“Is it future or is it past?”

This was pure pleasure. If the show’s original run taught us anything, it was to enjoy the mystery, because if you’re just enduring a show for eighteen hours waiting for clever answers at the end, you’ll be deservedly disappointed. The blu-ray has already been announced, so I’m saving the thinkpieces and episode recaps and conspiracy theories for after a second viewing.

“It is in our house now.” The Tall Man appears in the first scene, and almost everyone from seasons one and two and Fire Walk, whether characters or actors are alive or dead or refused to appear in the show, will be present in some way or another. And I really need screen shots with updates for each character and situation. Lynch merges the casts of Twin Peaks and Fire Walk With Me with Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire, brings in new mood music and his own paintings as visual design, forming an Expanded Lynchian Universe. Each episode is dedicated to a different departed actor (or character) which combines with the resurrections (Don Davis, David Bowie) and final testaments (Catherine Coulson, Miguel Ferrer) of its cast, and the limbo/afterlife storylines of the Black Lodge and Laura Palmer, the aged actors and out-of-time (“what year is this?”) feel of this belated sequel give the whole thing a sense of death and mystery beyond the storyline alone.

Some people not in the original show lineup:

Dougie “Mr. Jackpots” Jones (Kyle MacLachlan) works in insurance, lives in the Las Vegas suburbs, married to Janey-E (Naomi Watts of Mulholland Drive), with son Sonny Jim (Pierce Gagnon, dangerous telekinetic kid of Looper).

The Mitchum Brothers (Jim Belushi, and Robert Knepper of Carnivale) run a casino insured by Dougie’s firm, assisted by comic-relief Candie (Amy Shiels, Luna in the Final Fantasy games). Dougie’s boss is the very patient Bushnell Mullins (Don Murray, Marilyn Monroe’s costar in Bus Stop), and his coworker/rival is sweaty Tom Sizemore, who is working as a spy for Mulholland Drive‘s Dinerbrows (Patrick Fischler) trying to frame Dougie.

New FBI agent Chrysta Bell works with Gordon Cole and Albert, along with the previously unseen Diane (Laura Dern in a wig), on the case of Bill (Matthew Lillard) who appears to have killed a woman he was having an affair with, or possibly her body was replaced with that of the late Major Briggs by interdimensional gas-station-dwelling black-faced woodsmen.

Young, serious Sam (Ben Rosenfield of Person to Person) and his girl Tracey (Madeline Zima of Californication) are paid to watch and videotape an interdimensional box, but instead they have sex, and in classic horror movie tradition, get brutally murdered for it.

Evil Cooper/Bob (Kyle MacLachlan) drives around with minions Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tim Roth and Ray (George Griffith), beginning in South Dakota.

Londoner Freddie (Jake Wardle) got turned into One Punch Man by The Giant (aka The Fireman), now works as a security guard with James Hurley, who still sings his hit song “Just You & I” at the Bang Bang Bar some nights. Fate brings Freddie to Twin Peaks to destroy Bob, which emerges from Evil Coop as an orb.

Some series regulars:

Andy and Lucy (now with son Wally Brando: Michael Cera) still work at the Twin Peaks sheriff’s office with Hawk, and now with Truman’s brother Robert Forster (with naggy wife Candy Clark of American Graffiti), Deputy Bobby Briggs, and traitor Deputy Chad (John Pirruccello of an upcoming hit-man comedy)

Log Lady Margaret speaks with Hawk on the phone from her death bed, feeding him cryptic clues. One-armed Mike appears to Coop-as-Dougie, feeding him pretty straightforward clues.

Nadine runs a silent drape shop, religiously watches the pirate TV broadcasts of Dr. Jacoby, who sells gold spray-painted shovels. Norma is franchising the diner with help of her guy Walter (Grant Goodeve of Eight is Enough, Northern Exposure), while Big Ed still pines for her.

Amanda Seyfried (daughter of Shelly) is dating psycho cokehead Caleb Landry Jones (son of Audrey Horne), who runs over a kid then tries to murder a witness living in Harry Dean Stanton’s trailer park.

Walter Olkewicz, who played the late Jacques Renault, runs the Bang Bang Bar as an identical Renault relative.

Jerry Horne is looking more like Jerry Garcia, gets lost in the woods, fights with his own foot, is finally discovered naked in Wyoming.

Bobby Briggs is a level-headed, good-hearted policeman, and the best surprise of the new series.

Laura Palmer’s mom doesn’t do well in social situations, freaks out at the convenience store, watches TV on a time-loop, her house a screaming dim red hell.

I never figured out who Judy is, where Audrey Horne was or where she ends up, who Balthazar Getty played, or various other threads which a second viewing will probably not enlighten.

Plus cameos by Ray Wise, David Duchovny, Jack Nance, and almost everyone else, living or dead (except Harry Truman and Donna) and some fifteen music acts, Ethan Suplee, John Ennis, Ernie Hudson, etc.

Other things:

an eyeless woman with a connection to Diane… Diane is Naomi Watts’s half-sister… the picture glitching back and forth like a Martin Arnold film… an obsession with numbers… digital spaces like Chris Marker videos, and effects completely unconcerned with looking realistic… the green ring from Fire Walk With Me… Lucy doesn’t understand cellphones… the best closing songs at the Bang Bang Bar… “hellllOOOooooOOOooo”… a short stabby hit man with his own theme music… a kung-fu drug dealer who does intense magic tricks… inside a 1945 atomic bomb… alien vomit… flickering lights and a giant tesla diving bell… a galaxy of firefly ghosts… beetle-moth-frog crawls out of a desert egg… “this is the water and this is the well”… references to “The Zone”… teens at the Bang Bang Bar with random teen problems and other scraps of side-character drama… Ashley Judd searches for a the source of a droning sound in Ben Horne’s lodge… a history of the FBI’s involvement with UFOs… Dougie electrocutes himself… Evil Coop gets taken out in the best possible way… the final Lynch/Frost logo noise scares the hell out of my birds… “We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream.”

Spends a lot of time setting up cool characters – overweight aspiring street rapper Patti, her 80’s metalhead mom turned karaoke queen, Patti’s co-rapper drugstore clerk Jheri, and loner weirdo electronic music wizard Basterd… then culminates in an electronic 80’s-metal rap-battle. Gotta admit the Feel-Good Sundance Sensation spirit got to me, though I do keep wondering how Basterd affords all that equipment and why it doesn’t get stolen when his doors don’t seem to lock. A New Jersey movie! Danielle Macdonald (Patti) can currently be seen in Lady Bird, her mom (actual karaoke queen Bridget Everett) is from Inside Amy Schumer and Trainwreck, and Mamoudou Athie (Basterd) played Grandmaster Flash in The Get Down.

Would like to play the soundtrack a couple times then watch this again. Editing videos to the beat of pop songs is something I do all the time, but somehow I never see it done to this extent in a Major Motion Picture – and especially not to Jon Spencer Blues Explosion songs. So this was sheer delight until the plot started catching up in the second half – it’s not the increasing darkness I mind so much as there being so much plot in the first place.

Ansel “Baby” Elgort (Divergent trilogy, fake Carrie remake) is the driver, working with crazed criminals including Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and Eiza González (From Dusk Till Dawn: the TV series) for big boss Kevin Spacey. Baby falls for Lady Rose Lily James and tries to get out of this criminal life, but they pull him back in. Buncha musicians in minor roles, some dodgy character moments, but it’s all done with such panache.

A definite step up from Knight of Cups, and it’s the first Malick I’ve been able to see in theaters since Tree of Life, so I was thrillingly overwhelmed with all the big-screen majesty. It’s also less distracted from story and character than usual – the camera sticks with our four leads instead of wandering into the woods looking for sunlight behind leaves.

Carrying on in the shoes of world-weary architect Sean Penn, brooding broken-family-man Ben Affleck, and tortured screenwriter Christian Bale, we’ve got up-and-coming musicians Ryan Gosling and Rooney Mara. They’d make a cute couple, but get caught up with wickedly charismatic, morally corrosive industry man Michael Fassbender, end up going on their own journeys around the edges of music festivals, while Fassbender latches onto innocent waitress Natalie Portman, spoils and destroys her.

It’s another universal soul-searching story, not about the music business any more than Knight of Cups was about filmmaking or To The Wonder was about environmental inspection, much to the disappointment of music bloggers who watched it at SXSW hoping for the ultimate music-festival film but getting only brief scenes of Iggy Pop and John Lydon, glimpses of Rooney Mara onstage with a guitar, and a recurring, philosophizing Patti Smith.

Sicinski didn’t love it:

Here we see Malick’s cultural conservatism once again in play, where music is a mere conduit for parsing out Manichean divisions of Good (Ryan Gosling, “creation”) and Evil (Fassbender, “the business”). Mara is presented as the Lost One, who has to go through various stages of Pensive Narration (and some awfully random lesbianism) to find her way to the Good. Her initial desire, to “live from song to song,” must be replaced by broader, more complex (narrative) thinking, a love that moves toward a telos. This is incredibly condescending; we know that Malick has a Woman Problem, and Song to Song pretty much rolls it out for all to see.

Negar and Ashkan (just out of jail) are young musicians in Iran who just wanna play some chill keyboardy indie rock. They can’t perform in their own country without government permission (impossible), but could perform outside the country with passports and visas (unlikely, but slightly more achievable). There’s a story here, as they travel Tehran gathering money and bandmates and checking on the status of their illegal passports (culminating in injury and arrest and disappointment), but the movie seems like an excuse to show off the different types of music being made in Iran, and the difficulty involved in making music (and, in the intro scene, the difficulty involved in making this film itself).

Noel Murray:

The movie comes to life whenever Hamed Behdad appears, playing a fast-talking hustler who slings bootleg DVDs and lives with his pet birds Rhett Butler, Scarlett O’Hara, and Monica Bellucci … It’s only when Behdad is onscreen that Ghobadi effectively dramatizes Persian Cats’ thorny questions: Whether it’s better to fight or flee, whether a repressive regime forces artists to consort with criminals, and whether some laxly enforced laws are only on the books to give the government an excuse to crack down on non-conformists.

This is more a collection of music videos broken up by vignettes (words by Somali poet Warsan Shire) than a feature film or any sort of documentary. After the Nick Cave movie I thought perhaps I’d watch this and Frank Ocean’s Endless, the three 2016 albums which were released as movies, but the Ocean is still a store-exclusive (for future study: Let England Shake, Centipede Hz and Beyoncé’s previous album).

Pray You Catch Me:

Hold Up:

Sorry:


But oh, what music videos – some of the best photography and movement and costume/makeup design of the year, illustrating the greatest concept album of the year.

Daddy Lessons:

Love Drought:

Forward (Michael Brown and his mother):


Cinematographers include Malik Sayeed (He Got Game, Clockers), Reed Morano (Vinyl, Kill Your Darlings) and Khalik Allah (Field Niggas), and codirectors include Kahlil Joeseph (The Reflektor Tapes) and Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go).

Formation:

Rock goddess Tilda Swinton is relaxing at a Mediterranean island paradise with boyfriend photographer Matthias Schoenaerts (Rust and Bone) when her ex, music producer Ralph Fiennes (an overpowering, charismatic performance) shows up with his newly-discovered daughter Dakota Johnson (Black Mass). Sexual and other tensions get extremely high, and the movie, which has an otherwise excellent soundtrack, tries in vain to get me to appreciate the Rolling Stones song “Emotional Rescue.”

I was disappointed when the story twists into murder-investigation territory after Matthias drowns a belligerent drunk Ralph in the pool, but this ends up justified. After initial interviews the chief investigator reveals himself to be a trembling Tilda superfan, gets her autograph and lets them all go. Tilda had previously, not at all convincingly, suggested to him that one of the immigrants flooding onto the island (many dying at sea) could have snuck onto the property, drowned Ralph, stolen nothing and run off. We didn’t realize that Tilda or her friends, in their wealthy bubble, even noticed the immigration crisis in the background noise around them – until it becomes useful to get themselves out of trouble.

Based on a story previously filmed by Jacques Deray with Alain Delon, and by Francois Ozon with Charlotte Rampling. Played in Venice with Anomalisa, Francofonia, Blood of My Blood and 11 Minutes. I finally warmed up to “Emotional Rescue” during the St. Vincent cover over the closing credits.

D. Ehrlich:

There are few better metaphors for the myopia of hedonism than a swimming pool on an island paradise surrounded by the sea … In lesser hands, this could’ve been a Woody Allen movie, but Guadagnino — always with his chef’s hat on — takes the ingredients for a sunbaked creampuff and slowly stirs them into a three-course meal. Working with regular cinematographer Yorick Le Saux, Guadagnino shoots in a sensual register where every shot feels just a hair too perfect to exist anywhere outside the movies. Snap zooms playfully focus on emotions that burst like firecrackers, rhythmic cuts throw you back on style whenever things risk becoming too realistic, and Marianne’s aviator shades reflect every character against their true intentions. Best of all, the soundtrack is wild and true, running the gamut from Harry Nilsson to Popol Vuh.

Stories don’t just lead into each other like in The Saragossa Manuscript – they melt and morph into each other, thanks to codirector Evan Johnson’s digital manipulations, which don’t replace Maddin’s usual bag of tricks, but join the choppy editing and texture fetish and everything else. Some of his early movies had somnambulist rhythms, but this one is ecstatic from start to finish.

Had to watch this a couple times before I could report in.

Second time through, I noted the order of stories:

How to Take a Bath, with Louis Negin

Submarine: Blasting Jelly and Flapjacks

Starring Negin again with Ukranian Greg Hlady, panicky Alex Bisping, Andre the Giant-reminiscent Kent McQuaid, and mysteriously-appearing woodsman Cesare (Roy Dupuis of Mesrine and Screamers).

M. Sicinski:

Like the men in the submarine, The Forbidden Room has an overall mood of anxiety and despair, in the sense that we are asked to grapple with its heady delirium of character trajectories and stunted arcs, all the while searching in vain for some absent center, the organizing “captain” who is supposed to pull it all together. In its endless ruptures and disconnections, The Forbidden Room brings us up short, placing us back in that capsule where the image is a form of confinement, a shortness of breath.

Cowardly Saplingjacks

Cesare sets out to rescue the kidnapped Margo (Clara Furey)

Cave of the Red Wolves

with lead wolf Noel Burton, bladder slapping and boggling puzzlements!

Amnesiac Singing Flowergirl

Margo again, with mysterious necklace woman Marie Brassard (sinister Jackie from Vic + Flo Saw a Bear) and patient Pancho (Victor Andres Trelles Turgeon)

The Final Derriere

with Sparks, Udo Kier (returning from Keyhole) as a man plagued by bottoms, Master Passion Geraldine Chaplin, and the Lust Specialist (Le Havre star Andre Wilms)

Red Wolves / Woodsmen / Submarine / Bath / Submarine

Quick return.

Squid Theft / Volcano Sacrifice

With Margo, squid thief Romano Orzari and Lost Generation attorney Céline Bonnier (The Far Side of the Moon)

D. Ehrlich:

The Forbidden Room may (or may not) be inventing narratives from thin air, but whatever history these abandoned projects might have had is completely supplanted by the present Maddin (and co-director Evan Johnson) invents for them. These stories belong to him now. The Forbidden Room may forego the hypnotically autobiographical thrust of recent efforts like My Winnipeg and Brand Upon the Brain!, but it feels no less personal for it.

Mill Seeks Gardener

With shed-sleeper Slimane Dazi and unpredictable runaway Jacques Nolot

Injured Motorcyclist at Bone Hospital

Caroline Dhavernas and Paul Ahmarani

Doctor kidnapped by skeleton insurance defrauders

Lewis Furey (Margo’s father IRL) as The Skull-Faced Man, and Eric Robidoux as the bone doctor’s long-lost brother who is also a bone doctor.

Psychiatrist and madman aboard train

Gregory Hlady again, Romano Orzari again, and Karine Vanasse (Polytechnique) as Florence LaBadie

Florence’s Inner Child

Sienna Mazzone as young Florence with crazy mother Kathia Rock

Parental Neglect / Madness / Murder / Amnesia

Bone Hospital / Insurance Defrauders
Mill / Criminal / Doctor
Volcanic Island / Squid Theft / Submarine / Bath

“I haven’t finished telling you: the forest… the snow… the convict… the birthday”

Woodsman Gathers New Allies

Kyle Gatehouse as Man With Upturned Face, Neil Napier as Man With Stones On His Feet and Victor Turgeon again as Listening Man – these are the same actors who played the Saplingjacks earlier, and again they don’t enter the cave with Cesare.

Margo and Aswang The Vampire

M. D’Angelo:

The Forbidden Room was shot mostly at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, piecemeal, in front of a live audience, following which Maddin and Johnson artfully distressed the digital footage and added priceless intertitles. The project took advantage of whichever actors were available to it on a given day.

Elevator Man Unprepared For Wife’s Birthday Kills His Butler

All-star segment with Mathieu Amalric, Udo Kier and Amira Casar (Anatomy of Hell, Piano Tuner of Earthquakes).

D. Ehrlich:

[Amalric] gleefully indulges in Maddin’s pure and peerlessly florid sense of melodrama, which here becomes a mechanism for foolhardy and paranoid men to ruin their lives as they attempt to rescue, love, or murder the beautiful women who didn’t ask for their help.

Dead Butler Oedipal Mustache Flashback

Maybe my favorite segment, with Maria de Medeiros (Saddest Music in the World) as the Blind Mother and more mentions of flapjacks.

Ukranian Radio War Drama

With Stranger by the Lake star Christophe Paou as the prisoner

Mustache / Return of the Dead Father

Diplomat Memoirs of Cursed Janus-Head

M. Peranson:

Together, Maddin and Johnson have crafted a formal masterwork jolted by digital after effects, recreating the look of decaying nitrate stock, shape-shifting the image with multiple superimpositions and variegated colour fields (the general look resembling decayed two-strip Technicolor), and compositing swirling transitions that connect (or bury) one film within the other (and the other, and the other). To try and describe “what happens” in The Forbidden Room is both forbidding and beside the point, for the 130-minute film stands more as an interminable, (in)completed object on its own, like the work of one of its main influences, the French poet, novelist and playwright Raymond Roussel (from whom Maddin and Johnson borrow their technique of parenthetical asides); one comes to understand this object, and what it’s trying to accomplish, only while watching it.

Peranson’s writeup is from the Toronto Film Festival, after which nine minutes got removed from the movie. Since nobody at the festivals was able to exhaustively account for all the stories within stories, it’s impossible to track down what got lost. It seems, though, that any lost footage (and more) can be seen in the Seances.

Andreas Apergis and his fiancee Sophia Desmarais (Curling)

Night Auction Doppelganger

featuring LUG-LUG, hideous impulse incarnate!

Stealing Mother’s Laudanum

Charlotte Rampling as Amalric’s Mother, Ariane Labed (Attenberg, Alps) as his girlfriend.

Maddin (in an essential Cinema Scope interview) on the film’s 2+ hour length:

We could have easily had a 75-minute version … but viewers that like it, we wanted to feel like we’d broken their brains, really left a physical impression on them, left them exhausted. Hopefully exhilarated and exhausted, in a good way. We wanted “too much” to still be insufficient … it would be nice if it came out in one endless ribbon, that, like John Ashbery’s poetry, you just snip off for a beginning and an end, and just ask the audience how much they want.

Dead Father / Elevator Birthday Murder Plot / Margo and Aswang / Woodsmen
Red Wolves are Dead, Rescue is Cancelled
Submarine / The Forbidden Room / Book of Climaxes

Bath.

Junun (2015, P.T. Anderson)

Cool music documentary with emphasis on the music – no narration or explanation, only a few titles and stories. The best story isn’t even related to the album, but a guy who feeds birds from the roof of the fort where they’re recording, and whose family has done so for countless generations.

Shot with a camcorder and a drone. Shye Ben Tzur is a singer, composer and organizer, then there are bunches of great musicians playing great instruments, then there’s Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead sitting engrossed in his guitar/laptop world. Engineer Nigel Godrich comes out regularly to knock noisy pigeons off the sound baffles.

Baffled pigeon:

Drone’s-eye view of bird feeding:


Oddsac (2010, Danny Perez)

Psychedelic imagery with a paint-splatter wash of colors and great music by Animal Collective.

Does it turn into a horror movie at the end, or was it one all along?

Coincidentally the day after I watched this, Perez’s first narrative feature was announced (premiering at Sundance this January). Sign me up.