COLORBEARER OF ATHENS, GEORGIA LOCALLY OWNED SINCE 1987
August 23, 2017

Beyond the Black Lodge: Pair Fire Walk With Me With a Political Comedy

Double Feature

One of the keys to understanding Showtime’s “Twin Peaks” revival has been the original series’ big-screen prequel, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. To get you up to speed with Lynchian lore before the 18-episode run’s finale on Sept. 3, Ciné will screen the film Aug. 25 and 26. Before Saturday’s screening, the theater will host a Black Lodge Party, featuring costume and dance contests, a Julee Cruise cover band, a cherry pie bake-off and specialty coffee cocktails from 1000 Faces. See more details at athenscine.com.

After a two-plus-hour film about incest that culminates in a graphic, preordained murder, you might need to laugh a bit. The 2009 comedy In the Loop—the directorial debut of “Veep” creator Armando Iannucci—is another example of a television story continuing as a feature film.

Go Out and Watch

TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (1992) Declining ratings during the second season of “Twin Peaks” led to its cancellation in 1991, though Lynch delighted fans by announcing the prequel film a month later. Their delight was short-lived, though, as the oddball style and broadcast-friendly corniness of the show was transformed into a horror film with avant-garde touches. Knowing from the beginning that the film necessarily has to end with the death of Laura Palmer—the homecoming queen whose brutal murder sets the plot in motion in the pilot—makes grim moments even more dire.

Fire Walk With Me opens with a storyline focusing on FBI agents Chet Desmond (musician Chris Isaak) and Sam Stanley (a nerdy, bespectacled Kiefer Sutherland.) The characters each share traits with the ostensible hero of the show, Lynch stalwart Kyle MacLachlan’s Special Agent Dale Cooper. (MacLachlan was burnt out on “Twin Peaks” after the heavily lambasted second season, so many of Cooper’s scenes in the film were rewritten to feature Desmond and Stanley.) The duo investigates the murder of Teresa Banks, the first victim of the extradimensional killer BOB, who would later claim Laura’s life.

Following a brief interlude with David Bowie screaming at Lynch in Philadelphia’s FBI office, we arrive at the true meat of the film, with a story set entirely in the franchise’s namesake. The first image we see is Laura walking down a sunny street—a surreal sight, since she was previously glimpsed only in flashbacks, homemade VHS tapes and her omnipresent homecoming photo. Elements of the series that were once implied also become explicit in the second half. We see the teenager’s addictions and habits slowly killing her. Her sexual abuse at the hands of her father Leland (a horrifyingly committed Ray Wise) is, of course, disturbing to witness. 

In the hands of a journeyman director, the tonal shift from the show’s charming quirk to the film’s obscenity would be a jarring death blow. However, Lynch is a master stylist whose skilled manipulation of sounds and images dulls the sharp edges of his content. When Laura and goody-two-shoes best friend Donna go out to the town’s roadhouse, deep-red lighting and cool-blueish strobes drench every illicit sexual and drug activity in the room. The grinding drums and bass on the soundtrack are so loud that all dialogue is subtitled. Here, Lynch assembles a scene that—like much of the movie—expertly assaults viewers’ senses until they are numb to the point of being able to pay witness to Laura’s gradual, painful end.

Stay Home and Watch

IN THE LOOP (2009) While Fire Walk With Me bridges the gap between two iterations of the same series, In the Loop likewise functions as a missing link between Iannucci’s major works. The film continues the reign of terror of British political fixer Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) from the BBC political comedy “The Thick of It,” but also acts as the first assembly of many actors who would become part of the “Veep” cast (Anna Chlumsky, David Rasche, Zach Woods). The signature style of these two shows—peppering the high-minded “walk and talk” of Aaron Sorkin with creative and casual profanities—is just as funny at feature length as it is in half-hour installments.

The dialogue, which earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, is the strongest selling point of Iannucci’s work, but he takes visual risks in In the Loop that make those jokes and one-liners pop even harder. As British and American politicians maneuver in the lead-up to war with an unnamed Middle Eastern country, the lack of respect that these low-wattage politicos inspire is apparent. The camera will often dart away from these sad sacks to impressive instances of political architecture like the Washington Monument or the Capitol dome, implying characters’ insignificance in the larger political machine. With these flourishes, the absurdist thread running through all of Iannucci’s work is bolded. If the people whose decisions decide the fate of nations are vain, petty and childish, our only recourse is ridicule.

Calendar

  • Saturday, August 26

    Ciné Barcafé

    7:30 p.m. $15 (VIP). 8 p.m. $10. www.athenscine.com

    Black Lodge Party

    Celebrate the approaching conclusion of "Twin Peaks'" third season and Ciné's screenings of Fire Walk With Me. The themed event features costume and dance contests, coffee cocktails, live music, dancing, a photo booth, donuts and cherry pie. Lydia Brambila (Outersea), Emileigh Ireland, Jessica Smith (Sea of Dogs) and Marie Uhler (Eureka California) will perform the music of Julee Cruise, Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch. Proceeds benefit the Buy Ciné campaign.

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