“That gum you like is going to come back in style,” announced a dancing, backwards-talking dwarf some 27 years ago on a surreal nighttime network soap opera that somehow managed to pull Super Bowl ratings. David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” captured the country’s imagination and held it hostage for months, pretty much inventing the model of modern “prestige television” as the murder of homecoming queen Laura Palmer exposed the tangled secrets of a seemingly sleepy logging town in the Pacific Northwest.
It is happening again. Next month brings a third season of “Twin Peaks,” almost perfectly timed to Laura Palmer’s admonition in the terrifying Season Two finale, “I’ll see you again in 25 years.” The hype machine is in overdrive for Lynch’s top-secret production, with nostalgic fans clamoring for another damn fine cup of coffee. But perhaps it’s best to adjust expectations this Friday with Coolidge After Midnite’s 35mm screening of “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me,” the widely despised 1992 prequel that’s only recently being rediscovered as an unfairly maligned masterpiece.
Lynch begins the film with an axe smashing a television set, announcing this is going to be something other than a very special episode. It begins in the town of Deer Meadow, a dark mirror of Twin Peaks, where instead of lovably quirky everyone’s just ugly and rude. Even the coffee is bad. Series star Kyle MacLachlan is relegated to a quick cameo dealing with a dimension-hopping David Bowie in a head-scratcher of a sequence presumably meant to pay off in sequels that never happened.
The bulk of the picture chronicles the last seven days of Laura Palmer, her descent into cocaine and prostitution depicted in unflinching detail that would never pass muster with network censors. There’s a way to read the cryptic supernatural elements as Laura’s imagination of an evil that’s at least easier to understand than her father’s constant abuse, but in typical Lynch fashion he leaves interpretations up to the audience.
“Fire Walk with Me” allows Laura Palmer to become more than just a plot device wrapped in plastic, with Sheryl Lee’s fearless performance plumbing depths of emotion sometimes quite difficult to watch. The movie’s doom-laden orgies and strobe-lit screams attain a hypnotic grandeur that’s pulverizing on a giant screen. By telling a story we already know, Lynch is able to free himself from narrative constraints and craft an abstract poem that’s horrific, ethereal and terribly sad.
"Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me" plays at the Coolidge Corner Theatre, 290 Harvard St., Brookline, on Fri., Apr. 14, 11:59 p.m. $12.25. Visit the site for more info.