Cleansing the Doors of Cinematic Perception, for a better worse

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Horse is the White of the Eyes" - TWIN PEAKS: THE RETURN: Meaninglessness as Higher Meaning


Lynch's recent Trump comments outraged many, then outraged the others when he specified, but I dig it, it's all right there in TWIN PEAKS THE RETURN, an understanding that we can't just impeach our dark Cronus devouring fathers into the void... for long. They invariably return... again and again. It's better we keep them underground and restrained, but sometimes we have to let them out into the exercise yard - to embody them in ritual performance and ceremonial dance. For Lynch, this ceremonial dance is done at a speed and dimension outside our own, by sooty desert wanderers who--having been caught in an atomic bomb test--now patrol the wasteland asking for lights. Someone give that wandering poet a light!

 At any rate, it all provides an excellent excuse to delve back in to what is either a big meaningless (but beautifully soundscaped, Lynch's best work in the series) atmospheric exercise in frustration, or a masterpiece with maybe one too many close-ups of aging, craggy faces. Who am I, craggy faced surrealist of the sweltering Brooklyn attic, to judge? Nonetheless, I can't look at people who remind me that age has stolen nearly every liter of hotness from the world, with only the wonder of the screen here to preserve it all?

I don't know man.... I admire the soundscaping, and the nonchalance with which nearly a whole episode goes off into the experimental avant garde deep end, but it seemed like Lynch had no meaning or there there, and so was turning the whole thing into, well Inland Empire, which I still haven't been able to finish, and using Showtime money to indulge in his infantile fantasies from the 1950s, watching American Bandstand on the floor in front of the TV, and gazing up close at his babysitters bobby socks in agog rapture

The second time I knew what to expect, and I started backwards.
Watching the episodes 'on demand' in reverse order proved the right move
for one does not face their enemy, but the wind is with him.

Speaking of,t rying to write about this - I accidentally published this a few days or weeks ago, funny, it's still dead linking around the web  - as I accidentally published too early Twin Peaks rant years back in this blog - and since one never quite 'un'-publishes it, one is tempted to--as Lynch would do--think outside the box, go for the deep fish.

Is that the reason?

Hey, did you read this last thing I did on the original season for: The Primal Scenesters

One wonders - no one knows - that by benefit of being a true artist--and even his moderate detractors won't argue Lynch is--we trust Lynch thinks 'but what does it mean?" even less than we do.  For in doing so he would taint the result with preconceptions. True art like Lynch's continually evolves as its beholder does - each decade it means something different, maybe even antithetical to its last meaning.

The only reason this is possible is that--in its druggy Ativan slowness--it's meaninglessness forms the higher meaning.

Which means it means nothing.

Which is good, because knowing the meaning is to roll one's eyes, not necessarily over Lynch himself, but his gushing fans always willing to interpret everything as genius:
"When you get there, you’ll already be there.” One of the most haunting lines of television, ever - Aliza Ma - Film Comment
Or--also rightly--sexist, the last of the old school sexist unabashed genius straight what male surrealists, he gets away with a kind of old man surrounding himself with young girls offering him pens, cigarettes, cocktails, donuts, and--'ahem'-- coffee as needed. I kept hoping the young FBI agent Tammy (Lynch's recording ingenue Chrysta Bell--this decade's Julee Cruse  or Rebeka del Rio if you will) would occasionally say something other than perfunctory dialogue of the sort a personal assistant might cover. Instead her job seems mainly to be looking kind of amazed at the level of weirdness involved in a 'Blue Rose case' but hot, walking with a delicious wiggle, and keeping her neck giraffe model long.

The bad girls are beaten up or murdered.

Naturally a few feminist critics have mentioned this, with some sadness. For example, Ally Hirschlag points out that "even when they’re not being murdered or abused, the ladies of Twin Peaks: The Return are thinly written." Indeed, the series does a great disservice to its female characters, placing them more or less as either alternating exasperated wife / adoring sex partner (Naomi Watts as Dougie's wife) or insane victims of past molestations or explosions (such as Audrey - who does a pretty good job of being bi-polar or even slightly schizophrenic (a result of the explosion at the end of season 2?): Only a few scattered souls like the Log Lady and Nadine seem beyond it all.


On the other hand, by virtue of them all being original cast members, Lynch has probably more middle-aged broads in this cast than in all the other shows on Showtime combined. Even if most are all deranged harridans, some are starry-eyed saints, like the log lady (even the ones who were middle-aged in the original). Bechdel-ishly speaking, it's a genuinely odd thing to see so many middle-aged women in one show - and ones that have not had work done --their eye bag miracle saggy eye remover giving them all the feeling certain details of their faces have been conspicuously erased.. This is the problem with '25 years later' with the same actors is not everyone ages like fine wine - like Cary Grant or Clark Gable - some look like moldy time-ravaged goblins, their craggy faces no longer able to support the uniform sea of curly black toupees the cast wore in the first seasons. It's just odd that there's so many, so sudden. We forget, there's a reason actors are pretty people --looking at age--remembering the beauty of these broads just 25 years earlier--is dispiriting. Even murder couldn't save Laura Palmer from time's merciless savagery.

Then there's Grace Zabriskie as Laura's mom, now turned alcoholic and deranged (hurrah! She's my favorite!)

PORTRAIT OF MRS. PALMER (by EK)
ADDICTION IS THE COLOR OF STATIC

That's what really lingers, or my takeaway, is the drugs - I could really relate to the totally batshit insane alcoholism of Grace Zabriskie, now spending most of her time drinkign. At a bar we see her bite the throat out of a giant malignant trucker, much to all our delight, except for the bargain basement video effects as she peels off her mask to expose-- what? TV static and a giant forked tongue? The rest of the time she freaks out liquor stores because of moved-around Slim Jims, or knocks 'em back at home in front of the TV - some of my favorite, most eerie scenes. There's not nearly enough TVs on in most movies and shows, making home life always seem barren and too quiet. But Lynch knows TVs are a part of the landscape and that--as only a few do too--Nicholas Roeg, Alex Cox--he makes weird TV shows to run weird counterpoint to the action.

Not to say they're not done as randomly as possible - to divulge new meanings where none or different or the same may have been before. If the meaning is 'on the nose' it's trite. There can be no meaning, no objective. Only in meaningless does the truth unfold as it isn't.

Any objective = merely evitcejbo in a mirror. Through the looking glass--in dreams--you'll find him there, the devouring Cronus father, the 'owner' of all the women, He who must be killed through unanimous son decision.

The horror of the Oedipus complex becomes as some holy deliverance when compared to the paralysis, the deep primordial dread, represented by Cronus, the devouring monster father, eating the gods and the world like a Babeless Bunyan eating rats in a sinking ship lost at sea that ran out of food and drink weeks ago. Next the sails, the mast, finally his boot, the foot that was in the boot... finally his own hideous cannibal mouth - tooth by tooth, 'til all that's left is a void within the void.
---
Just one smile, Coop? Even a cold one?
Lynch is at that age and level when there is no one who can really 'edit' his work for him -- it's too weird, and he doesn't explain it, which is all very well BUT if there's no 'there' there, how would he know? We're taking a lot on faith, such as the 'Frank / Bob/ whatever' of Bob-possessed Cooper being menacing. Consider the scene at left, with the girl who he just learned betrayed him (through yet another magical shortcut). I mean look deep at that face, it's got kind of a half-melted oven-bronzed female Buddha neutered quality to it (not helped by that wig of pulled back long black hair like he lifted the wig out of an old western prop box and merely clipped off the sewed-on tribal headband), whatever weird work giving him an effeminate edge. That babe in his arms is dynamite, all leggy and pale and, now, well, hey-- I've met Kyle McLachlan in person and he's a little fella - one of those stars that seems to come from some alternate reality of wee folk. And that girl with him is colossal, she could trounce him if she put in half a mind, and she has a gun - she could shoot him when he walks in. Instead it's like Red Riding Hood getting eaten by Grandma - and not even the grandma with the wolf in her, just plain old grandma- though of course that's what we're supposed to believe. That there's a wolf therein.

I don't know. I don't blame poor McLachlan, it's not his fault he got old - it's just we spend a great many hours with this dislikable cipher, and an equal amount with a bafflingly out-of-touch 'other Cooper' - a double named Dougie - who though he spends only 25 years in 'the Lodge' is still even more clueless in surreal Vegas than the real Coop was originally. It's exacerbating being with either one, for the same reason - there is no 'there' there - and BEING THERE at least had a guy THERE who could form a sentence. This is more BEING NOT THERE. Evil Cooper never smiles or laughs or enjoys himself, which would have made his character so much more menacing. Compare to the unhinged wild man randiness of Ray Wise in the original - and shudder!

In other words, there's not much there, to either 'part' of Cooper - nor any of that wild giggling mania we saw at the S2 cliffhanger, or the way there was in the deep tissue insanity conjured up by the great--and who I feel was the stealth gravitational center of the first one and a half seasons--Ray Wise. Bob doesn't even get amped when he beats a girl's head in with his fists, or nothin! When Leland Palmer killed Laura and then her cousin he howled in a mix of sadistic glee and fatherly anguish, all swirled together in a fifth dimensional reptilian Tequila shot. Whooo!

The big tease of the show is that we spend the whole season hoping to see these halves unite - for the evil Bob to go back as he promised, or was promised, but he keeps bouncing back with the help of his homeless old derelict poet contingents or assassins who neglect to put a ring on his finger. We figure we'll get real Cooper back but we don't - aside from maybe 20 minutes towards the end, for he goes to bed screwing with Diane, waking up as someone else - a slightly more cold, dead Cooper - one who finally is just a little bit terrifying. The there we were led to hope for is--it seems--long gone. Does a sadist run this universe?
Twin Peaks: The Return is set in the time of waiting. (...) As has become Lynch’s trademark over the intervening years, long takes and pregnant silence, really all manner of visual and aural static, escalate to near-unbearable intensity on account of a viewer’s excessive interestedness. Nothing becomes something before one’s eyes, and ears, only to recede once more into the doubtful terrain of moot detailing. (....) we endure a feeling of emptiness in repletion, or the opposite: detail signifying lack. Silence doesn’t exist except in relation to stimulation, and Lynch befuddles typically exclusive regimes of formal austerity and sensuous aestheticism by a kind of catalytic juxtaposition that is not, it seems important to insist, not dialectical. (Metaphysical Detectives - Sonder Manchester)
"....despite its many surface departures from the original Twin Peaks, is actually, if you think about it, a perfectly seamless continuation of the deeper themes Lynch was originally exploring. Compulsion. Obsession. Existential dread. Nostalgia. The ever-thwarted desire for things to work out and the ineffability of good and evil, which can be entirely human, or perhaps something trans-human and totally un-killable. For me, the most harrowing moment wasn’t the Return to Sparkwood and 21, or the shrieking Laura in a drug-addled date with death—it was the moment in the final segment of “Part XVII” where Can-Do, Super-Positive Cooper’s face faltered for just a minute as though he’d seen into an abyss of infinite sorrow and realized no one was going to save anyone, and that image of his face was superimposed over the rest of the scene as it unfolded. " -Amy Glynn, Paste
I could insert some cryptic tie in with some looming national dystopia, of what happens when the tiny little thread tugged by Monica L. in the early 90s at last undoes the sweater of patriarchal authority and the incestuous ogre below the power tie facade comes tumbling out like the guts of a rotted pumpkin, and yet the pumpkin still holds office. But why?

Let me not answer.

Let at least one older white guy refrain (and it ain't easy) from 'validating' the movement through his paternal approval (let me be seen, oh lord, to be on the 'winning' side) or vainly trying to stem the tide with some warning of overreach (let the tide stop, oh lord, before it reaches my house). It's not my fight anymore. From the center of a shooting range target crossfire, as lambs and lunatics spread votes and denial like rose petals before the Big White Straight Dude as he splashes and raves against the constricting collar as his pen is shortened to make all the other pens the same size as his, maybe Lynch alone understands and hopes you will too, that we cannot escape, so we must assume our role with the good humor of bad guy wrestlers.

But his demon fathers go way darker than just the showmen; his films always have some dark venomous monster at their center, a malignant low gravity that is too deep to ever be fully conscious...  in most of us. In dreams you'll find him there, and sometimes you'll find him in positions of unassailable public trust.

Let us pray Lynch isn't one of them.

I don't think he is, because, like Shaw's Mr. Underschaft, the external debauched demon often glows with a secret sweet soul, so naturally the incalculable evil in Lynch's world reflects a well-exorcised spirit. (his demons are on film; their steam pressure vented).

====


Is this perhaps the core of the American nightmare? The more you try to rise above it, the deeper and darker it becomes as it slithers below like a reptilian overlord of lower chakra desire and menace -- we need never even ask ourselves if we're capable of his crimes, or able to stop him.. for long; we can't edit our dreams or submit our nightmares to the feminist censorial scissor.
+++


The farther I get in years the more I'm drawn to writing about the highs and lows of the drug and alcohol experience, especially during this alleged epidemic of opiate addiction and withdrawal opening up hitherto untormented swaths to the agonies of hell in a time-stopped sludge of horror. As I move forward in life it's this hell, more than the giddy rush of first timers and the profound spiritual tour book of psychedelia, that intrigues me. And seeing 'The Return' as a portrait of this kind of drug psychosis, it clicks into place real nice.

For one who captures the extremities of the drug experience -- from giddy highs to terrifying hell-like lows -- it's fascinating that Lynch points out those same experiences can be attained naturally (through deep mediation):
"When your consciousness stars expanding, those experiences are there. All those things can be seen. It's just a matter of expanding that ball of consciousness. And the ball of consciousness can expand to be infinite and unbounded. It's totality. You can have totality. So all those experiences are there for you, without the side effects of drugs.”

For example, more than anything is the chain of manipulation for money for the day's fix that occurs inevitably. To be close friends with a junky is inevitably to be borrowed or stolen from, to be romantically attached to one is to watch one's finances drain to debt. The scenes at the Diner seem there basically there to purely show Shelly (Madchen Amick's) daughter (Amanda Seyfried) begging money from her (which she in turn begs from Peggy Lipton's Nadine) to give to her angry dope addict husband (a totally unhinged episode-stealing Caleb Landry Jones). Scenes of him going more or less crazy at home, flying around their trailer in a vicious rage (the same trailer park, incidentally, operated by Harry Dean Stanton from Fire Walk with Me) or with his other girlfriend out in the woods (before, presumably, shooting himself) end the whole thread ends with a shrug but before then--the ferociously 'present' actor Landry gives us one of the more harrowing pictures of drug withdrawal I've seen in years --anyone addicted to opiates or benzos whose run out and been forced to cold turkey it to the point of homicidal desperation, will relate, but the idea that his habit is being paid for by the three sweet-souled women at the diner is infuriating. At the same time, Lynch gives Seyfried's character the chance to see and feel the glories of life while super high - her dilated eyes wide and astounded grin as she looks up at the sky from her man's convertible. The highs and lows of 'the life' all come apparent. In junkie-dom the middle ground between heaven and hell is all stripped away.

I mention that because -- as readers of this blog know -- I use drug analogies for almost everything, but that's just shorthand, based on my own distant past experiences, for unusual states of mind that are both recreated and analyzed in various films I delve into. The thing with Lynch's experiences is they are so unique to himself, and maybe a few other 'naturally high' surrealists like Lynch and Bunuel. I too can access them now via meditation and also from memory, because I've been up there. So when I see David Patrick Kelly screaming in the middle of the woods because his foot is talking to him, I know that by his Guatemalan Burning Man-sun faded attire, he's probably on a lot of shrooms or acid  (I'd say mescaline, he seems like the type -- but no one does mescaline anymore, do they? Even I only did it once.)


I can relate, but gone is the tang in my saliva I used to get watching The Trip or any of the other psychedelic classics I've delved into over the years on this site. I no longer pine for the local fame of my Syracuse acid rock band, nor do I crave the giddy euphoria that used to be all I could remember. Now I remember the mornings after, the feeling of adult-sized hangovers and the kind of depression that used to overtake me after a wild upstate weekend of drugs, sex, and rock, coming home to my parent's house in NJ, and another week of my crappy temp job. more I think and write about it, so it's from a different place, one where memory of the past becomes garbled in a kind of idealized melancholy. Seeing a pretty girl on the street doesn't drive me insane with irrational possessive insecurity, but just a fleeting longing, like remembering the girl in the white dress on the ferry ala Bernstein in Citizen Kane. I could be projecting or Lynch is in the same pleasant boat, thus the third season lacks that same eye for gorgeous youth - the young girls now tend towards the damaged, so while Sky Fierra shows up in a few scenes for some pointless dialogue, the emphasis is on her scabby meth-addict teeth and skin, the telltale signs of a lift on the street that are hard to get just right but which Lynch always manages (ala the briefly seen streetwalker in Mulholland Drive)



But a bit of magic occurred when in episode 8 the now legendary stretch of space between the A-bomb detonation and the arrival of Laura Palmer's soul on the TV screen earth, when what we were watching was nothing less than avant garde video art expressionism, the kind of thing we'd otherwise find only in college art history film classes or underground film festivals (and now can be seen on Filmstruck! - look also for the Fire Walk with Me extra - a whole separate film of deleted scenes that Lynch edited as a parallel movie - a must!)

The Origin of Starbucks - the End of age-appropriate carnal relations

CHANCE AS MEANING GENERATOR:

For meaning is the ultimate form of meaninglessness.
or was that vice versa-  yes.

The more obvious the connection, the less 'pure' the surrealist goal.

I've long since wanted to build a random meaning machine - not unlike the I Ching - wherein any two items might be entered with any one theme and a meaning gleaned within three steps- one was to be a film that is continually playing - 500 various unrelated scenes, and glimpses of

Some might call that a ruthless attack on meaning - but it's not necessarily so.

as any gambler will tell you, don't do Mistress Random Chance the discourtesy of presuming there's no method to her madness (gamblers are often deliberately unlucky in love just to be lucky at cards - the only times I was ever lucky at cards was when I was heartbroken etc.)

PARANOIA:

Check out this thread, guaranteed to remind you of all the paranoid narcissist neurotics in your life, as real people try to glean numerological messages from flickers of light in the end tag of Lynch-Frost productions, or in flickering airplane windows!

I enjoy this kind of insanity as it's not contagious the way some of the Monarch 7  / Satanic panic is - which as I've written Twin Peaks compares to with the idea that, like the atomic bomb that opens the portal between the lodges and our plane of reality (?), so too does catastrophic damage wrought on the developing female psyche by incest and other Satanic abuses, which create a  kind of demonic force, ripping open the space-time continuum via a kind of mirror reverse gaze splitting of the subject (splitting the psyche along the personal and collective level, in other words, just as the Manhattan Project splits the atom, the incest of Laura Palmer, her murder, split the collective psyche, opening  a gateway between reality and dreams. And it's for this purpose, in fact, that such horrors are generally performed! The demon, wanting to manifest on this plane, seduces a susceptible human into welcoming it in through traumatic violence, the demon grants power in exchange for a human sacrifice - corrupt the virtues of your own child, and thou shalt be master of the universe- but really it's so the trauma creates a rupture in 3-D space time -- it makes a slight hole in the wall between the worlds (which is why hauntings occur around the scenes of murders and atrocities).

Torture a person long enough, they'll 'remember' the witches sabbaths they attended, they will name onto you the persons there and who did or didn't you know what the arse of Lucifer. Hypnotize a kid and go deep enough they'll either remember some kind of occult basement ritual involving all sorts of sexually depraved initiations, sex with parents and neighbors and demonic chanting robes; hynotize an adult, they'll remember going aboard a space craft and being probed by aliens. The question arises: is it all the same - does prolonged intensity, trigger either FMS (False Memory Syndrome) or does it kick loose the barriers put there around our minds, the way a sandcastle hems in a piece of the ocean suddenly kicked open by a bored child as the tide rolls over it.

Hold that "thought" for a moment dear listener... but you can't. It's already gone, until lifetimes from now someone tortures or hypnotizes it out of you.

Whether you had nightmare about being tortured in the bathroom by the long bony fingers of a giant mental patient in a gurney with tubes trailing out of his wrists and neck (as I did) as a scared shitless six year-old, or like me as a 23 year-old, were drunk and horrified by the 'cop-out' answer to who killed Laura Palmer in seasons 2 (more on that later), you know now that Bob exists. He is in us - he is here he is now and he is not a nice person, yet apparently he doesn't betray his friends - only does he kill his many betrayers - for he cannot apparently die.

Trauma creates black-outs so in undergoing trauma people lose memory and in this act can people be programmed to kill. I had a blackout just listening to the horror of frat guys talking at a dry rush. I came to running up to see my friend Amy to cry on her bed. What was said was so misogynistic and vile I blocked it out. Could this not be a tool? But also might that not be what trauma is as far as initiation ceremony? The initiates of ancient tribes had to undergo terrifying purification rituals, was this torture not a kind of black out mind control, or boot camp 'hazing' or even just a hard slap when you're in hysterics? We so demonize abuse and violence it never occurs to us (maybe to Lynch, Polanski and to Kubrick) the extent to which it structures our entire consciousness.

Fitting that in our century of collage and retro-revival, 25 years later season is being assembled, the capitalist ogres are in power again, the revolution goes underground and all the mistakes our Nazi grandparents made standing idly by while maniacs ran amok, and so now we're condemned to repeat all the same shiite, remakes and retreads,
and all the while the tiny little thread tugged by Monica L. in the early 90s has slowly
unknit the sweater of patriarchal authority and now
the incestuous ogre below the power tie facade comes tumbling out
like the guts of a rotted pumpkin. David Lynch saw it all coming
by the signposts of the past.
Not history, but fairy tales --Jungian and neurotics
But we didn't listen, or rather couldn't remember for the primal dad is so deep in our collective consciousness we never even know he's there,
no matter how often Lynch depicts him. He's too deep to see, and thank god, for what if there's nothing there but nostalgia and benign sexism?
Would we know, or just block it out?

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