In an act of willful perversity worthy of the director himself, the New Beverly is pairing one of David Lynch's most revered films with one of his most reviled. The revered film, 2001's Mulholland Dr., needs no further accolades. But what of its partner in this double feature? Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me hit theaters in 1992 during the dog days of late summer, when studios normally jettison the films they want off their slate, and critics responded in kind, utterly eviscerating it. (“It's not the worst movie ever made; it just seems to be,” The New York Times' Vincent Canby famously proclaimed.) A prequel to the celebrated cult series, which had left television a year earlier, Fire Walk With Me focuses on the tragic final days of Laura Palmer's (Sheryl Lee) life, but as is the case with so many of Lynch's films, the particulars of plot matter far less than the moods he creates — and few of his movies are as pungently atmospheric and bleak as this one. But if Fire Walk With Me is among his messiest in terms of execution, in retrospect we can see how the film serves as a bridge between his '80s examinations of small-town oddness (Blue Velvet, the Twin Peaks series) and his later explorations of imperiled female protagonists (Mulholland Dr., Inland Empire). Indeed, Inland Empire's tagline, “A Woman in Trouble,” would have been even more appropriate for Fire Walk With Me's Laura Palmer, whose downward spiral of drugs and sexual abuse is by turns tragic and darkly comic. The unfairly maligned Fire Walk With Me remains an uneven whatsit about guilt, lust and evil, but the film's hypnotic clash of feminine beauty and bloody violence makes it impossible to deny.

April 7-8, 2010

LA Weekly