My ardor for David Lynch began at an awkward time. I don’t mean to say as a teenager, when the sticky possibilities of sex and desire emerge in forms that are just as uncontrollably emotional or spiritual as they are corporeal, though that certainly makes what Lynch calls “the darkness of confusion,” highlighted throughout the psychosexual interior landscapes of Eraserhead (uncontrollable, giant sperms leaving a mess), Blue Velvet (wherein a young man awakes to the power of love and lust, as life and death), Wild at Heart (the boundless, almost agitated, hotter-than-Georgia-asphalt libidos of Sailor and Lula), and Twin Peaks (to quote Laura Palmer, “Isn’t sex weird?”), more viscerally felt. The time to which I’m referring was during Lynch’s dark age, following the cancellation of Peaks and ill-regarded fate of its movie prequel, Fire Walk With Me, when the phenomenon that landed the director on the cover of Time was written off, to quote Murphy Brown, as a mere fad. In these years, Lynch, who’d created for film, TV (in addition to Twin Peaks, there was the doomed sitcom On the Air and an HBO miniseries Hotel Room), art exhibitions (paintings, sculptures, photography), comic strips (“The Angriest Dog in the World” for L.A. Weekly), and music (Julee Cruise’s Floating Into the Night and The Voice of Love albums, Industrial Symphony No. 1), had burned out in the public’s–and media’s–imagination. In Entertainment Weekly magazine, the annual “Cool” issue put Lynch’s picture next to other former cover celebrities M.C. Hammer and Vanilla Ice: yesterday’s news, and embarrassing news at that. This was around the time that a certain young filmmaker, who similarly captured the attention of the post-modern counter culture, was in Cannes promoting his debut, Reservoir Dogs, and mentioned, “David Lynch had disappeared so far up his own ass that I have no desire to see another David Lynch movie until I hear something different.”
Such are the vacillations of favor to disfavor. Twin Peaks anticipates the present day’s golden period of enthralling serialized television constructed in a proficient manner that often feels suited for a motion picture: pronounced extreme close-ups, wide angle lenses, memorable scoring by Angelo Badalamenti, etc. The ensemble, led by the mystic FBI Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) who struggles to unravel the murder of local homecoming queen Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee), was replete with memorable characterizations, all with their own style and brand but fitting in perfect consonance with the jazzy industrial and deep woods cauldron of an isolated small town in the American North West, a locale existing somewhere close to both the 1950s and the 1980s–and to both heaven and hell (or White Lodge and Black). How different might have Twin Peaks‘ fate have been had it been not a weekly network show in a pre-Internet/streaming/download time? In 1990, the aesthetics and marvelous richness of something like Peaks couldn’t sustain momentum or retain much beyond a “demented soap opera” descriptor, and it quickly collapsed into a gimmick box. It lost its way after about fifteen episodes and was soon cancelled.