R Dir: David Lynch | Criterion | 2h 15min
Plot: What’s it about?
David Lynch is easily one of the most unique directors of our time. Over the years he has directed numerous fantastic films Blue Velvet, The Elephant Man, Lost Highway, The Straight Story, Wild at Heart, and Inland Empire. For me, as wonderful as his film work is, his crowning achievement is the unbelievable television series Twin Peaks. Both my wife and I are absolutely in love with this series and for a little while everybody in America was in love with it also. When the first season of Twin Peaks aired (all eight episodes) the entire country was caught up in the mystery revolving around the death of high school prom queen Laura Palmer. “Who killed Laura Palmer?” is still one of the most memorable questions that a series on television has ever posed. Given the great success of the first season, CBS upped its order of episodes from creators David Lynch and Mark Frost to twenty two episodes. This put tons of pressure on the creators. CBS also issued an ultimatum that the mystery be solved that year. This caused a creative rift between David Lynch and Mark Frost and after revealing the killer just seven episodes into the second season, the series lost some luster for everybody but die-hard fans. For myself, all of the series is fantastic, but it is hard to deny that Season One and the first half of Season Two are the high points. That brings us to Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a prequel to the first season of the show. This prequel does not have every actress from the show. There are two very noticeable omissions: Sherilyn Fenn who played Audrey Horne and Lara Flynn Boyle who played Donna Hayward are both absent from the film. Audrey Horne is essentially written out, and Donna is played by another actress named Moira Kelly. These are not small characters in the show and are noticeable differences that will dismay some if not all fans of the show. Once you get past that, there is a lot to get into here. I should warn you right now that if you have not watched Twin Peaks you should not read any further into my review than this next sentence. Watch Twin Peaks before you watch the prequel or it will spoil a lot of the magic in that amazing series. Okay, I have warned for spoilers so let’s get into this.
Fire Walk With Me begins by showing FBI Special Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaac) as he tries to track investigates the murder of Theresa Banks. He is helped along by the skittish Sam (Kiefer Sutherland.) The body in the morgue has a clue – a small strip of paper with a single letter buried into below her fingernail. Sam and Chester follow their leads back to where Theresa had lived in the Fat Trout Inn where he speaks with her father Carl (Harry Dean Stanton.) Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) has a strange encounter with agent Philip Jeffries (David Bowie) who seems to appear at the FBI offices before disappearing again. Dale Cooper receives notice that Chester Desmond has disappeared and goes to track him down at the Fat Trout Inn. This leads him into investigating the death of Theresa Banks and the Blue Rose killer case. Now that the film has established how Cooper came onto the scene, it flashes back to one year earlier when Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) was alive and well. Surrounded by her friends and lovers – Donna (Moira Kelly,) James (James Marshall,) Bobby (Dana Ashbrook) – Laura is on a trail that will lead to her demise. The film tells the story of how her life comes to an end.
This film is always going to be divisive even amongst die-hard fans of the series. At the time of its release it was lauded by critics and a dismal failure at the box office. The fact that it is seeing a release on the Criterion Collection film label is a testament to the significance attached to the film over the years. The reason why I think that this film strikes so many people differently is the overall tone of the film. Whereas Twin Peaks mixed in large doses of humor to counter-balance the rougher aspects of the show, Fire Walk With Me finds its way to a dark place and stays there for the rest of the film. This is not much of a shock considering it is telling the story of a prostitute teenager addicted to drugs, her incestuous relationship with her possessed father, and her ultimate demise.
Even though this film is not as amazing as the television series, I think that repeat viewing yields pleasures that are not present on the first viewing. Fans of the show that have any interest of seeing the whole picture will want to check this out. For those who have not seen the show, I do not know what they will make of the film.
Video: How’s it look?
Criterion Collection have absolutely blown me away with their new 4K transfer of the film. The previous Blu-ray release was pretty decent, but watching this completely changes the entire game. This 4K transfer features amazing clarity, fantastic fine detail, and looks amazing. A lot of the muddy ness that plagued the previous release is proven to be just a digital byproduct. Criterion have made this a transfer that stands as one of the single greatest achievements in their entire catalog. Fans of the film are going to be absolutely rocked to the core by how much better the film looks now. This has essentially made the previous release extinct in comparison. I would never consider watching this film any other way now that I have seen it in 4K.
Audio: How’s it sound?
For this release the same tracks as the previous Blu-ray are on display: a DTS-HD MA 7.0 track supervised by Lynch himself and the original 2.0 mix. There is no reason that they should have considered using a different mix as this 7.0 track supervised by Lynch is of teh highest fidelity. Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting score and musical numbers have been given a proper range to subtly affect the film watching experience as intended. With the 7.0 track sounding so good, I have no idea why anybody would go with the 2.0 mix, but it’s sounds okay in comparison.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Sheryl Lee – a fantastic new interview recorded in Los Angeles in 2017 for this release with the beloved actress who played Laura Palmer. She delves into her experiences on the film, how she received the job, and how much she loves David Lynch and his vision.
- Angelo Badalamenti – another great interview. This interview kicks off with one of the best stories imaginable involving an encounter he had with Paul McCartney. Unreal. After that, the rest of the interview with the iconic composer is truly fantastic including how David Lynch coached him as he composed the theme. One of the best interviews ever conducted by Criterion. Angelo is one of the most important film composers and one of the youngest looking 80 year olds alive today. Do not skip this feature.
- Actor’s Discussion – This feature was originally featured in the CBS released Entire Mystery box set. This is a good reminiscing by David Lynch, Sheryl Lee, Grace Zabriskie, and Ray Wise. While an enjoyable feature, it does not contain a ton of additional information.
- The Missing Pieces – also originally included in the CBS box set, here are ninety minutes of deleted or extended scenes from Fire Walk With Me. Lynch has mentioned numerous times in interviews that these scenes do have importance towards the third season and entire series overall. I typically have trouble watching the deleted scenes on films due to my assumption that they were deleted for a reason. In this case, it just feels like an extra hour and a half of strange Lynch magic. More Bowie, more Agent Cooper, more strange images that may or may not have significance. Then there are also some images that bear a lot of significance and were cut out. Fans of the series should at the very least watch the last ten minutes of this feature to gain additional closure on Season Two.
The Bottom Line
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is a divisive film amongst fans of the show. Critics hated it and it bombed at the box office. This film is David Lynch without Mark Frost to help level out some of his darkest notions. Going into the film you know that Laura Palmer is heading towards a sad demise at the hands of her killer. If you have watched the show you know who will kill her and why she will die. Therefore, this film is darker and heavier than Twin Peaks ever aimed to be on television. When you consider that the film would have run just under four hours in total with the deleted scenes put back in, the fact that the final product feels somewhat disjointed makes more sense. After watching all of the deleted scenes, I have a better understanding and appreciation of the film. Like it or not, this is Twin Peaks canon people. If you are a fan of the show and wanting to know as much of the mystery as possible, this is necessary viewing. As far as this disc is concerned, if you own the CBS Version that came in the Entire Mystery box set this disk will be a tough sell because while it includes two excellent new interviews and an amazing 4K transfer, they will need to know if they want to own this in the best looking format imaginable. The new 4K transfer is the reason to upgrade your disk, and for myself personally, it is well worth the price to upgrade. The 4K transfer looks amazing. While the film may be divisive, this is the definitive version of it along with the supplementary materials that really help to flesh it out. If you don’t have a copy yet and are a fan of the show, I can’t begin to tell you how great the Blu-Ray looks.