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Intercourse Between Two Worlds: Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me/The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray

  During the nineteen-nineties, there was a craze in the film industry for making television spin-offs into movies, not unlike the British industry in the seventies when inspiration was running dry and the small screen looked to be the ideal way of getting that all-important brand name recognition for the potential audience. There were two forms of this, and some were extremely successful: The Fugitive, for instance, was Oscar-nominated, The Addams Family stretched to two blockbusting efforts, and The Flintstones was huge when rendered in live action, albeit briefly. Then there were the films directly following on from current TV shows.

But if you thought you could compare Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie or Beavis and Butthead Do America to David Lynch's continuation of his hit series Twin Peaks, you would probably be barking up the wrong tree. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me was released to much disdain, partly because few but the diehard fans wanted to see what happened to its murder victim Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) in the days before her death, and partly because it was a story that had been regarded as having a strong beginning, one of the pre-internet global talking points in pop culture, but tapering off dramatically well before Lynch wrapped it up with a cliffhanger.

That final episode of the original Twin Peaks run back in 1990-91 saw its hero, Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle McLachlan), possessed by one of the supernatural villains who had also possessed Laura's father and coaxed him into sexually abusing and ultimately murdering his daughter. One unfortunate side-effect of that show was to spawn a cliché that lasts to this day, where the death of a young woman or girl has to be avenged in an investigation, but Lynch and his co-creator Mark Frost were not so interested in providing explanations, their purpose was to vindicate the victim and give her agency once again, even after she had died, an approach the film was best suited for.

Of course, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me understandably left out most of the off-the-wall humour that had been part and parcel of the series in favour of aggressively surreal scenes designed to make you feel the genuine loss and horror of Laura's demise, in her way turning into an emblem of every young, female murder victim who finds themself in the shadow of the man who killed them. Famously, Lynch claimed if the series had had his complete control, as he had in his movies, he would never have revealed who the killer was, and it was true that after Leland Palmer (Ray Wise) was exposed the audiences fell away, so they scrabbled to make the mystery more enduring.

With the movie, they assuredly did that, especially if you were already invested in the story of the small town with the deadly secret. Fire Walk with Me quickly became a cult movie in 1992, and one whose reputation has only grown since thanks to its impressionistic but stark representation of a victim of incest - Lee has said in interviews how women who have been through that ordeal tell her how much the film means to them, indicating it has a lot more resonance than it did for the reviewers who dismissed it as Lynch playing with his box of tricks. In 2014, the rumours of the deleted scenes were vindicated as he edited together a companion piece of those bits and pieces he had had to leave out.

After all, the original cut had been a reputed five hours long, and the release version was already two-and-a-quarter, meaning there was half a movie we had not seen. The Missing Pieces, as this deleted and extended scenes re-edit was called, may not have included everything that was supposed to have been cut - there was no sign of Johnny Horne's birthday party, for instance (the mind boggles), but it did appear to feature most of them. Could it technically be called a movie? Sort of, it followed a narrative as much as the parent work did, but you would really have to see the film to get the whole picture, and even then considering the general style of the thing, that was not going to be all wrapped up in an explanatory bow.

What was on offer were glimpses of characters who were captured for the movie but were no longer there: it was a pleasure to see Jack Nance, Lynch's mascot for much of his output, alongside Joan Chen in a sequence that was silly, so you could see why it was cut, but was amusing too. Perhaps more significantly, there were parts set in the police station that had found no place in 1992, so we got to see one of the series' main characters, Sheriff Harry Truman (Michael Ontkean) and his team drawing their plans against the region's resident gangsters. And for David Bowie fans, his tiny role in the original was expanded to see his scenes in the Buenos Ares hotel where he is zapped from and to (scorching the wall behind him), causing a bellhop to shit his pants (really). When the Twin Peaks revival arrived on television in 2017 and proved, if anything, even more divisive, the fans were largely satisfied, and the sense of belonging to a club (a lodge, if you will) where Twin Peaks is an endless source of delight and fascination now praises Fire Walk with Me as its centrepiece.

[The Criterion Collection release Twin Peaks Fire Walk with Me and The Missing Pieces on Blu-ray with these features:

Restored 4K digital transfer, with 7.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray, both supervised by director David Lynch
7.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray, supervised by Lynch
Alternate original 2.0 surround soundtrack, presented in DTS-HD Master Audio on the Blu-ray
The Missing Pieces, ninety minutes of deleted and alternate scenes from the film, assembled by Lynch
Interview from 2014 by Lynch with actors Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, and Grace Zabriskie
New interviews with Lee and composer Angelo Badalamenti
English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
PLUS: Excerpts from an interview with Lynch from Lynch on Lynch, a 1997 book edited by filmmaker and writer Chris Rodley]

Author: Graeme Clark.


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