Movies Noir Reviews

Twin Peaks Day! Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) Review.

Sheryl Lee stars as Laura Palmer in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Happy Twin Peaks Day! Today we are looking at the 1992 film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. Released after the cancellation of the show, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me tells the tragedy of Laura Palmer, leading up to her murder and right before she is found wrapped in plastic by Pete Martell, played in the series by Jack Nance. While the film is primarily a prequel, there are a few moments that make it a sequel to the series, but that wouldn’t be explored fully until Twin Peaks: The Return in 2017. It has long been known that upon initial release Fire Walk With Me was met with mixed reviews; I’m glad it has been reappraised after its release and given the acclaim, it deserves, because in my personal opinion this is one of David Lynch’s best works. It is a dark and tragic tale that explores the horrors and psychological trauma of sexual abuse and Sheryl Lee gives an amazing lead performance that should have been talked about more when it was first released. By the way, there will be some spoilers in this review not only from the movie but from the TV series that preceded it, so proceed with caution.

The movie starts with the investigation of Teresa Banks, a girl who was murdered similarly to Laura Palmer and was mentioned in the TV series. FBI Chief Gordon Cole (David Lynch) sends Special Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Issak) and Special Agent Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland) to investigate. They go to the town of Deer Meadow, Washington which seems to serve as a dark contrast to the homely and Americana Twin Peaks. The police station is full of belligerent and rude cops and the diner the two agents visit is a dark counterpoint to the RR Diner, run by Norma Jennings (Peggy Lipton). This segment of the movie acts as a prologue to the main story which follows Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) as she discovers the secret of who BOB is only days before her death. There are also some brief moments with Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan), and a former missing Special Agent Phillip Jeffries (David Bowie) which is incredibly strange and brief and raises more questions that wouldn’t be fully explored until Twin Peaks: The Return.

The performances from Sheryl Lee and Ray Wise are amazing in this film. Sheryl Lee plays the broken and tragic Laura Palmer which such intensity, anguish, and horror that she will nearly bring tears to your eyes. Her father, and eventual murderer, Leeland Palmer, also the mysterious BOB, does an excellent job playing what is essentially two roles. There is a moment after a tense confrontation between him, Laura, and Laura’s mother Sarah Palmer (Grace Zabriskie) where he switches from being BOB back to Leeland Ray Wise plays that transition so perfectly. You can see his personality changing while the camera holds on his face. David Lynch also does a great job directing, creating a horrifically noirish atmosphere that feels like you’ve been pulled directly into a nightmare. I wouldn’t hesitate to call this movie a horror film, some moments will make you want to cover your eyes or scream.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is an incredible follow-up and prequel to what was already an outstanding series. Featuring an iconic performance from Sheryl Lee, a transformative performance from Ray Wise and immaculate direction from the masterful David Lynch, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a movie that will stay with you forever. Make sure to check out the first two seasons of the series and Twin Peaks: The Return, although if you’ve made it this far in my review, I hope you had watched the series before.

Rating 5/5

Movies Reviews

The Elephant Man Review: David Lynch brings his surreal vision to the true story of John Merrick.

The Elephant Man. Released in 1980. Directed by David Lynch. Starring John Hurt, Anthony Hopkins, and Anne Bancroft.

The Elephant Man, released in 1980 and directed by David Lynch, tells the story of John Merrick (John Hurt), a man who is disfigured. He is rescued from a sideshow attraction and taken into a hospital by Dr.Frederick Treeves (Anthony Hopkins). Initially, Treves uses Merrick to help boost his name; he does not believe that Merrick has any intelligence or true humanity. Like everyone else, Treves judges Merrick based on his appearance. He learns his mistake after hearing him speak and listening to Merrick recite a Psalm. Merrick was a gentle and intelligent man who was exploited on multiple occasions by people in his life.

David Lynch’s direction in the film gives the film a unique look and feel. Shooting the film in black and white reminds me of classic monster movies from the 30s. Whether that was the intention, I do not know, but like Merrick’s appearance, the choice to shoot in black and white alters the audience’s perception and allows their expectations to be subverted. David Lynch also chose to use surreal sequences to show the backstory of Merrick’s mother. The dream-like sequences that start and end the film elevate the film from a standard biopic about Merrick’s life to something more.

David Lynch focuses heavily on mechanization and industrialization, something featured heavily in his previous film, Eraserhead, released in 1977. Like the machines, Merrick is manipulated and used. The people in his life prosper from him and treat him like a piece of equipment to assist with their success; that is what makes Merrick’s proclamation “I am not an animal! I am a human being” so poignant and powerful. Merrick is treated like a beast and used as a machine, but he is much more than that; he is an intelligent creature, capable of immense emotions. He loves and respects beauty and art.

The Elephant Man is a tragic story that is injected with hope. John Merrick is used and abused by people in his life, but through his experiences, at the hospital, he sees that love and kindness exist. David Lynch excellently directs the movie and the performances from John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins are incredible. The film is also technically remarkable with gorgeous black and white cinematography from Freddie Francis, a wonderful score from John Morris, and amazing make-up effects from Christopher Tucker and Wally Schneiderman. I have experienced many new films this past year, but this is the greatest one I viewed. A tragic story filled with heart and hope, The Elephant Man, excels at everything it attempts. It is truly a masterpiece.

Rating 5/5

Movies Noir

Noirvember Review: Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet. Released in 1986. Directed by David Lynch. Starring Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, and Laura Dern

Towards the beginning of Blue Velvet, the camera zooms in on a severed ear that protagonist Jeffery Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) found while walking near his house. With this shot, we enter a dark, subconscious world, a world that lives beneath the surface of the suburban white picket fence houses that line the streets of Lumberton. We also see this idea of darkness lurking beneath during the opening of the movie. After Jeffery’s father collapses in his yard, we see insects crawling beneath the beautifully cultivated yard where he is working. David Lynch is not only telling us that there is darkness living on the other side of town, but that there is also darkness in our subconscious.

Analyzing and reviewing Blue Velvet is difficult; the plot is easy to discern, but there are layers of subtext that live within the movie. Blue Velvet, like other David Lynch projects, explores dark, subconscious desires and fears. Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) is a manifestation of this darkness. Frank Booth acts as an interesting foil to Jeffery Beaumont because he represents Jeffery’s dark desires. Frank even says to Jeffery, “You are me.” This dark revelation shakes Jeffery, causing him to weep in his room, lamenting the darkness that he has witnessed in himself.

Sandy Williams (Laura Dern) and Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) contrast each other. Sandy is pure and young; she is untainted by the world, protected from the darkness by her suburban home and detective father. Dorothy Vallens is a tragic figure, and unlike Sandy she is alone forced to face the darkness of the world and her darkness alone. Frank’s dark and violent desires have created a world of darkness for her. She is a victim of sexual violence and Frank’s depravity. When Jeffery enters her world, Dorothy has been broken by Frank. He has kidnapped her husband and son, cutting off her husband’s ear with scissors and regularly torturing her with his insanity and sexual violence. Dorothy, along with Frank, awakens something dark within Jeffrey. She engages him and inspires him to act on his dark impulses, something which haunts him later. On the surface, Jeffery looks innocent, but Dorothy shows him he isn’t truly innocent.

It is interesting how David Lynch blends multiple genres, creating a film that is equal parts horror, noir, and psychological thriller. Angelo Badalamenti’s score even calls back to classic film noir scores. He does this with his imagery too; the opening of the film shows an Americana landscape before he descends deeper into the world, showing urban decay and immorality. Lynch’s work consistently evokes the idea of the industrial and urban world encroaching on the idyllic lifestyle of suburban America. There is also a voyeuristic approach to his filmmaking, and that features heavily in this movie. People witness and recognize ever-growing darkness but turn a blind eye or succumb.

Dream-like and nightmarish David Lynch uses Blue Velvet to examine the dark recess of our subconscious. It is interesting to watch alongside his oeuvre because you can watch how his ideas evolve and adapt over time. Blue Velvet is an excellent and challenging neo-noir that I highly recommend everyone watching.

Rating 5/5