GLIMPSES OF THE MYSTERY
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In traditions as diverse as Hinduism, Neoplatonism, and Christianity, truth, goodness, and beauty have been taken to represent the deepest desires of humankind--desires so deep that their objects are said to transcend--to rise above or swing beyond-- everything else that exists and to hold all existing things in their places. To pursue truth, humankind has logic. To pursue goodness, humankind has ethics. And to pursue beauty, humankind has aesthetics--the arts. In a serendipitous twist of fate for those of us beauty addicts who struggle with logic and ethics, these traditions have also maintained that truth, goodness, and beauty are "ontologically one," as the philosophers say--that is, these "transcendentals" have their being in and through one another such that when even one is present, so are they all.
In this spirit, I've always thought of beauty as a trapdoor into truth and goodness. And for me, the artistic work of David Lynch has been a place to dwell in deep beauty and so to receive strong doses of truth and goodness by osmosis, without the exertions associated with the hard thinking of logic and hard striving of ethics (not that these aren't also directly accessible in his work, but that's another post). My aim in this post is to observe, appreciate, and share with all of you the deep beauty on offer in the first fifteen minutes of Part Three of Twin Peaks: The Return.
Lynch has always been a painterly film-maker. In fact, he describes his very first film--Six Men Getting Sick (Six Times)--as a "moving painting" and discusses the process by which the work came to him as one of imagining paintings coming to life. In reviewing Part Three of the new Twin Peaks in preparation to write an entry for my Episode Guide, I was near to overwhelmed by how much beauty Lynch managed to pack into just fifteen minutes of television. As the filmic flux rushed past and I paused it so as to mark the time-indices, I began to feel as if I had entered an exhibition of paintings--an effect amplified by the fact that my 4K HDTV does not show atomizing pixels, but rather blurs, smears, and layers lines and colors that cannot be sharply rendered.
All progress on the episode guide ceased as I tunneled into these astonishingly beautiful still images, realizing that each and every one of them--and many, many more I couldn't capture--is a world of beauty unto itself. As you peruse these nineteen images, which collectively tell the story of the first 15 minutes of Part Three in order of the their appearance in the show, consider the composition, the color palate, the saturation of each still, as well as the astonishing juxtapositions that they create between and among one another. Consider, too, that they were taken from a paused cable feed on a pitiable iPhone camera in the otherwise pitch dark of my basement--in other words, they are poor copies of a poor copy reproduced in aesthetically deplorable conditions on crap equipment. When a simulacrum of a simulacrum can still be the conduit of a beauty that makes one weep, that is really, really something. These fifteen minutes are by far the most beautiful television I have ever seen, and thus some of the most truthful and good television, too.
This compelling video from Bruno Enrique Batista Teixeira might make you a believer! The video expertly juxtaposes outtakes from the new series with voiceover passages from Frost's The Secret History of Twin Peaks to create a tantalizing if all too brief portrait of the horrors that await inside the glass box. As ever, the Twin Peaks universe richly rewards those with the vision and the gumption to read across the narrative's filmic and textual boundaries toward a fusion of its visual and intellectual interpretive horizons. In any case, this video is a harbinger of great things to come for those of us who enjoy the hermeneutic balancing act of moving back and forth between film and text, discovering, for instance, the hidden riches in Fire Walk With Me revealed by The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, or relishing the much more intimate relationship with the inimitable Special Agent Dale Cooper that emerges from having digested "Diane...": The Twin Peaks Tapes of Dale Cooper. To be sure, Twin Peaks is wonderful and strange all by its damn self, but if you're ready for the deep end of this fathomless pool, put on your reading glasses. And if you're ready for a ludicrously absurd mixed metaphor, re-read that last sentence.
Well, this DIY ace of spades is terrifying! Poor Darya! If I had my druthers, this black hole into unimaginable horrors would not be my first choice image to ponder just before drawing my last breath. Truth be told, it wouldn't be my first choice image to ponder before pouring myself another All Day IPA. It is evocative of absolutely nothing good. I feel the need to declaw it a bit. I therefore propose two strategies:
STRATEGY #1: NEUTRALIZE THROUGH COMPARISON TO STILL MORE TERRIFYING PROSPECTS
When David Lynch gets to thinking about scary faces, this business is actually pretty tame. For instance, consider the following soul-eviscerating prospects from shows such as The Air Is On Fire and The Unified Field.
How'd you like to turn up "Smiling Jack" in a friendly game of five card stud?:
Or maybe face one of the dreaded "Distorted Nudes" as the queen of diamonds:
"Head Talking About Billy" looks like a good candidate for the #2 of clubs [Ed: And is ESPECIALLY TERRIFYING in the wake of Part Eight. "Experimental", to say the least.]
And Jokers are WILD with good ol' "Person On TV":
The point is that it could always be worse. Sure, the "Alien Ace" (as I like to think of it) is quarter-to-sinister, but at least it isn't rapid-descent-into-madness-forty-five, as some of these others clearly are. If strategy #1 feels like cold comfort, though, never fear...
STRATEGY #2: RENDER INNOCUOUS VIA JUXTAPOSITION TO LESS THREATENING FARE
Make that shit into a bulldog.
Plunk it atop some mediocre fantasy art.
Children's book that ass.
Or use it to shill some execrable pizza.
Join me in refusing to lose sleep over this!
One of my favorite moments in the series so far is the spine-tingling shot of the shocked, coal-faced man in black occupying the third cell of Buckhorn Jail two doors down from poor Bill Hastings. The camera lingers on him just long enough to terrify us before the figure dissipates into nothing--nothing, that is, but the figure's spectral head, which then floats off into the ether, assuring that none of us will ever get a good night's rest again. This image has puzzled me more than just about any other (with the notable exception of the "Alien Ace" that Mr. C. shows to Daria just before he kills her, but I'll get to that later), because I couldn't locate a precedent for it anywhere in the series.
As I pondered who this could be, the hat suddenly stood out; I thought to myself, "He looks vaguely like he's wearing a mountain man get-up, sort of a Daniel Boonish sort of thing." No sooner had that thought crossed my mind than I remembered all the Lewis and Clark stuff at the beginning of Frost's The Secret History of Twin Peaks. That led to an excited Startpage search of "Lewis and Clark", which brought up a bunch of photos of clean-shaven 19th-century-ish men, necessitating a much dicier search of "Bearded Lewis and Clark", which brought up--among many other treats--the following shot of some guy who played Lewis (maybe Clark?) in Manifest Destiny: The Lewis and Clark Musical Adventure.
"Bingo!," I thought, reaching for my trusty Photoshop Mix app in order to create the following piece of compelling forensic evidence...
Hot on the heels of this groundbreaking work of investigative journalism, it occurred to me that there must be some connection between South Dakota and Lewis and Clark, so back to Startpage. In nanoseconds, what to my wondering eyes should appear but a hit for the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area in...where's that you say?...NONE OTHER THAN YANKTON, SOUTH DAKOTA where our man Ray is allegedly doing time in the big house for weapon smuggling. Coincidence? I doubt it! Something tells me headless specter Lewis has some unfinished business in Yankton. What do you think?