Why Does David Lynch Keep Doing This to Us?

by Bill Gibron

14 April 2015

 

It’s becoming a bit of a joke. The man hasn’t made a legitimate mainstream movie since 2001 (2006 if you count the digital experiment Inland empire) and yet he remains one of the most highly regarded and beloved auteurs in all of film. His past efforts include masterworks such as Mulholland Dr., Lost Highway, Wild at Heart, Blue Velvet, The Elephant Man, and Eraserhead, and even his lesser efforts (Dune, The Straight Story, to some extent) radiate an artistic immediacy that is hard to shake.
  
Indeed, David Lynch is a film god, but he’s equally divine in other mediums as well. He’s an amazing abstract painter, an inventive musician, an original adopter of online entertainment, and a talented TV maverick. In fact, one of his best efforts is the groundbreaking drama Twin Peaks. Radically reformatting the concept of what can and cannot work within a standard night time soap, the show continues to gain fans a quarter century after it aired its last original episode.

For most of us who followed it religiously, the end came too abruptly, without closure. Yes, the incredibly meta prequel feature film, Fire Walk With Me, posed more questions than it answered, but at least we got the follow-up to the start of the series. Since the release of that 1992 oddity, fans have wondered if we’d seen the last of Agent Dale Cooper and the gang. There were rumors about hours of cutting room floor footage, and over the course of time, we’ve been given the DVD/Blu-ray opportunity to savor such missing material.

But what about Twin Peaks the TV show? Among many of the pertinent pipe dreams devotees have had regarding the series was a strange statement made during its run. In one scene, the late Laura Palmer tells Agent Cooper that she will “see him again in 25 years”. As we watched the calendar, we wondered if, by some divine hand, 2016 would see a revival. After all, Lynch has never said “No” when it came to returning to Peaks, and with the cable/streaming landscaping breathing new life into old material, it seemed like a distant, but distinct, possibilities.

Then came the tweet that changed everything. Without the typical fanfare used to announce such momentous news, Lynch and series co-creator Mark Frost hit social media with the following message: “Dear Twitter Friends: That gum you like is going to come back in style! #damngoodcoffee.” Quickly, Showtime followed suit, stating that (a) Peaks was coming back for a limited run nine-episode special event, (b) that Lynch and Frost were handling all the scripts, and (c) perhaps most significantly, Lynch was going to direct them all.

For those who wondered if we’d long since seen the last of the filmmaker behind the lens (all weird Duran Duran concert video aside), this was amazing news. It was like Michael Jordan announcing a return to basketball, or…  like Lynch coming back to direct again. It was monumental. It was intriguing. While some suggested that the show couldn’t “compete” with today’s Game of Thrones/Walking Dead/Breaking Bad defining dramas, others were just happy that their favorite filmmaker was returning to a property he clearly loved. There were even those who argued the old “don’t count your chickens” cliche, but it was a done deal, right? No need to worry.

Actually, there was reason to be concerned and thus the opening of this piece. While the web went wild, fans frothing as former cast members tweeted their intent on returning, Showtime and Lynch had, apparently, just started into their negotiations. No one knew, but as more and more members of the Peaks personage came forward, it looked like Palmer’s prediction was coming true. Then—BAM!—Lynch dropped his bombshell. During an interview in Australia, the artist said things weren’t “set” for his return. A few days later, even as the histrionics had died down over this comments, he clarified. He was walking away from Twin Peaks. In a series of tweets, he blamed Showtime and offered up the 2015 version of “see ya”.

Immediately, industry experts argued that this was merely “negotiations in public”. Others pointed to the quick response from the fanbase, with petitions and Kickstarter campaigns, as a kind of backhanded “focus group” to gauge just how “popular” a return to Twin Peaks would be. For his part, Lynch left very little wiggle room. He said he was done, period. Showtime immediately issued a statement saying that nothing was “final” and that they were still trying to work things out.

As of this writing, nothing has been resolved. There’s a fascinating video featuring many of the original cast member lamenting what Peaks would be without Lynch. Both side remain silent. Pundits have been publishing pieces reminding fans that the show can and may go on without the fearless leader (since it did so during its heyday), and that, in the long run, it may be better to cancel the whole deal than come up with something subpar.

Except, few remember that Twin Peaks lost a lot of its momentum after the mystery of “Who killed Laura Palmer?” was solved. Except, for years now, Lynch has been doing this to the faithful. Just Google “Unproduced David Lynch Projects” and gaze in angry wonder at what never will be. Okay, so maybe the 69-year-old will one day favor us with Ronnie Rocket or Dreams of the Bovine, or one of dozens of announced efforts that never came to be, but with his current concentration on his art and Transcendental Meditation, and his distrust/disgust over the current cultural desire to experience media on one’s tablet or cell phone, we wouldn’t bet on it.

Besides, Lynch is the king of letting us down. He seems to show up every few years, makes some minor movie news, and then creeps back into his own unique world. He’s been making movies since 1977, meaning he’s only made ten titles in 38 years. He is adored worldwide, with most of his financing coming from such international sources and this isn’t his first rodeo when it comes to TV rejection. The film that many believe is the best of the ‘00s—Mulholland Dr. —was the result of ABC rejecting it as a possible pilot, with Lynch then filling in the feature film blanks for a big screen release.

Still, it’s becoming harder and harder to be a David Lynch fan. We can only rewatch his previous films so many times. We can only break out our abused Blu-rays before realizing we may never see his particular brand of magic again. As he keeps teasing us, as he hints at, maybe, perhaps, sort of, kind of returning to what he does best, he almost simultaneously pulls back, suggesting we are reading too much into his often crystal clear statements. Whatever happens with Twin Peaks, pro or con, one thing is for sure. Lynch remains one of the great directors of all time. He can also be a bit of a jerk. 

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