannot see this path, cannot intuit a way through darkness to light.  Laura, an amalgam of good and bad, can. She sees through the complexities of the ring and uses it as her salvation.

For me, a divided Cooper (no matter which side escapes) is a tragedy for the character. Sadly, the series ends with the worst of two possibilities—the bad Cooper triumphant. 

Craig was not convinced that a divided Cooper was defeated. He thought it possible that the Good Cooper was a superior being to the Whole Cooper. Lynch scholar, Martha Nochimson, has noted that according to Lynch, “you have to get through that base energy that’s roaming around about your subconscious in order to get through to the visionary part.” (WIP 32, p. 3) Put another way, Jeffrey Beaumont (in Blue Velvet) has to survive the horror of Frank Booth to enjoy the dream of the robins that Dorothy talks about. 

Cooper’s experiences in the Red Room could have been a cleansing ordeal. The Whole Cooper is fearful of the Doppelgängers (particularly the shrieking Laura), whereas later (after the division), Good Cooper is no longer afraid; he calmly confronts Windom Earle and even Bob. Without hesitation, he offers his soul in order to save Annie. (Again, this is an easy, binary choice for him.)

If the good Cooper (instead of his Doppelgänger) had escaped from the Black Lodge, he would have been a sort of super-being, able to understand the lessons he learned while “whole,” but never giving in to base temptations. While this may have presented future storytelling challenges, it would represent a spiritual maturity of Cooper who, far from lacking in crime-solving ability, would be the perfect incorruptible cop.

This view is optimistic and essentially posits a triumphant conclusion to the Dale Cooper story. 

For years, I wondered about the possibilities of a Good Cooper versus Bad Cooper versus Whole Cooper.  I never expected to have an opportunity to see this subject further explored on screen.  Next year, with the advent of a new season of Twin Peaks, perhaps we will have more data on this curious philosophical debate.  (In the meantime, if you have any thoughts to share on this debate I’d love to hear them!)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The 1993 Twin Peaks Festival: A Reminiscence

Badge, Pencil and Brochure for the 1993 Twin Peaks Fest
Next week, I’m travelling to Seattle, WA to attend the 2016 Twin Peaks Festival.  I’m very much looking forward to it and my anticipation had me remembering the first festival I attended twenty-three years ago. The 1993 Twin Peaks Festival was the first true fan festival. Unlike the 1992 “festival”—a  promotional event organized by New Line Cinema to promote the release of Fire Walk With Me—the 1993 fest was managed and organized by Twin Peaks fans, Pat Shook to be specific.

The festival was held on August 13-15 and featured a number of wonderful guests including Al Strobel (the One-Armed Man), John Boylan (Mayor Dwayne Milford), Jan D'Arcy (Sylvia Horne), Frank Silva (Bob) and Catherine Coulson (the Log Lady).  (Coulson arrived toting the original log from the series; “I thought it was important for the log to return to its roots,” she said).

The Schedule of Events

The “Kick-Off Dinner” (now better known as the Celebrity Banquet) was held Friday night at the Issaquah Holiday Inn.  Coulson and Boylan could not make the dinner, but the other actors spoke briefly and answered questions.  Jan D’Arcy spoke first, relating several stories about her character.  She expressed disappointment that Sylvia Horne was basically “forgotten” by the show's writers.  When David Lynch returned to shoot the final episode, he asked Jan why she hadn't been involved in more of the shows.  “Because they never called me,” she said.  So, he made sure that she was in that last episode.

Jan D'Arcy at the Dinner (Al Strobel is on the right)

Al Strobel treated everyone to a reading of his “Darkness of Futures Past” poem.  It was as powerful live as it was on television—Strobel's deep, dramatic voice was captivating.

Strobel then related an amusing anecdote about the scene in FWWM where the One-Armed Man confronts Leland and Laura in the car.  “Originally, David had a Dodge Charger, or something, all suped-up and had a stunt driver to do the driving.  And I said, ‘What about my little Chinook camper?  I can stunt drive that.’  And he said, ‘Oh, okay.’  And so I drove the thing around—got it up on two wheels, ruined a set of tires!  And David was having so much fun watching all this that he insisted on driving the camera car!  It was really great fun.”

Al Strobel's drove the Chinook to the Fest! (FWWM's biggest prop!)

The showstopper of the night was Frank Silva.  He recounted a number of fascinating stories about his work on the show, and then took quite a few questions from the audience.  (For more about Frank Silva and his appearance at the festival, see this post.)

Frank Silva Captivates (WIP editors Miller and Thorne are mesmerized).

First thing I have to say is that Bob was an accident.  He was never, ever there from day one.  It was a whole, unbelievable accident.  It basically happened during the original pilot. I was a crew member, the on-set dresser in the art department.  We were doing the shot in Laura Palmer's bedroom.  I was tweaking the bedroom, and the camera was in the doorway.  David was out in the hall, and he jokingly said, "Frank, you'd better get out of there.  You're going to get caught in the camera."  And I looked at David and went, "Okay."  And then, a blood vessel kind of like burst in his head, and he said, "Frank!  Get down at the end of the bed, just crouch down there, and act scared!" And I went, "What?!?" "Just act scared!" And that was how Bob began.

Frank Silva tells a scary story (Craig Miller watches warily)

The only time that David and I discussed Bob was when we were doing the Red Room scene in Twin Peaks:  Fire Walk With Me.  We were talking about Bob as being the bad seed of the group.  It didn't matter to him how much trouble he caused, whether it was in the limbo world, or whether it was in the real world.  He just didn't care.  He was an obnoxious punk.  He doesn't care what kind of havoc that he wreaks in any world.  And he's out to have fun.  He doesn't care about the consequences, doesn't worry about them.  But that's the only discussion we had about Bob, or how to play certain scenes with restrained anger and stuff like that, but other than that, there was nothing really discussed about Bob.

Al Strobel, Craig Miller, and Frank Silva
Craig Miller from Wrapped In Plastic gave a brief keynote speech.  Craig worked hard on this speech and was quite proud of it.  He had the unenviable position of delivering it after Frank Silva had spoken.  Craig ably delivered a wonderful and appropriate concluding address. Here’s a very small part of it:

My sole qualification for being here is that I collaborate with John Thorne in the publication of Wrapped in Plastic, a magazine about David Lynch and Twin Peaks.  John and I both live in the vicinity of Dallas, Texas.  John and his wife did the smart thing and flew up here. I decided to drive. I wanted to see the northwest part of the country closer than an airplane window would allow.  And, despite the extra time it took, I'm glad I drove.

Because I got to see lots of mountains up close. When I saw the mountain range outside of Denver, I was astonished at just how—huge—they were compared to the city below.  But it wasn't until I got to Utah that I was profoundly struck by their immense power, their colossal volume.  I was in awe.  I could barely keep my eyes on the road.  It was pretty dangerous!

I believe David Lynch didn't forget these mountains, or the trees and the wind and the water.

I believe David Lynch remembered nature's beauty and nature's dangerous power when he was creating Twin Peaks with Mark Frost. After my drive here, I will never view Twin Peaks the same way again.

Jan D'Arcy, Al Strobel and Frank Silva Review the Fest Schedule
On Saturday, many fans spent the day sight-seeing and visiting various shooting locations.  That night, there was a screening of Fire Walk With Me at the North Bend movie theater.  After the show, Frank Silva spent about 45 minutes outside the theater talking with fans and answering questions.

On Sunday, the final day of the Festival, Pat Cokewell, owner of the Mar-T Cafe (RR Diner) in North Bend, spoke about some of her experiences with David Lynch and the filming of the pilot and FWWM:

One of the first questions people ask is, how did they find the Mar-T?  My first contact was in February of 1989.  We weren't very busy.  I told the location scout, "You can use it, but we're fixing to do some remodeling."  But they said, "Oh, no, no, no, don't do anything like that.  We want it just like it is."

The Mar T Cafe in 1993

About two weeks later, they said that David Lynch will be up on the weekend and he'll decide.  (They'd looked at another cafe, too.)  So they came up, and they told us they wanted to use it.

For those of us who met David Lynch, he's a wonderful director.  You hear stories about directors yelling and screaming on the set, and that did not happen for the four days that we had the privilege of having him around the Mar-T.  When he was not working, he was talking to you.

When they came back to do the movie, he came about 8:00 in the morning.  That evening, he was still there when they finished up about 10:00.  He was still his calm self.  During the filming, he would go over and show exactly how he wanted it done.  He is a perfectionist.  People would say, "Is he really as weird as his shows?"  No, he's not.

Pat Cokewell
The pie thing—we didn't know the pie thing was in there.  One night when they were filming, I gave the location person the key and said, "You lock up, and I'll get it tomorrow."  And she said, "Can we eat pies?"  And I said, "Yeah, just mark it down."  So I got back the next morning—seventeen little marks!

We had one little lady who made pies.  We'd make about six per day and twelve on the weekend.  Well, it started, and it grew, and it grew, and it grew.  There was no way that she could handle it.  So we've have as many as four pie-makers doing two shifts in there sometimes.  One day, when the second season started, we sold sixty pies from 11:00 until 8:00 that evening.  That's three hundred sixty slices!

The 1993 Festival had many great moments and started a tradition that survives to this day.  All the organizers of the festival over the many years—from Pat Shook to Rob and Deanne Lindley—deserve credit for creating (and sustaining) a unique and important event.  Twin Peaks fans everywhere owe them a debt of gratitude.