Skip to main content

There is a time, when Jupiter and Saturn meet... they will receive you.

Twin Peaks
2.20: The Path to the Black Lodge

Stephen Gyllenhaal, mostly a TV guy, with the occasional film credit, directs another Peyton and Engels offering, and it’s one of the most satisfying of the second half of Season Two. A lot of that is down to it being Windom Earle’s best showing since Diane Keaton guest-directed.


There are other elements, non-Black Lodge related, of course. Andy informs us that Styrofoam never breaks down, Doc Hayward pleads with Ben to let it lie (“There’s nothing good about ruined lives”), who asks Audrey to enter Miss Twin Peaks, who pursues Billy Zane (he’s a cool dude), whose partner has been murdered and is off in his private jet. Audrey persuades him to deflower her and generally bump uglies. I have to admit to being unimpressed with the way in which she presses Pete into her service as chauffeur (“You!” she demands; he has a name, you know – Pete Someoneorother). Catherine and Andrew are still trying to open the box, while the dearly departed Gordon Cole has opened Bobby’s eyes to his neglect of Shelly.


Annie: What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning.

Coop and Annie are going from strength-to-strength, noting (again) “We’re very much alike” and quoting Heisenberg to each other. Fortunately, lest things get unbearably cute, the Giant is on hand to wave a warning “No” at the prospect of Annie entering Miss Twin Peaks, when the mayor’s mike gives out.


Such weirdness is appealingly laced throughout the episode. Gyllenhaal gives a very Lynchian slow-motion close up of dripping gravy when some plates are smashed in the diner. Then there are the four incidents of hand tremors; a patron of the diner, Coop, and Pete all experience this (and Ben at very least experiences the accompanying sound effect). Commendably unexplained, it is most easily construed as a portent of the return of Bob through Earle’s opening of the Black Lodge. Accordingly, he his hand strains through into Twin Peaks reality in the last scene, and we see a reflection of the Red Room through the portal in Glastonbury Grove.


Special Agent Cooper: Windom Earle’s playing off the board.

Like most of the best episodes, there’s a wealth of (actually) funny business mixed in with the weirdness. Moving the human pawn from its perch on the porch entails much problematic manoeuvring, accompanied by a silver-suited men (it reminded me a little of hazmat guys in Repo Man). Andy, as usual, bursts into tears over the untimely demise. We learn that Windom Earle is no longer playing by the rules of the game (he “took another pawn but didn’t tell us his move”) and Coop consequently puts the trio of gals under close watch.


Special Agent Cooper: He’s been after something else all along – the Black Lodge.

Crucially, after his chat with Major Briggs (who shows them archive footage of a babbling Earle), Coop realises he has miscalculated his nemesis’ attentions. Earle isn’t focussed on vengeance on Coop; he wants to find the Black Lodge. Briggs informs us that “Earle was the best and the brightest among us” but after shifting his attention from UFOs to the woods he became “overzealous, secretive, possessive, violent”.


There is also much talk of dugpas. Coop sends (very bit player) Kevin to find out more. Fortunately we have Earle to inform us the necessary more about these “ancient sorcerers bent on evil” Well, not that much. They’re “Another fine bunch of zanies, I can tell you”. This appears to be picking up on the show’s masonic interests again (training with dugpas suggested as the last step for a mason before becoming fully illuminated).


Windom Earle: Hello, Wilbur!

To the end of locating the Lodge, Earle abducts Major Briggs. In a classic slice of Peakslunacy (possibly too broad for the tastes of some, but I was fully on board), Briggs is wandering the woods when he comes across a pantomime horse (the most memorable TV appearance by one this side of Rentaghost). Earle, at the front, greets the major enthusiastically (“Long time no see, Briggsy”) before shooting him with a tranquiliser dart.


Windom Earle: What do you fear the most?
Major Briggs: The possibility that love is not enough.
Windom Earle: Oh God, I shall weep.

Back at his shack, Earle uses the major as a dartboard and, having unsuccessfully interrogated him, shoots him full of haliperidol. The interaction between Don S Davis and Kenneth Welsh is a delight, and the playful-yet-sinister tone is perfectly pitched (“What is the capital of North Carolina?”: “Raleigh”). Earle elicits enough information from Briggs (“There is a time, when Jupiter and Saturn meet... they will receive you”) to discern that the petroglyph is a clock that tells the time, and that it is an invitation and a map to the Black Lodge; the missing information he needs. The last scene, with Leo screaming and Briggs staring, has a suitably unsettling and hysterical tone.


Windom Earle: Leo, stop dawdling. If you were outside you’d have trouble with pigeons.

But mostly, the Earle material is a lot of fun: the panto villain with his panto horse and his bumbling sidekick. From Windom dismissing Coop’s efforts (“You know Leo, the only thing Columbus discovered is that he was lost”) to his dismissal of Leo’s smarts (“Leo, it looks like you’ve finally found your calling” he comments of Leo’s role as a horse’s arse), Earle’s is deliciously cruel. Welsh and DaRae are a great double act (“Catch!” he instructs Leo before not throwing him an arrow).


Windom Earle: Oh, poor Leo. We’re all love’s fools, more or less. But you will learn as I have, the value of hate.

The best of this is dim Leo’s hilarious assumption that having procured the electro-shock buzzer he now wields power over Earle. He proceeds to point it at Windom, and each time he presses it convulses with shock. Welsh’s laughter is highly infectious (“No Leo, I’m begging you!”)


So this is good stuff, the kind of standard the series should have been meeting throughout it’s sophomore outing. It’s a shame it had to come right at the tail end.














Comments

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

What ho, Brinkley. So, do you think we’re going to get along, what?

Jeeves and Wooster 2.4: Jeeves in the Country  (aka Chuffy)
The plundering of Thank You, Jeeves elicits two more of the series’ best episodes, the first of which finds Bertie retiring to the country with a new valet, the insolent, incompetent and inebriate Brinkley (a wonderfully sour, sullen performance from Fred Evans, who would receive an encore in the final season), owing to Jeeves being forced to resign over his master’s refusal to give up the trumpet (“not an instrument for a gentleman”; in the book, it’s a banjulele).

Chuffnall Hall is the setting (filmed at Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire), although the best of the action takes place around Bertie’s digs in Chuffnall Regis (Clovelly, Devon), which old pal Reginald “Chuffy” Chuffnell (Marmaduke Lord Chuffnell) has obligingly rented him, much to the grievance of the villagers, who have to endure his trumpeting disrupting the beatific beach (it’s a lovely spot, one of the most evocative in the series).

Jeeves is snapped up into the e…

Exit bear, pursued by an actor.

Paddington 2 (2017)
(SPOILERS) Paddington 2 is every bit as upbeat and well-meaning as its predecessor. It also has more money thrown at it, a much better villain (an infinitely better villain) and, in terms of plotting, is more developed, offering greater variety and a more satisfying structure. Additionally, crucially, it succeeds in offering continued emotional heft and heart to the Peruvian bear’s further adventures. It isn’t, however, quite as funny.

Even suggesting such a thing sounds curmudgeonly, given the universal applause greeting the movie, but I say that having revisited the original a couple of days prior and found myself enjoying it even more than on first viewing. Writer-director Paul King and co-writer Simon Farnaby introduce a highly impressive array of set-ups with huge potential to milk their absurdity to comic ends, but don’t so much squander as frequently leave them undertapped.

Paddington’s succession of odd jobs don’t quite escalate as uproariously as they migh…

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…

Don't give me any of that intelligent life crap, just give me something I can blow up.

Dark Star (1974)
(SPOILERS) Is Dark Star more a John Carpenter film or more a Dan O’Bannon one? Until the mid ‘80s it might have seemed atypical of either of them, since they had both subsequently eschewed comedy in favour of horror (or thriller). And then they made Big Trouble in Little China and Return of the Living Dead respectively, and you’d have been none-the-wiser again. I think it’s probably fair to suggest it was a more personal film to O’Bannon, who took its commercial failure harder, and Carpenter certainly didn’t relish the tension their creative collaboration brought (“a duel of control” as he put it), as he elected not to work with his co-writer/ actor/ editor/ production designer/ special effects supervisor again. Which is a shame, as, while no one is ever going to label Dark Star a masterpiece, their meeting of minds resulted in one of the decade’s most enduring cult classics, and for all that they may have dismissed it/ seen only its negatives since, one of the best mo…

Ruination to all men!

The Avengers 24: How to Succeed…. At Murder
On the one hand, this episode has a distinctly reactionary whiff about it, pricking the bubble of the feminist movement, with Steed putting a female assassin over his knee and tickling her into submission. On the other, it has Steed putting a female assassin over his knee and tickling her into submission. How to Succeed… At Murder (a title play on How to Succeed at Business Without Really Trying, perhaps) is often very funny, even if you’re more than a little aware of the “wacky” formula that has been steadily honed over the course of the fourth season.

You just keep on drilling, sir, and we'll keep on killing.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016)
(SPOILERS) The drubbing Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk received really wasn’t unfair. I can’t even offer it the “brave experiment” consolation on the basis of its use of a different frame rate – not evident in itself on 24fps Blu ray, but the neutering effect of the actual compositions is, and quite tellingly in places – since the material itself is so lacking. It’s yet another misguided (to be generous to its motives) War on Terror movie, and one that manages to be both formulaic and at times fatuous in its presentation.

The irony is that Ang Lee, who wanted Billy Lynn to feel immersive and realistic, has made a movie where nothing seems real. Jean-Christophe Castelli’s adaptation of Ben Fountain’s novel is careful to tread heavily on every war movie cliché it can muster – and Vietnam War movie cliché at that – as it follows Billy Lynn (British actor Joe Alwyn) and his unit (“Bravo Squad”) on a media blitz celebrating their heroism in 2004 Iraq …

The wolves are running. Perhaps you would do something to stop their bite?

The Box of Delights (1984)
If you were at a formative age when it was first broadcast, a festive viewing of The Box of Delightsmay well have become an annual ritual. The BBC adaptation of John Masefield’s 1935 novel is perhaps the ultimate cosy yuletide treat. On a TV screen, at any rate. To an extent, this is exactly the kind of unashamedly middle class-orientated bread-and-butter period production the corporation now thinks twice about; ever so posh kids having jolly adventures in a nostalgic netherworld of Interwar Britannia. Fortunately, there’s more to it than that. There is something genuinely evocative about Box’s mythic landscape, a place where dream and reality and time and place are unfixed and where Christmas is guaranteed a blanket of thick snow. Key to this is the atmosphere instilled by director Renny Rye. Most BBC fantasy fare doe not age well but The Box of Delights is blessed with a sinister-yet-familiar charm, such that even the creakier production decisions may be vie…

In a few moments, you will have an experience that will seem completely real. It will be the result of your subconscious fears transformed into your conscious awareness.

Brainstorm (1983)
(SPOILERS) Might Brainstorm have been the next big thing – a ground-breaking, game-changing cinematic spectacle that had as far reaching consequences as Star Wars (special effects) or Avatar (3D) – if only Douglas Trumbull had been allowed to persevere with his patented “Showscan” process (70mm film photographed and projected at 60 frames per second)? I suspect not; one only has to look at the not-so-far-removed experiment of Ang Lee with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and how that went down like a bag of cold sick, to doubt that any innovation will necessarily catch on (although Trumbull at least had a narrative hinge on which to turn his “more real than real” imagery, whereas Lee’s pretty much boiled down to “because it was there”). Brainstorm’s story is, though, like its title, possibly too cerebral, too much concerned with the consciousness and touting too little of the cloyingly affirmative that Bruce Rubin inevitably brings to his screenplays. That doesn’t mea…

You keep a horse in the basement?

The ‘Burbs (1989)
(SPOILERS) The ‘Burbs is Joe Dante’s masterpiece. Or at least, his masterpiece that isn’t his bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you masterpiece Gremlins 2: The New Batch, or his high profile masterpiece Gremlins. Unlike those two, the latter of which bolted out of the gate and took audiences by surprise with it’s black wit subverting the expected Spielberg melange, and the first which was roundly shunned by viewers and critics for being absolutely nothing like the first and waving that fact gleefully under their noses, The ‘Burbs took a while to gain its foothold in the Dante pantheon. 

It came out at a time when there had been a good few movies (not least Dante’s) taking a poke at small town Americana, and it was a Tom Hanks movie when Hanks was still a broad strokes comedy guy (Big had just made him big, Turner and Hooch was a few months away; you know you’ve really made it when you co-star with a pooch). It’s true to say that some, as with say The Big Lebowski, “got it” on fi…