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Winter Sleep

The running time of his new picture Winter Sleep, three hours and change, suggests weight, but at it happens, this movie struck me as both…

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Mr. Turner

Filmmaker Mike Leigh's biography of the landscape painter J.M.W. Turner is what critics call "austere"—which means it's slow and grim and deliberately hard to love—yet…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

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* This filmography is not intended to be a comprehensive list of this artist’s work. Instead it reflects the films this person has been involved with that have been reviewed on this site.

#151 January 16, 2013

Marie writes: And so it begins!  A new year and another season of Film Festivals and Award shows. The Golden Globes have come and gone and in advance of quirky SXSW, there's Robert Redford's Sundance 2013...

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Santa Barbara Film Festival 2012

May Contain Spoilers

It's a sunny, unseasonable 80 degrees as the 2012 Santa Barbara International Film Festival kicks in, but all I want is to be indoors. When you peer at a schedule listing nearly 200 films jammed into 10 days, and you just can't wait, you know you're an addict. This is my third SBIFF so I recognize the signs.

Suddenly each January, there's an extra bustle in this appealing, laid-back town. Downtown on lower State Street, trucks appear bearing vivid banners, soon to be festooned overhead. Special lights and rigging go up at 2 central venues - the precisely restored, historic Lobero and Arlington Theatres. Locals watch to see whether Festival Director Roger Durling changes his hair: one year it was spikey, another year purple. This time it's rather like Heathcliff - longer, romantic.

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Mad Men (and Mad Women) from Twin Peaks

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The first time I remember seeing Lesli Linka Glatter's name was in a directing credit on "Twin Peaks." She directed four episodes of David Lynch's television masterpiece, 13 installments of "E.R.," eight of "The West Wing," five of "Gilmore Girls" and segments of other series, including "Freaks and Geeks," "House, M.D.," "Law and Order: SVU," "Numb3rs," "Weeds," "The Mentalist," "The Unit" and "True Blood." She's worked a lot. "The Crysanthemum and the Sword" is her sixth episode of "Mad Men" -- and the one that reminded me the most of "Twin Peaks," mostly in little visual touches.

(Although, come to think of it, she also directed the episode with the riding lawnmower accident, which could be seen as a Lynchian in-joke about "The Straight Story"...)

A few images, and then a few thoughts about other possible "Twin Peaks" connections:

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Prof. Cozzalio's take-home pop quiz is due!

The professor is about to supply his answers. Not the answers, his answers, and the prof is Dennis Cozzalio, Senior Quizmaster of Professor Kingsfield's Hair-Raising, Bar-Raising Holiday Movie Quiz at the always enlightening and delightful Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule.

It's been up since Christmas Eve, but first I was sick and then I got snowed in and then my dog ate my homework. So, I just got around to posting my answers yesterday. Get over there before the bell rings. Not that Prof. Cozzalio wouldn't let you turn yours in late, even if he fills out the questionnaire himself first.

UPDATE: The professor's answers are in!

Here are a few of my responses, which you'll find way down in the comments. I didn't read over anybody else's shoulder, though!

8) Are most movies too long?

Yes, and 20 years ago they seemed too long because they were too short. Perfect example: Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in America." Anybody who had to sit through the 139-minute US release will tell you it was way, WAY longer than the 229-minute version.

9) Favorite performance by an actor portraying a real-life politician.

Phillip Baker Hall as Richard M. Nixon in Altman's "Secret Honor."

4) Favorite actor/character from "Twin Peaks."

Agent Albert Rosenfield (Miguel Ferrer). My hero. (Incidentally, there would be no "House" without this character.)

I never got tired of Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and I loved any scene with Sarah and/or Leland Palmer (Grace Zabriskie, Ray Wise).

12) Why would you ever want or need to see a movie more than once?

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Ben Horne's "Twin Peaks" set snaps

View image The Man From Another Place (Michael J. Anderson, that is) with The Man From Spokane (David Lynch) in the Red Room. Photo by Richard Beymer.

The owls are not what they seem. And Richard Beymer has the photos to prove it, in this beautiful online gallery from the set of "Twin Peaks." The shot of Hank Worden ("Grateful to the hospitality of your rocking chair, ma'am!") with Lynch makes me very happy.

Look for marvelous/creepy shots of Ray Wise, Grace Zabriskie, Harry Goaz, Heather Graham, Carel Struycken, Frank Silva, Charlotte Stewart and Don S. Davis and more of your favorite "Twin Peaks" stars, hanging out in the Great Northern, the Double R, the Red Room, and the woods!

(tip: Movie City Indie)

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'Fire Walk With Me' and the Lost Language of Code

Here is Lil. She indicates that this is one of Gordon's blue rose cases.

When I saw David Lynch's "Inland Empire" for the first time a few weeks ago, I knew I was going to be reviewing it for the Chicago Sun-Times and, given the quintessentially Lynchian, fractal nature of the three-hour film, I didn't know how I was going to do that. It's just not a movie that you can summarize in the usual terms of story, character, cinematography, direction, etc., and still convey a sense of what it's about, and what it's like to watch. The first thing I thought of was a scene near the start of Lynch's radically underestimated "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me," in which a complex set of coded information is conveyed entirely through pantomime, involving facial expressions, gestures, dance and dressing up. I wish I could have reviewed "Inland Empire" by doing something like what Lil does in "Fire Walk With Me." (If I could, I'd try dressing up like Grace Zabriskie and contorting myself into a writhing human mobius strip...)

Please consider this article my contribution to The Lynch Mob at Vinyl Is Heavy, where this week you'll findt lotsa Lynch links and criticism. What follows is a slightly revised and updated version of a piece I wrote about nine or ten years ago for my Twin Peaks site at cinepad.com.

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"Break the code, solve the case." -- Agent Dale Cooper

"Twin Peaks" was conceived as a series (like "The Fugitive" before it) in which the central "mystery" (Who killed Laura Palmer? Who killed Dr. Richard Kimble's wife? And what of the one-armed man?) would spin off new complications, week after week, but would never really be solved -- at least (in the case of "The Fugitive") until the end of the series. (I like to think of it as sort of the TV series version of Buñuel's "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie," where the characters keep on walking but never seem to get anywhere. Instead of preventing these people from eatinga meal, "Twin Peaks" would continually deny the audience and the characters a solution to the mystery. I still think that's a great idea.)

But soon (or finally, depending on how you look at it), public and network pressure forced the hand of "Twin Peaks" co-creators David Lynch and Mark Frost, and they revealed Laura Palmer's murderer a few weeks into the second season. Lynch said recently (2007) in Seattle that, for him, the series was basically over once identity of Laura's killer was exposed. Ratings dived and creative ennui set in shortly thereafter. But a year later Lynch released a feature film (hissed and booed at the Cannes Film Festival) that promised to go into explicit detail (certainly more so than you could do on network television in the early 1990s) about exactly what happened on the night of Laura Palmer's death.

It was a typically perverse Lynch move -- belatedly rehashing details about a year-old, already-solved murder on a TV show that had been cancelled by the time the movie was released. Even more perversely, Lynch and co-writer Robert Engels began this feature-film prequel with an absurdist prologue that -- in case you hadn't caught on by know -- pretty much explained the spirit, and method you should have invoked to watch "Twin Peaks" in the first place. (The film -- originally sub-titled "Teresa Banks and the Last Seven Days of Laura Palmer" -- was supposedly re-cut before release; Lynch's full shooting script is available online here.)

Lynch himself reprises his role as FBI Bureau Chief Gordon Cole, standing in front of a woodsy photorealistic backdrop in his office that recalls the tropical mural used for trompe l'oeil effects at the house of Dr. Jacoby (Russ Tamblyn) in the series. Gordon, as you may recall, can't hear too well. He is accustomed to communicating in other ways -- through signs, signals, symbols, omens, clues. And he expects his agents to speak his language.

"I've got a surprise for you. Something interesting I would like to show you," Gordon yells into the phone at Special Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaac). When Desmond and Sam Stanley from Spokane (Kiefer Sutherland) ("Sam's the man who cracked the Whitman case") meet Gordon at the private Portland airport, they're treated to a peculiar, ritualistic display of body language by a woman in a reddish-orange dress with flaming hair to match. Gordon introduces her as Lil, "my mother's sister's girl." Lil makes faces, blinks, sashays around, and waddles away.

Afterwards, in the car, Sam asks the questions that all good "Twin Peaks" devotees are meant to ask again and again: "What exactly did that mean?" And Desmond matter-of-factly ("I'll explain it to you") deciphers a bizarre series of signs and signals and symbols and omens and clues that Lil's little "dance" conveyed about the case they were about to embark upon.

The details don't really matter much (a sour face indicates trouble with local authorities, one hand in her pocket suggests they're hiding something, walking in place means a lot of legwork, tailored dresses are code for drugs, etc.) -- it's the manner in which this info is coveyed that's important. In its secret heart of hearts, "Twin Peaks" is an epistemological thriller about perception and the ways that we assemble information about the world around us (see Mystery Without End, Amen). We humans may be capable of certain higher brain functions, but Lil's dance conveys information in a sophisticated, ritualized way that isn't that far evolved from, say, the dances of cranes. In "Twin Peaks," dreams and Tibetan rock-throwing rituals are just as vital and valid forms of detective work as forensic science. Maybe more so.

View image Me at the Double R Diner (aka the Mar-T) in the spring of 1990, with a waitress who looks suspiciously like Laura Palmer.

Oh, and the most important sign was that Lil was wearing a blue rose. But, Desmond says, "I can't tell you about that."

"You can't?" asks Stanley.

"No," repeats Desmond. "I can't."

And here we have a little mystery. The conundrums without answers are, of course, the most intriguing of all. Suddenly, all the other stuff evaporates from our consciousness -- OK, drugs, legwork, local authorities, fine. Got it. Let's move on: What about the blue rose?!? All we ever really learn about it in the rest of the movie is a remark Agent Cooper makes to Diane that this is "one of Gordon's 'blue rose' cases" -- whatever that may mean. I can't tell you.

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[For more about the thematic and geological territory of "Twin Peaks," please take the Topography (or "Top-off-graphy") of Twin Peaks Guided Photo Tour, part of my Twin Peaks site.]

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Relevant excerpt from the script after the jump.

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Go Inland, young woman!

Laura Dern in "Inland Empire": A Woman in Trouble is a Temporal Thing.

My review of David Lynch's "Inland Empire" in the Chicago Sun-Times and on RogerEbert.com today:

Put on the watch. Light the cigarette, fold back the silk, and use the cigarette to burn a hole in the silk. Then put your eye up to the hole and look through, all the way through, until you find yourself falling through the hole and into the shifting patterns you see on the other side.

That's a metaphor for watching and making movies, and it's one way to watch "Inland Empire" -- a way that is, in fact, specifically recommended in the movie itself. This is David Lynch's film -- the one he's been making since "Eraserhead" -- and it offers you multiple ways to view it as it uncoils over nearly three hours, encouraging you to see it from all of them at once. It is, after all, overtly about the relationship between the movie and the observer, the actor and the performance, the watcher and the watched (and the watch).

In this sense, you might say, "Inland Empire" is a digital film, through and through. Not because Lynch shot it with the relatively small Sony PD-150 digicam and fell in love with the smeary, malleable and unstable texture of digital video (where the brightest Los Angeles sunlight can be as void and terrifying as the darkest shadow), or because the first pieces of the movie were digital shorts he made for his Web site before they grew and crystallized into a narrative idea. "Inland Empire" unfolds in a digital world (a replication of consciousness itself -- hence the title), where events really do transpire in multiple locations at the same time (or multiple times at the same place), observers are anywhere and everywhere at once, and realities are endlessly duplicable, repeatable and tweakable. This is a digital dimension where, to paraphrase Jean-Luc Godard, there's no difference between ketchup and paint and light and blood: On the screen, it's red.

"Inland Empire" presents itself as a Hollywood movie (and a movie about Hollywood) in the guise of an avant-garde mega-meta art movie. When people say "Inland Empire" is Lynch's "Sunset Boulevard," Lynch's "Persona," or Lynch's "8½," they're quite right, but it also explicitly invokes connections to Stanley Kubrick's "The Shining," Jean-Luc Godard's "Pierrot le Fou," Bunuel and Dali's "Un Chien Andalou," Maya Deren's LA-experimental "Meshes of the Afternoon" (a Lynch favorite), and others.

Of course, it's also a tour-de-Lynch, in which we virtually revisit spaces and images and faces (Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Grace Zabriskie, Harry Dean Stanton ... ) that resonate with memories of "Eraserhead," "Blue Velvet," "Twin Peaks," "Wild at Heart," "Lost Highway," "Mulholland Drive," "Inland Empire" itself -- and some perpetually unfinished Lynch movie of the future. Because, in the Inland Empire, nobody can quite remember if it's today or two days from now, because yesterday and the day after tomorrow are all transpiring in the present tense. Or, as one character puts it so memorably, "I suppose if it was 9:45, I would think it is after midnight."

Rest of review at RogerEbert.com

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