Monday, September 4, 2017

Culture Diary - Day 2

9/3/17 – 9/4/17

The series finale (some say season finale, or hope it’s the season finale, but I neither think nor hope it is) of Twin Peaks: The Return was last night. 120 minutes, the last 90 of which played as a brand new David Lynch feature film, having cleared the decks with the comparatively accessible (but even then…) first half hour. I’ll get out of the way right now that I didn’t love every minute of Lynch’s eighteen-hour masterpiece (tipping my hand a bit there, I realize); entire episodes were met by me with mild near-disapprobation, and Freddie, the British guy with the Hulk hand, seemed to be pushing things just a little bit, in a show that seemed capable of pushing anything it wanted anywhere it wanted, as far as it wanted. Nevertheless, the overall feeling Twin Peaks: The Return leaves me with is one of awe, adoration, and terror.
Nothing  bores me more than trying to explain the films of David Lynch, especially those that ostensibly beg most fervently to be put into some sort of order. The impulse to do so can be summed up, it seems to me, that nothing can have any meaning unless I know what it means. It’s a paradox, I’ll grant you, but not one I care to ponder on. The last 90 minutes of Twin Peaks: The Return, which I’ll avoid describing in detail for those who haven’t seen it, is powerful, sad, and frightening precisely because I don’t know quite what to make of it all. Especially those final minutes, which gripped me with tension and nervousness such as I haven’t experienced in quite a long time. It’s very much a work of horror, as well as surrealist noir, and I’m not sorry it’s gone, because now it is complete.

*     *     *     *
This morning I continued on with Dan Chaon’s Ill Will, reading only 40 pages, versus yesterday’s 150. I needed a break, apparently, but the novel’s continuously shifting perspectives and Chaon’s fine ear for language continue to be compelling.

*     *     *    *
I thought much of my Labor Day was going to be given over to watching this show I found on Netflix called Toast of London. Starring, and co-created and co-written by, Matt Berry, best known to me as Todd Rivers, AKA Dr. Lucien Sanchez from my beloved Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, it’s about Steven Toast (a pretty good joke about awkwardly naming TV characters after the title of the show), an actor currently on the skids because his new play is enormously controversial, and hated. It’s a lot more absurdist than I expected, and undeniably funny (when Toast learns that a woman he’s interested in is the sort of person who throws shopping carts into canals, he says “I want to know everything about you”), I only managed to watch two episodes before finding it necessary to move on with my day. I continue to be unable to focus for very long on any filmed entertainment that isn’t Twin Peaks: The Return or a cooking competition show. Last night’s The Great Food Truck Race was a real corker, by the way.

*      *     *     *
I only listened to a little Sondheim today, maybe the first half of the first side of Into the Woods. My understanding of the show is that the first act is a lighthearted fairy tale, and the second act as all about the very dark repercussions, but that song “I Know Things Now” suggests some pretty awful things happened to Little Red Riding Hood, chipper though the song may be on its surface. Anyway, a while back I sort of half watched the recent film version that nobody likes, and I remember when a Big Death occurred in the second half, nobody in the cast could figure out how they should react so they decided not to bother.

*     *     *     *
While mowing the lawn, I fired up the old music machine and listened to some songs.
“Stagger Lee” by Lloyd Price and “Liars Beware” by Richard Hell and the Voidoids are as good as ever. “I won’t forget your stupid face,” indeed!
I’ve grown to really dislike Tom Waits’s “Day After Tomorrow.” It’s one of his very few overtly political songs, and while the melody is lovely and Waits is in fine voice, the lyrics, from the point of view of an American soldier fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq (it hardly matters which!) who just so happens to agree completely with Tom Waits about the war, whichever one, are so goddamn easy and platitudinous. It stumbles into the most basic pitfall of so much political art by being emptily Left-wing. At least his later “Hell Broke Luce” sounds angry.
Harry Nilsson’s cover of Randy Newman’s “Dayton Ohio, 1903” from the former’s album Nilsson Sings Newman remains beautiful, and, as usual, I’m perplexed by that bit where Nilsson includes his own voice giving a recording studio direction to put in more echo. Given the content of the song, this has always struck me as especially perverse. I checked Alyn Shipton’s Nilsson: The Life of a Singer-Songwriter to see if there’s anything in there about this decision, but found nothing. More perplexing still is the fact that, as far as I can tell, the song isn’t marred by it.
That’s all. It’s not a very big lawn, and I listened to “Stagger Lee” twice.

*      *      *      *
Speaking of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, or at least the people who made the show, one of the horror films I’m most looking forward to in the next year or so, whenever I get to see it, is Possum, written and directed  Matthew Holness (Garth Marenghi himself). I’ve been waiting for something else big from Holness, as his career since Man to Man with Dean Learner has seemed, to me, someone looking at it from across a whole ocean, as one of false starts. If that’s true, my assumption has been that he’s had trouble getting stuff financed – his terrific short film A Gun for George felt like the beginning of something larger which never came to pass. But now there’s going to be Possum! In the lead up to its UK release, Holness has had to field the inevitable question about whether or not his film is a horror comedy. He’s assured everyone that it’s a horror film, full stop. No comedy.
Judging from Holness’s own short story of the same name, found in Sarah Eyre and Ra Page’s anthology The New Uncanny: Tales of Unease, he’s not fucking around. About a mentally ill puppeteer (the degree to which he’s done this work professionally is unclear) who carries around a grotesque dog-shaped, man-faced puppet named Possum, and travels back to his old bleak exurban stomping grounds, where he stays with a creepy old man named Christie, “Possum” is distinctly Ramsey Campbell-ian in tone, if an influence must be pin-pointed, and ultimately fairly skin-crawling. As a story it doesn’t seem quite expansive enough for a traditional horror film, which I hope you understand doesn’t mean I think it shouldn’t be turned into a film. Already excited before reading the story, I’m only more excited now.

*      *     *     *
As I wrote this, I’ve been watching Trading Places for the first time in a very long while. It’s not good.

1 comment:

Wm Fuller said...

Another fascinating post. We disagree about Sondheim. A bit. If you really want a great slice of musical theatre, try Shockheaded Peter, that is, if you can ever find a place that will produce it (I have no idea what part of the country you're in). I'm only six episodes into the new Twin Peaks, but consider Episode 4 one of the greatest hours of TV I've ever seen. Looking forward to sampling Toast. And looking forward to CD2. Thx!