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15 minutes ago, M. Leary said:

There were two shots in this last episode which I can't recall seeing elsewhere in Lynch:

 

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A night shot, wide, of Albert in really heavy rainfall. Excepting a few points in

Inland Empire, Lynch does not film scenes with heavy rain.

 

 

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A very Malick, wandering, POV, shot of Carl looking up at trees dappled by sunlight

 

Both of those were great. We've not seen enough of Dern's character yet, but Carl is fascinating to me.

His ability--derived, apparently, from his childhood abduction as narrated in 

The Secret History (he was one of three children abducted; the Log Lady was another and the third is dead) to see the soul/garmonbozia leaving the dead child really puts him in a different position from that he occupied in FWWM. In the movie, he's just a colorful side-character; here, what with the meditation/treegazing and his attempt to comfort the mother, Carl is looking much more like one of these agents of empathy that Lynch is stocking the season with--Carl, Sonny Jim, the nameless security guard who takes Dougie home, the limo driver.... Every episode is overshadowed by Laura Palmer, simply because her face literally opens each one in a ghostly manifestation during the title sequence. And the notion of empathizing with or bearing with the suffering of others is central to the series now. I mean, it always has been--those uncompromising shots of Sarah Palmer weeping demand some sort of response--but it's more foregrounded here, less drowned out by eccentricities (or, rather, the eccentricities play more completely into the theme). Another example: Truman's wife, who was introduced--like Nadine--as a shrill caricature, but who is revealed in this episode to be deeply broken, which gives Truman's responses both to her and others around him a new dimension as well (his passivity is in some sense a way of loving his wife, but it's also possibly his own response to his son's suicide).

All television requires patience, and serialized television particularly so, but it's interesting to see the ways in which this series pushes back against contemporary recap culture. It's virtually impossible to make a hot-take out of it, because the story is rolling out so slowly and deliberately that any snap judgement is apt to be undone in the very next chapter.

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Vikram Murthi: In Praise of Dougie

The superficial pleasures of Dougie-Coop begin with Kyle MacLachlan’s performance, some of the best work he’s done in his career. Channeling characters like Peter Sellers’ Chance in Being There, Spielberg’s E.T., and Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot, MacLachlan mines the full range of human emotion with his blank expression and clumsy movements. He approaches Dougie-Coop like walking Play-Doh, something to be molded by his environment, even as Agent Cooper lies dormant inside. By solely reacting to the actions of others, MacLachlan trades in his characteristic poise for stubborn passivity, in turn negating the traits that defined Agent Cooper. This minimalist technique succeeds on its own merits, but it also makes the smallest gestures — an imitated thumbs-up, a gracious smile, or a tearful face — feel remarkably significant. Every episode featuring Dougie-Coop adds new weight to MacLachlan’s performance, providing him with more avenues for subtle emotional engagement.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is Lynch's magnum opus. I started grinning about fifteen minutes into tonight's episode and didn't stop until the end. Just...beautiful and odd and offputting and wonderful. Thank God for Lynch and Frost and thank God for Showtime. 

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In its expansive reach, Episode Eight draws in material from a lurid crime thriller, an old-fashioned romance, late-90s-style Nine Inch Nails, The X-Files, Eraserhead, Malick's Tree of Life, Weir's Last Wave, and Kubrick's 2001, while carefully refraining from cutting the cord that keeps us tethered to the story of Laura Palmer. I've never seen cinema like it — and it is cinema. We're not even halfway through this series, and it has already broken the mold that the original series made, and anything can happen now.

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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14 hours ago, Overstreet said:

In its expansive reach, Episode Eight draws in material from a lurid crime thriller, an old-fashioned romance, late-90s-style Nine Inch Nails, The X-Files, Eraserhead, Malick's Tree of Life, Weir's Last Wave, and Kubrick's 2001, while carefully refraining from cutting the cord that keeps us tethered to the story of Laura Palmer. I've never seen cinema like it — and it is cinema. We're not even halfway through this series, and it has already broken the mold that the original series made, and anything can happen now.

Yup. And don't forget the influence of Brakhage and other experimental filmmakers, of which Lynch is one.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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4 hours ago, StephenM said:

I don't have much to add, except that this is clearly the cinematic event of the summer, and probably the year.  It's clearly not for everyone, yet I really feel like any cinephile who isn't watching is really missing out.

I actually feel a little sorry for people who haven't seen this season. 

Btw, I listen to several podcasts about this show and "Diane" is by far the best. 

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On 6/26/2017 at 6:32 PM, Overstreet said:

In its expansive reach, Episode Eight draws in material from a lurid crime thriller, an old-fashioned romance, late-90s-style Nine Inch Nails, The X-Files, Eraserhead, Malick's Tree of Life, Weir's Last Wave, and Kubrick's 2001, while carefully refraining from cutting the cord that keeps us tethered to the story of Laura Palmer. I've never seen cinema like it — and it is cinema. We're not even halfway through this series, and it has already broken the mold that the original series made, and anything can happen now.

Such a great list of references here, especially The Last Wave. I have seen a few references to Brakhage, which I don't think quite fit. The charcoal folk run very close to Pat O'Neill. The seamless blend of practical and special effects is exhilarating. I couldn't help but think of Lynch's early shorts throughout this entire middle sequence.

I would love to hear every detail about the effects production for the nuclear piece. The gradation detail on the dust clouds at the base of the blast is so exquisite. I have never seen anything like that. The intense colorific parts were familiar - as this is the same bunch who ran the effects for Noe's Enter the Void. But if we could get a second by second technical commentary on everything between NIN and the bobfrog, that would be great.

From a historical perspective, this connection between atomic sciences and a particularly late 20th century brand of evil intriguing. Cities which participated in developing raw materials for the Manhattan Project (like St. Louis) are starting to have difficulty in figuring out how to handle the hazardous waste from uranium production dumped fairly carelessly so long ago. In terms of St. Louis history, it is very hard not to draw a direct line between the dumping of such waste in north/northwest parts of our city and dramatic crime, education, health, and quality of life disparities in those same areas.

Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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4 hours ago, M. Leary said:

From a historical perspective, this connection between atomic sciences and a particularly late 20th century brand of evil intriguing. Cities which participated in developing raw materials for the Manhattan Project (like St. Louis) are starting to have difficulty in figuring out how to handle the hazardous waste from uranium production dumped fairly carelessly so long ago. In terms of St. Louis history, it is very hard not to draw a direct line between the dumping of such waste in north/northwest parts of our city and dramatic crime, education, health, and quality of life disparities in those same areas.

One of the things Frost attempts to do in The Secret History of Twin Peaks is tie the town into larger historical trends going all the way back to Lewis and Clark. Which is interesting to me for reasons related to my research: insofar as the small town functions as a model of America, the attempt to tie it outward to world-historical events helps to underline the ways in which America is itself implicated in that history. More to the point: the prosperity and idyllic nature of the mythological 1950s small town occurs in the shadow of Hiroshima (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull stages its best sequence in this same recognition). Since Lynch's small towns are typically time-displaced 1950s small towns, it makes sense that he would see them an inextricably linked to the Bomb. 

Actually, it occurs to me that in this way Lynch and Frost are subtly different from their obvious spiritual kin (Kings Row, Peyton Place, etc) in that their insistence that the idyllic facade hides rot and corruption isn't just about repression (as in Kings Row) or sexual, racial, and social inequality (as in Peyton Place); it's about the very fabric of post-War America itself. Post-war prosperity is founded on the murder of innocents and that murder continues to be replicated as a constant return to the original sacrifice (garmonbozia is the food of the Lodge-dwellers: pain and sorrow). Laura herself comes to function as a sacrificial victim (the latest of many). This makes for a more interesting critique of the idealized '50s than we normally get, since what Lynch is saying is not that the '50s were too controlling or repressive, and therefore that their purportedly idyllic world was an oppressive perfection (see Pleasantville) but that they were never perfect because they always were watered by the blood of the innocent.

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1 hour ago, Darren H said:

My friend Jordan wrote a great piece about Pat O'Neill recently and posted some compelling side-by-side comparisons on Twitter yesterday: tweet 1, tweet 2, tweet 3.

Nice. My immediate response was Decay of Fiction, with the multiple exposures.

30 minutes ago, NBooth said:

Actually, it occurs to me that in this way Lynch and Frost are subtly different from their obvious spiritual kin (Kings Row, Peyton Place, etc) in that their insistence that the idyllic facade hides rot and corruption isn't just about repression (as in Kings Row) or sexual, racial, and social inequality (as in Peyton Place); it's about the very fabric of post-War America itself. Post-war prosperity is founded on the murder of innocents and that murder continues to be replicated as a constant return to the original sacrifice (garmonbozia is the food of the Lodge-dwellers: pain and sorrow). Laura herself comes to function as a sacrificial victim (the latest of many). This makes for a more interesting critique of the idealized '50s than we normally get, since what Lynch is saying is not that the '50s were too controlling or repressive, and therefore that their purportedly idyllic world was an oppressive perfection (see Pleasantville) but that they were never perfect because they always were watered by the blood of the innocent.

This is it right here. Parts of St. Louis are little more than "time displaced" 1950s towns, incubators of that very tension you are describing. Lynch seems to reveal or uncover this brute American fact. Hope you write more on this somewhere.

Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Quick thought: how much stuff do we see in this episode from various versions of the Biblical Apocalypse? The demonfrog is an obvious one, and it seems that there's some footage of locusts in the bomb sequence. What happens to Dark Dale after the NIN performance *could* bear resemblance to some versions of antichrist. Is there more? Are Lynch and Frost drawing on Revelation in this episode, and what does that do to our reading of the series?

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I do not see any direct Christian reference in this season, either by image, narrative, or symbol. This was not the case for season 1:4, which had a really unexpected scene of Bobby remonstrating before a crucifix in his house. Generally, Lynch just does not work with Christian imagery or archetype, which often creates a bit of tension given what you describe above in terms of his evocation of 1950's America.

Here is a short list of direct references to material religion in his work, there are surely a few I have missed:

Christian Imagery

Angel imagery, crucifix scene, "Trinity" test  (Twin Peaks)

Bible/crucifix/cathedrals/scripture reference (Psalm 23) (Elephant Man)

Church and crucifix (the Grotto) (A Straight Story)

A church (Blue Velvet)

The images in Elephant Man and A Straight Story are important as they connect directly to the plight of the lead in each film, who we are to suppose are translating their experiences through a set of Christian motifs (this is clearer in Elephant Man than A Straight Story). The TP and Blue Velvet examples are difficult, as they seem to do little more than evoke the absence of any expected Christian imagery. In none of these cases does Lynch use the Christian image as a template for the viewer, leading us to experience the film as an evocation of a traditional Christian narrative ideal.

Buddhist Imagery:

Tibetan Book of the Dead (Twin Peaks)

This reference is immensely important, present at what is arguably the apex of the series. In addition, the concept here of something immaterial leaving the human body and passing through a series of abstractions toward oblivion - wherein each stage of passage has its own narrative and symbolic sense - is intimately tied to the plot of Twin Peaks. So much so that I don't think one can really get Twin Peaks without at least passing knowledge of bardo.

--

So here is the case I would make: Lynch is consciously working as a secular filmmaker, playing with common codes and symbols in the US post-WW II through a kind of Geertz fantasy. One of the deep ironies of Lynch's filmmaking is that he no longer finds the Christian symbol necessary to make a connection with his audience. We are all now more immediately connected by gestures and expressions of violence and conflict, his characters all marred by domestic violence, war trauma, commerce, economy, or now - the Trinity test. That whole Christian narrative arc of death/resurrection or failure/redemption is alien to Lynch's work, as the related psychology is too thin to really capture the way we process trauma. So instead of Jesus, we get Wally Brando. Instead of a redemption arc, we get Alvin on his tractor. Lynch has had to draft a whole new grammar to do what he wants to do.

The other issue here, though, is the dualism which has always been present in Twin Peaks. This is far more Eastern than Western in scope, though we don't quite know how it will play out.

Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Audrey's back, and some viewers aren't happy about it. Case in point.

I dunno, perhaps it's because Audrey's return was promised from the start but put off so much that it could never bear the weight of expectations, but there seems to be a bit of discontent floating around. I don't buy it. For one thing, I think the character is a thoroughly natural development of what we saw previously. For another, her husband is almost literally the freaking worst, so she seemed less shrewish here than reasonably incensed.

Anyway. The show is definitely settled into a more traditionally Twin Peaks rhythm at this point, including a wonderful scene featuring Sarah Palmer and another featuring Ben Horne and Frank Truman. And the Audrey scene. Oh, and a lovely scene with Carl Rodd, who's another one of these characters that has become unexpectedly central in certain ways. The "don't sell your blood" scene should probably be filed with the other examples of good-goodness as opposed to ironic or subverted goodness in the Lynch canon.

I halfway expected Dougie to go away in this episode, since the title was "Let's Rock," but now I'm back to thinking we're going to have him with us until episode 16 or 17. Which, honestly, I'm pretty happy with.

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Someone somewhere pointed out that Four Quartets shows up in the background of the Audrey scene. And now we know that episode 17 is titled "The Past Dictates the Future." Which makes me think about the opening of "Burnt Norton," of course:

Time present and time past


Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.

 

And then, a little later:

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;


Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.

 

All of which is suggestive, at least.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

SPOILERS BELOW

--

Episode 17 is legendary. Canon.

Episode 18 was blistering, unpredictable, and not where I thought this was all going. It is the first time I have sensed a willful resistance to closure in Lynch's work. The loose ends always feel so natural, part of the work. I am sure part of this is from everyone wanting answers to lingering questions about different characters and occurrences, but the quantum tack of the narrative here was so quick and pervasive that even Coop was taken by surprise and left confused at the end. We could handle Coop having been sucked into the Black Lodge on his law-abiding quest to rescue Laura. Even in the eventual transition of Coop to Dougie as he found his way out of that dimension, there was always hope that Coop would resurface and get back to business. And he certainly does in Episode 16-17. 

But then everything begins to slip and shudder in a way Twin Peaks never has before. To herald the emergence of this hazard, Cooper's face resolves across the entire screen like a watermark. He is no longer in the screen, he has somehow become the screen and this unsettling new point of view is beyond the professional ken of both Coop and Cole. He does have Diane by his side as he tumbles into this new lead back at the Great Northern. Cooper travels back in time to save Laura, thus unraveling the sequence of events which has led to Seasons 1-3. The plastic-wrapped blue rose of her body vanishes from the pebbled beach. 

Coop and Diane then arrive at a precipice, mile marker 430. The narrative mechanics which got us here are really clear; the crumbs scattered as far back as the first encounter between Cooper and The Fireman in this season. But what happens next is so remarkable as an advance in the clarity of Lynch's depiction of the cosmos riddled with gaps, threats, and aggressions - navigated only with bursts of confidence by people of love and wisdom. Even so, this evil is no mere abstraction as it is embodied and personified across time in thieves, conspirators, rapists, the people who make bombs, etc... Just as someone like Cooper incarnates a will to live and thrive, so does Judy instantiate fates worse than death.

Cooper and Cole have always had a confidence in the grain of the universe, bent toward justice. What happens when this is proven false? Well, Cooper finds himself in the answer to this question. A world in which Diane love is impossible. Laura is always being awoken to her past. He doesn't even know what year it is. In this season we met bad Coop, Dougie, and were reacquainted with the real Coop. Now all we have left is alternate Coop, who seems an amalgam of all three (fights like bad Coop, moves and walks like Dougie, feels and remembers like real Coop). If the key to survival in Lynch-world is a strong sense of self which resolves in the confidence to love someone else, then this Coop has lost this inner narrative integrity. 

This is, to our great surprise, a first for Twin Peaks. Call it absurdist, confusing, intentionally ambiguous, whatever... it has always had a center in Cooper. Not anymore.

 

Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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The finale of Twin Peaks revealed that the entire arc of the series is toward horror.

Cooper proceeds beyond the boundary of his world to the territory of JUDY's world. Ever the FBI agent, he wishes to follow the trail back to its origin. It's a "be careful what you wish for" moment; in proceeding to JUDY's universe, he loses himself, he loses his sense of place, of time. He knows he must bring Laura/Carrie to the Palmer house--that central spoke in the wheel of evil, which has become inhabited by JUDY over the course of season three. And in bringing Laura there, he apparently *does* conjure Judy, but only renews Laura's sense of tragedy: Laura's scream cuts across time and space and imagination.

So, in the end, Cooper and Laura share a dark secret--the face of darkness--which is why the final image of the series is of Laura whispering the unspeakable secret to Dale Cooper in the lodge. This is the ultimate mystery Twin Peaks: unspeakable horror, a bottomless void.

Chilling, frustrating, and despairing. It makes the season two finale palatable in comparison.

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ASSUME SPOILERS

 

Yeah, I really need to rewatch (the whole series, really) and digest some more. There's a couple of things that come immediately to mind:

1] This really is a show about Laura Palmer, as it has been all along, and about the prevalence of evil. Incest carries with it a particularly noxious stain to most people, which is why the incest taboo is at the heart of small-town books like Kings Row and Peyton Place. The double-vision of a bucolic town and its obscene underbelly has been present in the literature since at least the Revolt from the Village, and probably earlier (Twain does something similar, time and again). Twin Peaks is a lot of things, but at its core it's the same story of incest and victimization that faces Cassandra in Kings Row and Selina in Peyton Place (Laura is, in this construction, somewhere between Cassandra, who is murdered by her incestuous father, and Selina, who kills her abuser). 

2] Insofar as small towns represent a microcosm of America (Sinclair Lewis: "The place is America...."), what they seem to suggest is that America itself is undergirded by an obscene incestuous secret. This is, of course, a Lynchian motif as well--the opening scene of Blue Velvet is essentially Twin Peaks writ small. In The Secret History, Frost ties Twin Peaks, the town, to the displacement of Native American communities (most notably, Chief Joseph) and the whole bloody history of westward expansion and growing imperialism. The Return does the same, in two ways: first, by taking the show "on the road," it suggests that the dark forces at work in Twin Peaks are a small part of the larger cosmic forces (small-town hick villain BOB is defeated by punching him really hard, but The Experiment is different because she is more diffuse. Secondly, the history of Twin Peaks is tied to the Bomb, which is the morning star of American Imperialism considered as a global, rather than purely continental, phenomenon. 

3] The focus this season is interesting in that the evil is specifically maternal--as opposed to the paternal evil of Leland and BOB. The Experiment/Mother/Judy is thus tied to fecundity rather than aggression (I'll leave out the whole Zizekian thing about the maternal superego, though I imagine something could be done with that). If Lynch is Gnostic (as, for instance, The Strange World of David Lynch suggests), then The Return would be the clearest picture of that, insofar as The Experiment is a demiurge, creating and recreating the world in which these characters live. Is this, then, the obscene secret at the heart of the universe? That all we are and seem are but a dream within a dream, and that dream is not the incantation of a good God but of a malicious one?

4] Sarah Palmer, as a host of Mother (maybe) and the 119 girl both offer more dark mother imagery.

5] Speaking of Sarah--I've held for a while that she knew, or at least strongly suspected, what Leland was up to. The performance in Fire Walk with Me leaves little doubt in my mind as to that. So, symbolically, her infestation by Mother suggests the guilt attending her over the past 25 years, looking back and knowing that she knew or suspected and yet did nothing (from fear or disbelief or whatever). I find that very powerful.

6] Audrey's scenes, including the final shot, are essentially this season writ small.

7] On the least interesting level possible--lots of good stuff about the cliffhanger and Lynch's refusal of closure, but the ending also speaks to Lynch/Frost's seemingly genuine love of television as a way of telling stories. Lynch famously never wanted to resolve the Laura Palmer killing, on the grounds that it was simply a motor for the rest of the story. The idea of a neverending, open-world narrative--a soap opera--has always been in this show's DNA, and although The Return shed much (though less, I think, than some folks assume) of the soapy stuff, it's still interested in the idea that stories don't have to end, that they can always spin out into new and unexplained territory.

8] I've been on the "no season 4" bandwagon for a while, but after the finale I won't, at least, be mad if they do another season.

9] Something needs to be said about that particularly unsexy sex scene, but I'm not sure what.

10] Kyle M deserves every award they can throw at him.

Edited by NBooth
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53 minutes ago, Mr. Arkadin said:

So, in the end, Cooper and Laura share a dark secret--the face of darkness--which is why the final image of the series is of Laura whispering the unspeakable secret to Dale Cooper in the lodge. This is the ultimate mystery Twin Peaks: unspeakable horror, a bottomless void.

Right. Except there is always a universe out there with a Wally Brando in it. (And everyone else in the last interior shot of the Twin Peaks police station.)

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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13 minutes ago, NBooth said:

ASSUME SPOILERS

3] The focus this season is interesting in that the evil is specifically maternal--as opposed to the paternal evil of Leland and BOB. The Experiment/Mother/Judy is thus tied to fecundity rather than aggression...

9] Something needs to be said about that particularly unsexy sex scene, but I'm not sure what.

 

On 3, Yes!! That is incisive and gets at what I have had trouble articulating. 

On 9, I guess I did not experience it as unsexy in the sense that sex is a much broader experience than cinema/tv typically conceives. This pairing was so exquisitely framed as the kind of physical pairing which occurs for reasons other than mere physical pleasure, after time and desire have bloomed into something a bit like desperation but more a way to tell someone you both belong to the same story at the same time.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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But also... I have enjoyed taking this journey through The Return with you all. This has been a very helpful place of reflection and I learned a lot.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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