Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Twin Peaks: Pilot (1990)

WHO: David Lynch co-wrote and directed this pilot for his landmark television series.

WHAT: "Twin Peaks" must be the American network-produced television series most likely to be cited in a conversation with a hardcore cinephile or on a list by a serious film critic. Somehow giving us a first glimpse that the 1990s were to be both moodier and more absurd than the previous decade had been, it was a huge pop cultural sensation in its day, at least until its central mystery "Who Killed Laura Palmer?" was forced to be answered. I've long wondered if this was simply because the top brass at ABC was swept up in the national desire to learn what Lynch and co-writer Mark Frost had in mind, like any other fans of the show, losing sight of how important the unanswering of this question was to the show's narrative power.

I actually enjoyed the whole series when I last took a look at it over ten years ago, but there's no question in my mind that the strongest two hours of the show, and arguably two of the artistically strongest hours of television ever broadcast over U.S. airwaves, are the original pilot episode. Unlike its successor episodes, it was shot on location in Washington State and was prepared to be released as a theatrical feature in case the show was not picked up by the network. I imagine its themes of small-town morality and the duality of celebrity (Laura Palmer was the town Homecoming Queen, after all) must play as powerfully as ever in the socially-mediated age we find ourselves in today.

WHERE/WHEN: Tonight only at the Cinecave at 8:00.

WHY: Though I am a committed cinemagoer, I'm not one to avoid video stores. In fact I find them invaluable, especially when I'm in the midst of a research project involving films not already in my own DVD collection. I don't know how it would be possible to replace the value of the combined power of Le Video on 9th Avenue and Lost Weekend Video on Valencia Street; the former has a larger collection and the latter is more convenient to my usual routes (and has some titles Le Video doesn't carry). I was very pleased to hear New York City film programmer Miriam Bale give Lost Weekend a lovely shout-out as a formative influence in a recent podcast hosted by Peter Labuza. The browseable and personal-touch nature of an independent video store will never be replaced by streaming and downloading movies, and I hope these two institutions survive far into the future.

There is now a way to support Lost Weekend and be a cinemagoer at the same time: they have installed a communal screening space in their basement. Called the Cinecave, the venue plays host to screenings of rare VHS & DVDs, to live comedy and other performance, and to whatever else might be of interest to members of the Cinecave club. (Membership is free and automatic for any Lost Weekend Video patrons).

Starting tonight, the Cinecave is hosting screenings of "Twin Peaks" episodes every Tuesday into the foreseeable future. This is at least the second go-round of showing the series in the venue since it opened almost a year ago; last time I'm told there was pie offered at some (or perhaps all) of the showings. If you've never seen "Twin Peaks" this is a perfect opportunity to catch up on a major part of the David Lynch filmography. If you've seen it so many times you can't count them, and are looking for a fresh new way to do so, how about among a audience in the basement of a video store?

Note that on June 13 & 15 at the Camera 3 in San Jose will screen Lynch's theatrical film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. But don't see that until you've seen at least half of the produced television episodes unless you're not concerned with spoiling their surprises.

HOW: It will screen with the first episode of the series, as some sort of video presentation; I asked a Lost Weekend clerk whether it would be shown on DVD or another video format, and she was unsure.

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