Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Fire Will Walk With It

X-files
At the end of August of 1992 I had one of the most memorable film experiences of my life, and it took place in a completely vacant and I must admit very lonely movie theater in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It was actually audience wise the most desolate opening night I have ever attended, and the film was none other than David Lynch’s masterful Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. I still remember the isolated awe I felt in that deserted theater that night and the absolute confusion as to why no one else was there to feel it with me.
Lynch’s controversial big screen prequel to his celebrated television series is now rightly viewed by many as one of his major works…a disturbing and powerful masterpiece that is among the most memorable and distinctive films of the nineties. Of course this wasn’t the case in 1992 as Fire Walk with Me was subjected to the most pulverizing critical and popular reception David Lynch had ever received, it even made the reception Dune got look positively glowing. It was viewed by many as the last unnecessary chapter of a series that had run its course, and was considered beyond passé before it briefly appeared and vanished in that late summer of 92.
Of course time has shown Twin Peaks to be one of the great television series and it’s arguably more beloved now than it was when it was originally on the air. Anyone who was around when it originally aired can attest to the baffled and angry reaction many people had to the series second season, a season which is now rightfully viewed as one of the most important in television history.

I’ve been thinking a lot about that first viewing of Fire Walk with Me lately…specifically that empty feeling I had for a month or so after, as I watched people who gleefully celebrated the end of something I had held so dear. It was a frustrating thing because I couldn’t even argue for the film because so few had bothered to see it…and I must admit that it was as depressing as hell.
X-Files 2
I’ve had that same exact feeling again recently due to the reception that The X-Files: I Want To Belive has received. Now I’m not arguing that Carter’s new film is in the same league as Lynch’s…it isn’t and it doesn’t try to be, but the two do share some remarkable characteristics though that are more than worth noting.

They are both challenging and extremely personal works from filmmakers attempting to continue two of their most iconic works, both of which coincidentally started out life as small screen productions. They are also two works not afraid to deliver exactly what WASN’T wanted by many of show’s core fans. Imagine Fire Walk With Me as the quirky dark comedy or I Want to Believe as the big budget monster movie many fans wanted but neither Lynch nor Carter were interested in delivering what was expected, even if a possible career set-back was a real possibility.
The films were also both treated with disdain by the studio’s obvious non-belief in them. If you think I Want to Believe has been handled badly, go back and check on the non-campaign for Fire Walk with Me. The fact that I even managed to catch it in a theater is nothing short of miraculous. There is also the feeling with both that many people who weren’t fans of the series’ were gunning for them, and nothing Lynch or Carter could have delivered would have been good enough.

Finally, the main thing that perhaps connects Fire Walk with Me and I Want to Believe is that they were delivered to a time period that simply didn’t want them. The X-Files is as irrelevant to as many people in 2008 as Twin Peaks was back in 1992 and it took guts for Lynch and Carter to make their respective films in the first place. Time has thankfully caught up with Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me now, so much so that it might be hard for a lot of younger fans to imagine there was ever a time when people thought Lynch’s show was anything less than a classic, but trust me that time did occur.

I’ve been extremely depressed by the reaction granted to I Want to Believe and especially by a lot of people’s callous dismissal of The X-Files in general, a series that meant a lot of things to a lot of different people and had a huge impact on our popular culture in general. I can only harbor the hope that the film and series will one day find its audience again much like Lynch’s show and film did…in fact I am counting on it. 2008 might not be a good year for The X-Files popularity wise, but I am willing to wager money that ten or fifteen years from now many of its most vocal opponents will be lining up to and singing its praises.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and The X-Files: I Want To Believe are two vastly different works, but they are both extremely personal and uncompromising films made by two very genuine filmmakers who clearly had something meaningful they wanted to say. To paraphrase something I once read on Lou Reed’s Berlin, these simply aren’t works made for their time but are more importantly works for all time…so perhaps I shouldn’t be depressed after all.

14 comments:

Brandon Colvin said...

I'm a pretty huge fan of TWIN PEAKS and FIRE WALK WITH ME, but of course I didn't get to see them until 15 years after the fact. It's valuable to hear your opinion on the X-FILES situation when considered next to your experience with FWWM. Once again, your extensive cinematic wisdom proves valuable.

Also, did you intentionally use a still from MULHOLLAND DR. there or was that an accident?

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Brandon for the nice comments...I rarely save ticket stubs but I actually still have that one from FIRE WALK WITH ME, remind me to show it to you sometime...also thanks for pointing out my blunder on the pic...I put this together pretty fast and was grabbing pics from a folder I had. I'm not sure what kind of mini-stroke I had to plug that one in...

Jeremy Richey said...

Hey again Brandon...just pulled the stub. It was actually a late afternoon showing on 9-29-92 and the ticket was three dollars! Times have sure changed.....

Steve Langton said...

You are bang on with FWWM.As I recall, critical reception over here was pretty mixed but it did get a few very positive reviews. I rate it highly and those of my friends who loved the series feel the same. Be interesting to see what press The X-Files movie gets during the course of this weekend.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Steve,
I know it faired better in England than here so I am glad to hear that backed up from you...hope you get something out of THE X-FILES film and I hope teh reception for it is a bit better there as well.

The King Of Cool said...

I was a fan of Twin Peaks. I wasn't a big fan of Fire Walk With Me when I saw it. Not sure if I was tired of it all or what. I did see it years later and really loved it. It's a shame that the new X-Files movie has received such a lashing at the box office and from critics/fans. I really do want to see it.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Keith,
FIRE WALK WITH ME definately improves upon each viewing...alondg with LOST HIGHWAY, it is just about my favorite Lynch film.

J.D. said...

FWWM is my fave Lynch film after BLUE VELVET (see my write-up: http://rheaven.blogspot.com/2008/03/twin-peaks-fire-walk-with-me.html) and I too had the pleasure of seeing it on the big screen during its way-too brief theatrical run.

It was the first Lynch film I got to see on the big screen and was immediately immersed in its world. I also liked how the theater had the sound system cranked up (as per Lynch's instructions, I've read) and that also helped as Angelo Badalamenti's score is so rich, ominous and atmospheric. Easily his best one that he's done with Lynch.

Altho, many don't consider it, I think that this is Lynch's horror film. It is just so relentlessly tension-filled and creepy, you are always on edge... even the first third with the off-kilter humor has its moments of unease.

Great film, nice comparison to X-FILES there, Jeremy.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks JD...I agree with your thoughts on FIRE...I had forgotten about the sound mix.

Tony Dayoub said...

I was a huge "Twin Peaks" fan upon its original release. I even got to see it before it debuted on ABC since it had a sneak preview at the Miami Film Festival. As cheered as it was at that premiere, it was jeered when FWWM was released.

To make matters worse, I saw it in September of 92 shortly after we had been hit by Hurricane Andrew. I remember what trouble I went through to get to the theater showing it, and how air conditioning hadn't yet been restored to the movie theater. Even my Coke had to be served without ice.

Other audience members were taken aback, apparently feeling betrayed that this would not resolve Agent Cooper's situation, left hanging in the series finale. I was fully expecting what the storyline would be, but admit to being shocked at how Lynch presented it. Gone was the scary though lighthearted tone of the series, replaced by the horrifying dysfunctionality so pervasive in the Palmer family.

But still there was something that attracted me to the film, and in time, my love for that film supplanted my adoration of the series. I now think the film is superior to the series in many ways, as Lynch bravely steered the tone back closer to that of the pilot.

In many ways, Carter did the same in "I Want to Believe", paring the X-files down to the core of the story. I hope you'll check out the positive review I gave it at http://www.cinemaviewfinder.com/2008/07/film-review-x-files-i-want-to-believe.html

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks so much Tony for the very nice and detailed comments and memories...I really appreciated reading them and will absolutely check your post out.
Thanks again...

Piper said...

Fire Walk With Me was not playing in the city I was living so I drove an hour to see it. I was dating a girl out of town and she had come to visit for the week. I told her we had to go see it. She didn't know much about me then and I'm sure this movie didn't help. It was a quiet car ride back.

I love Lynch. I love Twin Peaks, but to me this was an example of the good that TV can do. I have always found Twin Peaks dark, strange and sometimes terrifying. And Fire Walk With Me had its moments, but overall it felt like a director out of control. Everything pushed a bit too far. I own the movie because I love the story, but to me it doesn't hold a candle to the TV show. And trust me, I don't say that often.

I absolutely loved the first X-Files movie and based on your feelings about it, I want to check out this new one.

Jeremy Richey said...

Thanks Piper,
It was great reading your comments. I have loved hearing so many different stories about peoples first viewings of the FWWM...

I hope you get a chance to see THE X-FILES in theaters as it will probably be gone soon...thanks again.

MovieMan0283 said...

Jeremy, I'm glad I stumbled across this post. I've just finished a Twin Peaks kick (I'd never seen it before) and put up a review of Fire Walk With Me last night. It was one of the most powerful cinematic experiences I've ever had, but I was left with a lot of ambivalence. You can read it here:
http://thedancingimage.blogspot.com/2008/08/twin-peaks-fire-walk-with-me_09.html - let me know what you think.

As for X-Files, your post has given me a fresh perspective on it. I admit I was one of those people who snorted when the new film came out, thinking "X-Files? Who cares about X-Files anymore, it's old hat!" Kind of an unthinking, knee-jerk reaction, and now I regret it after reading your thoughtful post.

I don't think I'll be seeing it (I don't see a lot of new releases in theaters these days) but now I feel kind of bad about dismissing it in such an offhand way.

Keep up the good work.