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UNDER THE RADAR – Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and The Mothman Prophecies

August 14, 2012

Little film gems which escaped wide attention and perhaps yours too.

by greg moss

Under The Radar is a semi-regular post in which I bring to light little-seen films, which got lost in the crowd due to lousy distribution or were misunderstood at the time of their release, but which deserve to be seen for one reason or another.

First up this week …


Directed by David Lynch. Written by David Lynch and Robert Engels. Starring Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, Moira Kelly, Dana Ashbrook and Kyle MacLachlan.

Homecoming queen Laura Palmer’s secret life of drugs, hallucination and prostitution spirals out of control, exposing a terrible family secret.

Why it’s worth seeing:

Figured it was time I feature something from David Lynch. It was a toss-up between this and The Straight Story (which I may yet cover in a future post). And no, I won’t be featuring Dune any time soon as so much has been said about it already. But having said that, if a fully-restored, Lynch-sanctioned version of his original extended cut of Dune were to suddenly surface – then I might be so inclined.

Despite the baggage Fire Walk With Me was forced to carry (being the spin-off of       a highly-successful critically-acclaimed TV series) this film stands capably on its own. In other words, you don’t need to have prior knowledge of the TV series in order to understand the events of the film. Actually, it would be an entirely different experience to see FWWM this way, but it wouldn’t lessen the impact, as the true concerns of this film don’t lie in merely tying up loose ends.

No – there is a something else going on here.

Some time after the infamous preview at Cannes, where the film received a hostile drubbing from critics, Lynch received a letter from a young woman who had seen the film, thanking him for articulating a terrible trauma which she had (like Laura Palmer) experienced as a child.

Needless to say, Lynch was extremely humbled by this.

In exposing what lays at the heart of Laura Palmer’s torment, the filmmaker is dealing with some very sensitive issues here. And make no mistake, despite some flashes of Lynch’s trademark surrealist humor in the first act, this is a very dark film – a descent into the abyss.

But it is not without hope.

In the film’s final moments, when Laura is finally released from her torment, it is     the happiest we’ve ever seen her – ever. And it’s not difficult to feel her joy, and     yet at the same time, we feel an immense sadness at the loss of another beautiful,     if damaged soul.

Undoubtedly this film belongs to Sheryl Lee. Seemingly without effort, she convincingly conveys Laura’s world-weary acceptance of her fate.

The film is not without its share of Lynchian weirdness and I’m beginning to suspect there is a possible connection (apart from the obvious) between FWWM and Inland Empire and perhaps even Eraserhead – as these are all stories which seem to deal with parallel worlds which are just as real as this one and (at times) converge on     this reality. Hell, maybe I’m completely wrong – and there is no actual ‘Lynchian Mythos’. But I guess this is one of the joys of art –  as it can act as a spark to ignite the idea of ‘a possibility’ in the person who is experiencing it.

And having seen Polanski’s Repulsion and Frankenheimer’s Seconds just recently, it’s interesting to speculate how much influence these particular films may have had (if any) – on not only Lynch, but others of his generation.

As with all of Lynch’s features, the filmmaker’s customarily ominous sound design creates an unrelenting sense of dread. And his use of music is evocative as always. Particularly effective is the throbbing, dirgy swamp-rock piece (which Lynch wrote himself) known asThe Pink Room which dominates the notorious night club scene.

Perhaps David Lynch’s most reviled and misunderstood feature, Fire Walk With Me just also happens to be one of his most powerful and affecting.

Highly recommended.

Next up …


Directed by Mark Pellington (writer-director – Arlington Road). Screenplay by Richard Hatem, based upon the book by John A. Keel. It stars Richard Gere, Laura Linney, Will Patton, Debra Messing and Alan Bates.

Grieving Washington Post reporter, John Klein, begins to question his sanity when he becomes convinced a terrible catastrophe will befall a small sleepy riverside community.

Why it’s worth seeing:

The Mothman Prophecies is perhaps the best X-Files film never made. And no, I’m not suggesting it was ever meant to be part of the X-Files canon, but it certainly has the same ‘feel’ as that iconic series ie: creepy atmosphere, smart writing, all done completely straight.

Inspired by real events which occured in a small West Virginian town in 1967, where sightings of a half man half moth creature heralded a major disaster, this stylish supernatural mystery-thriller is unsettling in tone from the very first frame,  and director Mark Pellington sustains a sense of unease and dread right up to the extremely well-staged catastrophe which ends the film.

Richard Gere gives a fine performance, ably supported by Laura Linney and Will Patton and Fred Murphy’s beautiful cinematography lends the film a classy sheen not usually seen in genre films of this sort.

Highly recommended.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes right-brained people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies.

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