Back Comments (1) Share:
Facebook Button
Introduction
To be perfectly honest, being very aware of the sheer volume of fan fever surrounding the series, I approached this review of Twin Peaks with some trepidation. Despite becoming a devout David Lynch fan in later life after being blown away by Wild At Heart, the series passed me by the first time around (I was unfortunately occupied with some trifling things like GCSE exams at the time) and I’ve never had the chance to really get my teeth into it since. That is, until now. It should be conceded that only discs 1 (including the pilot and episode 1) and 4 (the special features) of this R2 release were available to be reviewed so I was unable to cover the whole first season.

Twin Peaks : Season 1
Movie
"She’s dead..."

Yup, homecoming queen and the centre of attention for the residents of the small town of Twin Peaks Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is indeed no more. With the grim discovery of her body, wrapped in plastic, and the terrible news that her female classmate Ronette Pulaski is now missing, each of the main characters is introduced and initially defined by the nature of his/her reaction to the bad tidings. As a narrative device, this is a wonderful method of exposition as it plunges the audience straight into the various tensions between the town’s inhabitants (and there are many) simmering under the surface of a supposedly tranquil exterior. For example, Laura’s brash boyfriend Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) only learns of the untimely and untoward demise of his paramour when returning to his high school after driving home the diner waitress with whom he’s having an affair, James (James Marshall) with whom Laura’s been carrying on with behind Bobby’s back comforts her best friend Donna (Lara Flynn Boyle) with whom he’s actually in love and so on. From the catalyst of the discovery of Laura’s body, each relationship ripples into another to illustrate how all the various intrigues are interconnected (perhaps the most notable being the apparent conspiracy surrounding the Packard saw mill) with a brief understanding of each main character (running beyond 30 principals) ripe for subversion later in the season. From the get-go, almost everyone may be a suspect. All this, and we’re just 20 minutes into the pilot episode...

Twin Peaks : Season 1
With the town’s soft-spoken sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean) marshalling the necessary agencies in order to get the investigation underway, FBI agent Dale Cooper (Lynch regular Kyle MachLachlan) enters the fray. With his off-kilter detective character rapidly established through several well-known motifs (his ruminations to an unknown Diane through his dictaphone, his love of the Douglas Fir trees, his need for inexpensive but quiet motels, his predilection for good food and a ‘damn fine’ cup of coffee), Cooper immediately sets about applying his intuitive abilities to the case at hand. Along with the unearthing of a video of Laura shot days before she died and the sudden emergence of her severely traumatised classmate comes the examination of a disused train carriage as the site of some seriously scary goings on. Laura’s heart necklace is recovered, one half of which is missing, and the words ‘Fire Walk With Me’ etched in her blood are sure to send a shiver down the sturdiest of spines.

After the letter ‘R’ is found under Laura’s fingernail in a post mortem, Cooper discloses that the tragedy to befall Twin Peaks may be related to a previous murder and orders a curfew on the teenage population. When most of the teens sneak out, it transpires that James has the other half of Laura’s necklace and he decides to bury it. Thus the pilot episode closes, though not before a final cliff-hanger is set up when a gloved hand removes the secreted necklace, with nary a hint of resolution in any of the sub-plots, as many as 18 of which have been established, and it’s unsurprising that the subsequent series was pushed straight into production by the ABC network.

The first episode proper, each instalment representing a single day in Twin Peaks, continues the development of the Cooper/Truman relationship as a modern day take on Sherlock Holmes (the FBI man’s dictaphone is as essential a reductive prop as the Baker Street sleuth’s magnifying glass) with the endearingly earnest Ontkean as a small town Dr. Watson quite clearly out of his depth without the insight, bordering on clairvoyance, of his senior partner. Several of the relationship triangles are expanded further and teen temptress Audrey Horne (a quite devastating Sherilyn Fenn) manages to manufacture plenty more mileage out of the Packard Mill power struggle to suggest that the visiting delegation of Norwegian investors is just the tip of the iceberg.

And there’s the rub. No review, no matter how long nor in however much depth, can hope to fully capture the all-encompassing brilliance of this series. Granted, only the pilot and episode 1 have been made available for the purposes of this piece but the narrative is so delightfully designed, the characterisations so efficiently unsettling and the pervasive weirdness is just so darned intriguing that I’m very impatient to see more of it. I’ll readily admit that I felt wholly underwhelmed upon viewing Fire Walk With Me and perhaps the series will fall foul of a seemingly inescapable dictum that resolving the answers is never as interesting as posing the questions. Not having seen further than the material provided so far I can’t comment but I certainly don’t want to have to wait to find out!

Twin Peaks : Season 1
Video
The 4:3 image is pleasantly warm although a little on the soft side. Perhaps this is due to the omission of any employment of edge enhancement (not a bad thing in my book) but contrast levels are good with skin tones refreshingly natural. Colours are not overly vibrant (except for a couple of moments in the morgue shot with a striking electric blue filter) but I strongly suspect that this is due to Lynch’s insistence on a muted palette of greens and browns to give that 1950’s small town U.S.A. visual style rather than any deficiencies with the DVD. Unfortunately shadow detail is somewhat lacking and night scenes in the pilot involving James and his black leather jacket against the night sky are poor in being really quite murky.

On the basis of the pilot and the first episode, the image quality overall is pretty good for a TV series but I’d really like to see how the encoding bears up in displaying the visual demands of the Red Room.

Audio
The English 5.1 audio track will not stretch your surround system by any means but dialogue, generally confined to the centre speaker, is always clear. The rear channels rarely, if at all, spring to life unless the score is being utilised. Usually this leaves a surround track predictably flat but such is Lynch’s masterful employment of Angelo Badalamenti’s beautifully layered score that the offbeat nature of the material is rendered even more unsettling when those synth passages, leitmotifs in themselves, come seeping in from the rear to envelope the viewer.

Extras
Disc 1 features an audio commentary from the director of the first episode, Dwayne Dunham. While Dunham is certainly not the most articulate or erudite orator you’ll hear on a DVD commentary, and he could really use someone else off whom to bounce his comments, he provides a fascinating insight into the working practices that a Twin Peaks director had to be prepared to adopt. Readily accepting that he directed this first episode without any context as to how his work would fit in with the other directors or even the overall story (he didn’t find out who the murderer was until he saw the second series), he seems genuinely grateful that Lynch and Frost took a back seat until the final edit to let him accomplish his duties without interference. That said, Dunham is only to willing to intimate key elements of his episode which are pure Lynch such as the fetishistic preponderance upon Audrey’s footwear, the adornment of heavy sweaters by female characters (a motif used clumsily to an extreme level in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood let’s not forget) and the repeated use of plastic wrapping material in key scenes as a form of visual red herrings. Twin Peaks : Season 1

Disc 4 offers a reconstructed telephone interview lasting 15 minutes between the founders of ‘Wrapped In Plastic’, the Twin Peaks fan publication and the series’ co-creator Mark Frost. This interesting feature illustrates the unique set of circumstances that coalesced to permit the creation of TV’s most unusual drama. Citing a deal with TV network ABC of good terms hard won, Frost goes on to expound the unprecedented creative freedom for which he and Lynch fought and won. Essential viewing for anyone who ever hopes to pitch an idea and get it made, this feature does contain spoilers from the second season (including terribly large hints as to who the murderer is!) so if it’s your first visit to Twin Peaks you might want to give this section a miss until the end.

Next up is ‘Learning To Speak In The Red Room’, a superbly surreal snippet with Michael Anderson, otherwise known as the ‘Man From Another Place’, who gives three short lessons with regard to how speaking backwards should be accomplished. A fun introduction as to how phonemes can be manipulated that you can join in with at home, this is of particular interest to all you cunning linguists out there.

The 21 minute ‘Introduction To David Lynch’ is a collection of contributions from collaborators, including Miguel Ferrer, Peggy Lipton, Sheryl Lee and long-time friend Kyle MachLachlan, explaining the peculiar helming methods employed by David Lynch. Despite explaining in general terms how Lynch is truly a director from leftfield, something of which most people will already be aware, and illustrating that the auteur does not like to dissect the thought processes particular to him, these half-glimpses serve only to heighten the mystique around the man.

’17 Pieces Of Pie’ is a 10 minute camcorder interview conducted by a hardcore fan at a Twin Peaks convention with the owner of Mar T diner as used in the series. A testament to the enduring popularity of the Lynch/Frost creation (and the force of opinion that devotees hold, perhaps second only to Trekkies or Star Wars disciples), the interview exposes the influx of fans who travelled to the diner purely to taste the pie and ‘damn fine’ coffee on offer.

Finally, an interview snippet gallery termed ‘Postcards From The Cast’ rounds out the extras package. This is a collation of disparate contributions, some, like that of Miguel Ferrer laying bare the actor’s bemused enthusiasm for the project, yet many are wholly unconnected with Twin Peaks. Most disappointingly this comes from Kyle MachLachlan who talks about his audition process for Dune but other bizarre excerpts can be found from Don Davis describing his love of dogs or Sheryl Lee detailing her time on a spiritual voyage to Africa.

Overall, an interesting selection of extra features although I get the feeling a devoted fan would not find anything revelatory here. Special mention should be made of the animated menus which reference the score and several visual motifs, setting in motion an eerie atmosphere before you even press 'Play'...

Twin Peaks : Season 1
Overall
It’s been described as the 24 of its' day but, on a personal level at least, I’d say that the real time tribulations of Jack Bauer et al don’t even come close. Yes, Twin Peaks demands an attentive audience but there are so many levels on which it can be found enjoyable, disturbing, arresting and funny, often all at the same time, that repeated viewings will doubtless always turn up different reading and interpretations. In fact, having researched some of the extreme lengths to which fans will go to express their admiration for the show, the series patently has many different meaning for many different people. In the highest possible praise, I paraphrase an oft-quoted tagline: ‘You cannot be told what the beauty of Twin Peaks is, you have to see it for yourself’. Just, I suspect, as David Lynch would want it.


Links: