If there's one thing David Lynch has asked of his audience time and time again through his previous work, it's this: 'Do you see creamed corn on that plate?'
What?? Let me explain.
I've introduced a number of open-minded friends over the years to the original Twin Peaks. It was my duty, having grown up irreparably scarred and inspired in equal measure by the original UK BBC broadcast, characterfully preserved on VHS by my parents. In fact these video tapes are proving to be the most influential aspect of my inheritance: I'm not only a huge David Lynch fan; I'm also a filmmaker.
However, even before the backwards-talking dwarf could get to his seat in Season 1 Episode 2, most of these enlightened friends of mine had upped and left the room. For the entire evening. And if Twin Peaks Seasons 1 and 2 tested audience sensibilities, Season 3 has the power to divide like a black cloud of post-modern homicidal cheese-grating dark matter. Or whatever that thing was that came out of that glass box...
Okay, so not everyone's thing, right...? Maybe. That's life. That's cinema. But as a filmmaker I have a genuine concern that audiences may miss out on something wonderful and life-enriching because they're coming at it with the wrong expectations. Like going to Starbucks and finding there's no library. Or perhaps more likely, going to the library and finding there's no Starbucks.
Yes, Twin Peaks: The Return has a nebulous and at times frustratingly slow plot development; yes, there are so many characters, locations and situations you feel like you're trying to fathom a narrative out of a hundred CCTV cameras at a shopping centre; and yes, Cooper STILL hasn't burst out of Dougie yet.
But who said it should it be any different? Did David Lynch? Did Showtime? Did anyone but ourselves with our hard-wired expectations of pacing, plot structure and character development suggest the third season of Twin Peaks should be anything other than what it is?
I'm not making an excuse for bad filmmaking. Trust me, I'M NOT. But what I'm talking about is, if you will, the need to appreciate the artist's statement at an art gallery. To position oneself, however uncomfortable and unfamiliar it may seem to begin with, at an angle that may help you to see things - experience things - differently to how you would normally. That's the point.
Think creamed corn, folks. 'Do you see creamed corn on that plate?' When the sweet old lady Mrs Tremond asks Donna Hayward this question in Episode 9 of the original series, Donna looks and indeed sees creamed corn on the plate. Expectation meets result. Hardly great drama. So what? But when Mrs Tremond asks Donna a second time, Donna looks and it's no longer there. It's in the corner of the room in the hands of a boy who likes to do magic tricks. And believe it or not, this scene is key to unlocking much of David Lynch's work, and I believe, enjoying the new Twin Peaks.
Lynch is always, and I mean ALWAYS, telling us, explicitly or otherwise, that things are not what they seem. What you think you know, isn't true. If you enter the door one way, you'll leave another. If you expect to see creamed corn, you won't. This is, I believe, a cornerstone of his work over the decades.
Take Mulholland Drive. In the mesmerising scene at Club Silencio, the conductor alerts us several times to the fact that what you see and hear during this performance are two different things. It is an illusion. He repeats it like a mantra. 'There is no band.' And yet, utterly brilliantly, we forget this EVEN WHILST WATCHING THE SCENE, and are somehow surprised when the trumpeter lowers his trumpet and the brazen notes continue; we're shocked when the singer collapses and yet still her voice resonates powerfully into the theatre.
If you don't understand this about David Lynch's work, then you will miss out on the full experience of watching his films. They are just that: AN EXPERIENCE. And we are invited in. On his terms. Not whilst we are rushing around at home, having grabbed a moment to snatch some riveting plot twists delivered at break neck speed before we flick over to the news. But we are asked to drop our expectations, understandable as they are - and to go with it AS IT IS. The way he has designed. To experience the world he's created (along with Mark Frost) from the inside-out. We are asked to trust him, if we dare.
And there are some truly wonderful moments to behold. Fragments hopefully of an unfolding bigger picture, yes, but wonderful themselves nonetheless. I found myself moved to tears when the boy got hit by the truck with all the onlookers gathering around. I had only known the boy for a few seconds but I was genuinely upset somehow... I've no idea yet where or how this scene affects the story, but there was a magical quality about it. I didn't expect to feel anything, but I did.
The secret to enjoying Twin Peaks: The Return is in the creamed corn. Taking a holistic view of David Lynch's films and the way they so artistically subvert every sense and expectation, I would maintain that he has earned the right to force me to sit, and to ask myself before each new instalment of this long-awaited series, before I even turn the television on, 'Do I see creamed corn on that plate?'
If you're struggling, angry, annoyed, disappointed - I suggest you do the same.