Fun on the Dunes of Arrakis

Poster Art for David Lynch’s Dune (1984) with Kyle MacLachlan

I think it is part of the human condition to fall in love with a book or song or film that one knows is not altogether up to snuff. In suchlike manner do I love the Dave Robicheaux novels of James Lee Burke, Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics singing “Sweet Dreams,” or David Lynch’s magnificent near-miss epic, Dune, based on the Frank Herbert novel of the same name.

Yesterday I saw Dune for the nth time, loving every minute of the film which its director disavowed because he did not get final editing rights. Having read the novel twice, I knew that there were unpardonable lacunae in the story, but I didn’t care. I felt that Lynch managed to get at the heart of the characters, even though he claims not to have read the book.

Alia of the Knife in Dune, Played by Alicia Witt

Please do not confuse my strange taste for any love of camp or any other such outmoded sensibility. The things I like about Dune are not its imperfections, but how close Lynch comes to pulling it all off.

Come to think of it, I feel that way about two other film epics directed by Anthony Mann that have received scant critical praise, including The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) with Sophia Loren and Stephen Boyd and El Cid (1961) with Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren. Like Dune, both Mann films were vitiated by the penny-pinching producers, but had some excellent bits.

Every director worth his salt has in his filmography films that have ended up as heartbreaks. Think of Orson Welles’s whole career after Citizen Kane, the late works of Josef Von Sternberg (after his Marlene Dietrich masterpieces), Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, and Akira Kurosawa’s Dodes’ka-den, over which the filmmaker attempted suicide.

It seems that imperfection is part and parcel of movie-making—perhaps because it is an art form that involves large crowds of people.

An Afternoon in Garmonbozia

Laura Palmer Played by Sheryl Lee

Twice a year, Barnes & Noble has a 50% off sale on Criterion Collection DVDs and Blue-Rays. Today, I bought one of my favorite films from the 1990s, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), a prequel based on his two-part television series, Twin Peaks for ABC. The term “garmonbozia” is a nightmarish Black Lodge term meaning pain and suffering. In the movie, the pain and suffering relates primarily to two young women who are killed, and one who is presumably scarred for life: Laura Palmer, Theresa Banks, and Ronette Pulaski.

The so-called Black Lodge is a strange room with no windows, full-length floor-to-ceiling red velvet drapes, and a zig-zag pattern in black and white on the floor. Its permanent inhabitant is Michael J. Anderson (below) as The Man from Another Place. He speaks in a strange, barely understandable dialect which was filmed speaking backwards deliberately, and then reversing the sound track. He eats garmonbozia, which looks very like creamed corn.

Michael J. Anderson as The Man from Another Place and Kyle MacLahlan as FBI Agent Dale Cooper

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me was not a popular film when released. No matter, it and the ABC TV series were at least a decade ahead of their time and are just now coming into their own. (Though, truth to tell, I loved the film when it was first released; and only now am I watching the TV series.) Both the film and the TV series are postmodern to the max and greatly influenced the development of films to follow. In an article from the June 2017 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, James Parker wrote:

Stylistically, the most immediate posthumous effect of all this might have been the gnostic, everything-signifies vibe of The X-Files, but there are glimmering splinters of Twin Peaks in Breaking Bad’s trippy desert-sizzle; in the irruptive, disabling dreamtime of Bran Stark on Game of Thrones; and in the absurdist plot spirals, the gizmos and MacGuffins, of Lost. The Sopranos paid homage with Agent Cooper–esque fugue states and shots of trees blowing in the wind, rippling in their fullness and strangeness. And how is it finally communicated to Tony Soprano, after years of repressed suspicion, that Big Pussy—one of his most trusted sidekicks—is ratting him out to the FBI? By a talking fish, in a delirium, after some bad chicken vindaloo. It doesn’t get more Twin Peaks than that.

I have only a few more episodes of Twin Peaks to watch on DVD and then … and then … I just may pay a visit to the area. I have friends and family in the area.

 

 

Twin Peaks

My Latest Discovery, 27 Years After the Fact

I have never been a big fan of television series—making time to watch them on a regular basis was too much of a drag on my time—but I have always been a big fan of David Lynch.I have loved all his films I have seen, even the strange Eraserhead (1977). Dune (1984) was something of a disappointment, but then came Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990), and all his subsequent work.

Over the last several weeks, I have slowly been going over the Twin Peaks (1990-1991) TV series. Even when it does not appear to make any sense, it is brilliant. The people of that strange little Northwestern town beggar all attempts at pat descriptions and then there is FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper, who has fallen in love with the town, its people, its coffee, donuts, and cherry pie. Not to mention Tibetan mysticism and dreams that provide answers to the crimes that have plagued the town.

In this country of ours, very little makes sense in a God-is-in-His-Heaven-and-all’s-right-with-the-world 19th century way. Does Trumpf make sense? Does our Senate and Congress make any sense? Very little, in fact.

The Log Lady of Twin Peaks

To date, I have seen the first thirteen of the thirty episodes that make up the show as it was in 1990-1991. (I am not into binge watching, because I tend to miss too much that way.) Whether I find out, definitively, who killed Laura Palmer does not matter to me. I am not looking for answers. What I am looking for are interesting questions, and the series delivers on this scorebig time!