Friday, April 17, 2015

How to Stay in Twin Peaks: Go to the Library

Last week, Natalie mentioned the "dreamlike, earnest young people" and "seemingly ordinary settings" in the work of filmmaker David Lynch, just in time for Richmond's very own Twin Peaks festival, The Great Southern. The festival, organized by Movie Club Richmond, the Video Fan, and Makeout Creek Books, celebrates David Lynch's first foray into television, Twin Peaks, a serial drama that burst into pop culture in 1990 and has only grown in popularity since, its mysteries deepening in the minds of fans new and old.

Set in a small town in Washington state, Twin Peaks centers ostensibly on the murder of teenage Laura Palmer but spirals out to explore teen-dom in general, Americana, the perks and perils of the unconscious, and the nature of evil. Beginning last night in Carytown and ending late Sunday, The Great Southern will move across seemingly ordinary Richmond with performances, visits from actors and authors, a midnight screening, a costume party, and more. If you find yourself still hankering for Twin Peaks after the festival, or just want to whet your appetite for the first time, simply walk into the library and have the reference librarian point you in the direction of these topics:
Peyton Place
First a novel, and then a film, and then even a few television series, Peyton Place aims, like Twin Peaks, to reveal the lives of those who live in small town U.S.A., up to and including the things that no one likes to talk about. Lynch screened the 1957 film Peyton Place for his co-creator Mark Frost in the early development of Twin Peaks. It is a natural touchstone for any piece of pop culture that deals with small town life, and informs the sense of Twin Peaks as soap opera. It also starred Russ Tamblyn, later featured in Twin Peaks.
Film Noir
Lynch and Frost did not look only at depictions of suburban America before making Twin Peaks. The ultra-urban aesthetic of film noir heavily influenced the show. In many ways Twin Peaks is a soap opera film noir, or a film noir soap opera, or both. Coined by French critics, "film noir" refers traditionally to Hollywood crime films made just before and after the second World War. The films, like Double Indemnity and The Maltese Falcon, portray a fatalistic, morally ambiguous reality. And as in Twin Peaks, little elements in the film--objects, types of characters--are repeated until they take on a meaning and a grammar all their own.
Surrealism and Dreams
Juxtaposing the tropes of urban film noir with suburban America would be a classically surrealist move, and Lynch is often referred to as a surrealist. In surrealist works of art, the rational mind is downplayed in favor or unexpected connections and bizarre twists. There is a logic to surrealist art, but it's a dream logic. In Twin Peaks, Special Agent Dale Cooper looks especially to dreams to help him solve his cases. Look for Andre Breton's Surrealist Manifesto for background and check out a few dream dictionaries to see if your unconscious has been planting clues.

No comments: