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Astonishing Twin Peaks confuses all but true fans

Written by David Lynch and Robert Engels.
Directed by David Lynch.
Starring Sheryl Lee, Moira Kelly,
Ray Wise, and Kyle MacLachlan.
Now playing at Loews Janus.

By Deborah A. Levinson
Contributing Editor

Fire Walk With Me reminded me what a sick, sick man David Lynch is. Who else could look at a quaint, pretty town in Washington state and see not the potential for beauty, but the potential for evil, decadence, and mayhem?

When ABC canceled Twin Peaks, Lynch was forced to wrap up two seasons' worth of complicated questions in one two-hour episode. The result -- an improbable ending and a muddy pool of mysticism -- created more questions than it answered, and so Lynch turned to film to placate his loyal fans. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me does clear things up a bit, but not enough. You have to wonder, given the obviously twisted nature of Lynch's thoughts, if anyone else but he knows what's going on.

Twin Peaks is an astonishing movie in terms of visuals, characterization, and plot. Its fatal flaw is that despite the astonishing visuals, characterization, and plot, it will be utterly incomprehensible to anyone who has not seen at least 75 percent of the television series.

The film opens in the aftermath of the murder of Teresa Banks, one year before Laura Palmer's death. Two FBI agents, Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak) and Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland), head to Deer Meadow, Wash., to investigate. There they discover a series of strange clues -- a missing ring, a missing trailer, and the letter "T" lodged under the body's left ring fingernail. The film then cuts to Philadelphia, where Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is explaining a dream he has had to his boss, Gordon Cole (David Lynch) and fellow agent Albert Rosenfeld (Miguel Ferrer). The dream involves the murder of a beautiful, blond, sexually active high-school girl -- "half the high-school girls in America," as Albert says -- but Cooper insists that the dream will come true.

Now cut to one year later in Twin Peaks, where the beautiful, blond, sexually active high-school girl Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee) is leading a clandestine, dissolute life of prostitution and drug abuse. Tormented by rapist and all-around horror Bob (Frank Silva), Laura is slowly falling apart. Her life teems with the supernatural, from a picture that opens the gateway to a dream to the aforementioned missing ring that suddenly turns up in her hand.

Since Laura only appeared in other characters' flashbacks on the television series, "Twin Peaks" never gave much of an idea of her personality. However, she is the film's primary character, and Lynch and Lee give us a full picture of Laura's schizophrenic life. She is more than just the homecoming queen rebelling against society's constraints; she is a cocaine addict, accomplice to murder, prostitute, and incest victim. Ultimately, one feels sorry for Laura, and obviously Lynch does, too, since an angel appears to absolve her in a final scene as hokey as the one in Blue Velvet.

Though having watched "Twin Peaks" is not a requirement to understand Laura's pain, it is a requirement to understand anything else about the film. I have seen every episode, and I still had to rely on other fans to remind me of the role David Bowie's character plays in the tangled "Twin Peaks" web. Only devoted series watchers will remember that Mrs. Tremond and her eerie, magician grandson were neighbors to Howard Smith, the keeper of Laura's diary, or that the dead body that mysteriously appears in Laura's bed (and talks to her) is Annie Blackburn, Dale Cooper's girlfriend, who may lie trapped or murdered in the dreaded Black Lodge. Confused yet? Don't worry, you will be, right after the early scene where Gordon Cole uses a dancer to discuss the investigation into Teresa Banks' death -- in pantomime.

If you enjoyed the television series, by all means, grab a cup of coffee and a slice of cherry pie, and settle down for the two and a quarter hours that is Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. If you don't know what the dancing dwarf, One-Eyed Jack's, or Ronette Pulaski have to do with the story, just remember before you pay $6.75: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is beautiful to watch, and the plot is riveting, but only the true David Lynch fan will find something to enjoy.