Skip to main content

This is, excuse me, a damn fine cup of coffee.

Twin Peaks
1.2: Traces to Nowhere

Lynch passes the baton to Duwayne Dunham for the first regular episode (I should point out, I'm using the unofficial episode titles as a means of identification, although I don't necessarily think they're up to much)  a director with little else of note on his CV, aside from a remake of The Incredible Journey. The transition is seamless, however, perhaps because Jimmy Stewart from Mars and Frost co-scripted both this and the next instalment. In terms of the elusive murder mystery, they take time to set up a selection of suspects, just as they knock several off the list. They also establish the irresistible bond between Coop and Audrey and, most importantly, riff on coffee and donuts.


This is right up to the standard of the pilot, and at is centre is the magnificent Coop, calling the shots and exuding quirkiness from every pore. We first see him hanging upside down wearing a curious metal shoe support contraption, talking to Diane. From there on in he’s running rings round everyone, and poor Harry can’t keep up (“I’m beginning to feel like Dr Watson”). He eliminates James from his enquiries, having previously also concluded Bobby isn’t the perpetrator. He instantly clocks that Harry is seeing Josie (“Body language”), and only comes unstuck when faced with someone more idiosyncratic than he is.  Asked to ask the Log Lady’s log what it saw on the night of Laura’s murder, he comes up short (“I thought so” she concludes dismissively of the agent’s reluctance).


Agent Cooper: This is, excuse me, a damn fine cup of coffee.

Coop’s enthusiasm for foodstuffs and his favourite beverage is also in strong supply. His partiality to coffee presents itself (preference, “Black as midnight on a moonless night”), and he is poured both one of his best and one of his worst cups ever (“There was a fish – in the percolator!” apologises Pete). He also waxes lyrical to Albert (as yet unseen, on the phone); “They got a cherry pie here that’ll kill you” and orders three (at least) pieces from Norma.


Cooper: And I’ll have the grapefruit juice. Just as long as those grapefruits are… (sees Audrey) freshly squeezed.

Coop’s encounter with Audrey, the attraction of a 30-something man to a schoolgirl, is presented as something of a reversal, initially at least. It’s Audrey who sees Coop at breakfast, so it’s her rapture that informs the scene. Cooper’s first sighting, and the accompanying dialogue, is worthy of a Carry On film. And throughout the scene she is abundantly pulchritudinous (“You know, sometimes I get so flushed, it’s interesting”) and breathlessly odd (“Do your palms ever itch?”)


Agent Cooper: Diane, it struck me again earlier this morning. There are two things that continue to trouble me, and I’m speaking not only as an agent of the Bureau, but also as a human being. What really went on between Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys? And who really pulled the trigger on JFK?

Best of all, Cooper endears himself to the conspiracist in us all, getting the jump on Oliver Stone and Spooky Mulder as a truth seeker. Like Mulder, he is an anomaly within the establishment, one looking for answers.


Lynch and Frost continue to cascade red herrings atop their willing audience. There’s lunatic Leo, fond of the old soap in a sock as a method wife beating, and his bloody shirt. He’s mixed up in drugs, selling to Bobby (the drugs connect him to coke-fiend Laura). We learn that Ronette Pulaski worked in Horne’s Department Store, which points fingers in Benjamin’s direction, although the latter appears preoccupied with servicing Catherine and plotting Josie’s downfall. Jacques Renault’s name also crops up (Ed thinks Jacques drugged him).


Then there’s the final scene, at Dr Jacobi’s hilarious Hawaiian home. He’s wearing an explosive shirt, collapses in a lounger in front of beach sunset wallpaper, and keeps a coconut containing potentially incriminating evidence. Jacobi has in his possession the other half of the heart pendant that Coop’s been looking for, which puts him in the frame. He also listens to a tape from Laura, in which her less angelic side comes through. She notes what we already realise of James (“sweet, but so dumb”). She can take just so much of sweet, and intimates at the sinister forces preying on her (“I just know I’m going to get lost in the woods again tonight. I just know it”).


The is typical of the serio-farcical melodrama of the series, with Badalamenti’s love theme treading the line between pathos and parody. Indeed, it’s a very soapy ending to the episode, emphasising, if emphasis were needed, that this isn’t a typical detective drama. This overwrought emoting is sustained elsewhere too, with Donna’s confession of her love for James to her mother (“It’s like I’m having the most beautiful dream and most terrible nightmare all at once”).


The flipside of parental concern is found with Major Briggs’ (Don S Davis, who went on to play Scully’s dad in The X-Files) making a detached attempt to empathise with his son’s rebellious behaviour. Bobby responds like the brat he is, and, in a masterful undercutting of the scene, the Major knocks a cigarette from his mouth that lands in his mother’s cake. Underscoring such tempestuous parental relations, Benjamin chews Audrey out for scaring off the Norwegians, in the harshest of rebukes (“Laura died two days ago. I lost you years ago”).


Laura manages to hold down a ludicrous number of jobs (meals on wheels, helping Josie with her English, taking care of Audrey’s brother) as well as going to school, being a cokehead, seeing various men friends, and getting lost in the woods (one of the pieces of information imparted is that she had sex with three men on the night of her murder). It adds to the near-absurd scenario conjured by Lynch and Frost (there’s yet still more jobs to be revealed).


Ed: Hey, if Nadine got wind of me and Norma, I’d be playing the harp for the Heavenly All-Stars.

On the nutty side, Nadine relates to Norma how she came up with her idea for silent drapes (while she was waiting for her husband to be released from intensive care).


There’s also the superlative donut scene, in which Coop arrives that the police station to find both Andy and Lucy with their mouths crammed with dough-based confectionary. He then walks in on Harry, also with his mouth stuffed full of donut, and proceeds to tell him his plan of action for the day. Harry can only look on speechless. At which point, Coop needs to leave the room (“Harry, I really have to urinate”).


The one-armed man, Mike resurfaces in the hospital. Bob gets his first appearance proper too, crouched in the mind’s eye of Sarah Palmer (by a bed in the living room, it seems) when Donna (who Sarah sees as Laura, complete with ropey superimposition) comes to visit. It’s not all good there’s a dull scene where James visits Donna’s for dinner, and the Bookhouse Boys are first mentioned, complete with ham-fisted secret sign. They’re an element I never liked too much, and they become a fairly tiresome device. But all in all this is a first rate Lynch oddity.


There was a fish – in the percolator!


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded The Premise George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

Nanobots aren’t just for Christmas.

No Time to Die (2021) (SPOILERS) You know a Bond movie is in trouble when it resorts to wholesale appropriation of lines and even the theme song from another in order to “boost” its emotional heft. That No Time to Die – which previewed its own title song a year and a half before its release to resoundingly underwhelmed response, Grammys aside – goes there is a damning indictment of its ability to eke out such audience investment in Daniel Craig’s final outing as James (less so as 007). As with Spectre , the first half of No Time to Die is, on the whole, more than decent Bond fare, before it once again gets bogged down in the quest for substance and depth from a character who, regardless of how dapper his gear is, resolutely resists such outfitting.

Big things have small beginnings.

Prometheus (2012) Post- Gladiator , Ridley Scott opted for an “All work and no pondering” approach to film making. The result has been the completion of as many movies since the turn of the Millennium as he directed in the previous twenty years. Now well into his seventies, he has experienced the most sustained period of success of his career.  For me, it’s also been easily the least-interesting period. All of them entirely competently made, but all displaying the machine-tooled approach that was previously more associated with his brother.

Isn’t sugar better than vinegar?

Femme Fatale (2002) (SPOILERS) Some have attempted to rescue Femme Fatale from the dumpster of critical rejection and audience indifference with the claim that it’s De Palma’s last great movie. It isn’t that by a long shot, but it might rank as the last truly unfettered display of his obsessions and sensibilities, complete with a ludicrous twist – so ludicrous, it’s either a stroke of genius or mile-long pile up.

Beer is for breakfast around here. Drink or begone.

Cocktail (1988) (SPOILERS) When Tarantino claims the 1980s (and 1950s) as the worst movie decade, I’m inclined to invite him to shut his butt down. But should he then flourish Cocktail as Exhibit A, I’d be forced to admit he has a point. Cocktail is a horrifying, malignant piece of dreck, a testament to the efficacy of persuasive star power on a blithely rapt and undiscerning audience. Not only is it morally vacuous, it’s dramatically inert. And it relies on Tom’s toothy charms to a degree that would have any sensitive soul rushed to the A&E suffering from toxic shock (Tom’s most recently displayed toothy charms will likely have even his staunchest devotees less than sure of themselves, however, as he metamorphoses into your favourite grandma). And it was a huge box office hit.

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) (SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek , but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan . That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

James Bond. You appear with the tedious inevitability of an unloved season.

Moonraker (1979) Depending upon your disposition, and quite possibly age, Moonraker is either the Bond film that finally jumped the shark or the one that is most gloriously redolent of Roger Moore’s knowing take on the character. Many Bond aficionados will no doubt utter its name with thinly disguised contempt, just as they will extol with gravity how Timothy Dalton represented a masterful return to the core values of the series. If you regard For Your Eyes Only as a refreshing return to basics after the excesses of the previous two entries, and particularly the space opera grandstanding of this one, it’s probably fair to say you don’t much like Roger Moore’s take on Bond.

It's something trying to get out.

The Owl Service (1969-70) I may have caught a glimpse of Channel 4’s repeat of  The Owl Service  in 1987, but not enough to stick in the mind. My formative experience was Alan Garner’s novel, which was read several years earlier during English lessons. Garner’s tapestry of magical-mythical storytelling had an impact, with its possession theme and blending of legend with the here and now. Garner depicts a Britain where past and present are mutable, and where there is no safety net of objective reality; life becomes a strange waking dream. His fantasy landscapes are both attractive and disturbing; the uncanny reaching out from the corners of the attic.  But I have to admit that the themes of class and discrimination went virtually unnoticed in the wake of such high weirdness. The other Garner books I read saw young protagonists transported to fantasy realms. The resonance of  The Owl Service  came from the fragmenting of the rural normal. When the author notes that he neve

These are not soda cans you asked me to get for you.

The Devil’s Own (1997) (SPOILERS) Naturally, a Hollywood movie taking the Troubles as a backdrop is sure to encounter difficulties. It’s the push-pull of wanting to make a big meaningful statement about something weighty, sobering and significant in the real world and bottling it when it comes to the messy intricacies of the same. So inevitably, the results invariably tend to the facile and trite. I’m entirely sure The Devil’s Own would have floundered even if Harrison Ford hadn’t come on board and demanded rewrites, but as it is, the finished movie packs a lot of talent to largely redundant end.