I had a discussion on the bad VFX yesterday on Reddit. My original question was this:
Having watched a lot of Lynch films lately, one of the things I’ve always appreciated is his attention to details. Somehow, this attention doesn’t seem to reach the visual effects of the new Twin Peaks – I wonder, why. Is it because he’s not used to using a lot of VFX – computer-generated visual effects, that is – or is there such a serious budget issue that even simple problems haven’t been fixed. Especially when married with extremely beautiful cinematography, this makes me wonder which one dropped the ball, BUF (the VFX house) or Lynch?
Those who have missed the most apparent ones, you might want to re-watch – for example, the body with severed woman’s head and man’s body just seems fake. Same goes with the head wound of the woman Mr. C shot in the head, the one whose husband got jailed for the murder of the librarian.
Later on, obviously episode 3 has loads of issues with the rooftop floating in space and several other shots in that scene. Later on, Coopers return to Earth also looks rather cheesy – but these effects are more in line with Lynch’s earlier work, maybe that’s meant to be a bit funny/double-exposure/old-school-TV-visuals -style? Also, Episode 2 has few easily-fixable issues like cameraman on the mirror, and Mr. C’s hand when he’s caressing the inner tights of the woman next door to where he shot the other woman in the head, you can clearly see his hand never reaches his private parts, although dialogue suggests it does.
Given today’s VFX standards, the fact that Showtime put all the required resources in the series, as well as gave all the creative freedom to Lynch, and knowing Lynch’s attention to details — these glitches and bad VFX shots are a bit of a turnoff, am I right?
Unsurprisingly, the fanboys voted the question down, but there was already some discussion happening there, and some pretty good points were made. It seems most of the people don’t find the what I call “bad VFX” bothering them so much, and even more, one pretty good answer came along, from user /u/hellsfoxes
I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently walking around modern art museums here in London, where they also have a lot of experimental video on display.
It really reminded me that this is Lynch’s wheelhouse and indicative of the approach he takes. Realism or even believability isn’t a goal for him in the same sense as almost every other filmmaker out there. Bad effects are as much a part of the tapestry and texture as say Michael Cera’s pretty ridiculous performance.
It all adds to the surrealism and absurdity at the heart of his approach. Every moment of bad CG and unbelievable corny dialogue juxtaposed somewhere else with frighteningly realistic horror or deeply subtle emotion. Lynch will absolutely sacrifice realism for a meaningful contrast of tones.
It’s certainly offputting in certain aspects but it’s absolutely part of the experimental video culture.
So, the closest relative to the VFX of Twin Peaks is not Game of Thrones, but rather a MoMA exhibition. Looking it from this perspective, it makes more sense. But having said that…
…There are still serious problems. Some of the effects even most of the redditors didn’t really buy, like the fake/CGI corpses and the terrible Disappearance of Doug -scene in episode 3. Which brings me neatly to today’s topic – Episode 3, the first time Lynch fumbles.
There’s so much that’s wrong with Episode 3, that I’d like to start with what’s actually good in it.
The episode begins beautifully from Nonexistence with an eerie scene in a room with a woman (credited American Girl), played by the same actress who played Ronette Pulaski in the original run. Cooper, who was tricked into nonexistence, finds what he believes to be the exit back to real world, and manages to leave the world of the Lodges – leaving his shoes behind.
Shoes have been a repeating element in Lynch’s Twin Peaks. We may remember MIKE inhabited the body of shoe salesman Phillip Gerard, and Leo, after being shot, became obsessed with his shoe. Now, Cooper leaves the Nonexistence, leaving his shoes behind – and reappearing as a tabula rasa of a human being on the other side. This all makes sense, if you think that shoes in Lynch’s mind represent personality, the real ‘you’ inside the shell. “Take a walk in my shoes”, as they say.
What’s probably the most shocking revelation of the new Twin Peaks is that we meet a new character – the third version of Cooper, “Dougie”. He’s a middle-aged real estate salesman in Rancho Rosa (Red Ranch) who uses his estates as a hideout to have sex with prostitutes. The question is: what he is? Why suddenly third Cooper, in addition to Mr. C and Cooper?
The answer is: he’s a decoy, created by Mr. C, to fool the Lodge Dwellers to pull him back into their world, instead of Mr. C – and he succeeds in it. Dougie disappears, and we’re left with the two – Mr. C, still alive and kicking in the real world, and Cooper, who reappeared to replace Dougie instead of Mr. C, and lost his shoes – personality – in the same. All that’s left is a mindless shell of a human who can barely speak, trotting around like a penguin in his spanking suit.
The setup, in simple terms, is interesting: BOB stole MIKE’s food, and escaped. MIKE sends Cooper back to Earth to get him back, but instead of exchanging Cooper to Bob, they mistake him for the decoy-Cooper, Dougie. So now, roaming the Earth are two different Coopers, and things are getting weird.
But like I said, there’s a lot I didn’t like in this episode. To start off with the visuals, although they are more like modern art than modern VFX, it still makes me wonder if it’s Lynch’s inexperience with VFX and inability to communicate it with BUF the VFX house that made so many things look so cheesy, in a wrong way. The worst truly is the disappearance of Dougie -scene, where Dougie’s head turns into black smoke and a badly composed golden ball bearing eats his existence.
The other thing is the actress of the prostitute. She has fairly big role, but she can’t act. Usually bad actors work in Lynch’s work, because they somehow are just rendered weird and otherworldly, but this character just seems amateurish. Same is repeated later with the female agent, Chrysta Bell, a singer and Lynch’s musical collaborator – and definitely not an actor. It’s rare to see bad performances in such large scale in Lynch’s work, so it’s a bit surprising.
And last, but not least – the comedy of the scenes is weirdly off. We have very similar sequences as we did in the original run of Twin Peaks, goofy and fun and crazy, and we even have the same editor Duwayne Dunham (Wild at Heart, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Twin Peaks pilot and Blue Velvet), but somehow, the fun doesn’t connect. The scenes become firstly strange and abstract, and later on, a bit awkward. It’s hard to say why so, maybe it’s because we’re lacking the suggestive music that used to be a trademark of Twin Peaks whenever something lighthearted was going on, or maybe it’s Lynch’s original intention – whatever it is, it feels strange.
But maybe that’s the whole attraction of the show: everything is a little bit off from what we’ve used to, and we just have to accept it and enjoy the show, because Lynch is taking us for the second ride, so let’s just enjoy it.