Filmic Tales Of The Pacific Northwest.

In recent days I’ve taken in two films set in the Northwest of the United States. The first, somewhat inevitably, was David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, the big-screen sojourn sprung from the television series. It’s a magnificent piece of work, and one which time has been kind to. Long-forgotten are the apparent boos that greeted the film, with the film able to breathe properly away from the expectations that greeted the unusual prequel/epilogue upon release.

Fire Walk With Me is, barring a first act excursion in to grounds new, very much ‘A Laura Palmer Story’. By the time we finally meet Palmer here, the deceased victim around which Twin Peaks the show revolves, she’s damn near a mythical, mythological figure, after the 28 hours of television that celebrated her death. Sheryl Lee’s performance ought to have been more roundly acknowledged.

The other tale told in the Northwest that I’ve had the pleasure of seeing this week is Bill Forsyth’s 1987 film, Housekeeping. The Scottish director’s first American film, Housekeeping tells the story of an unorthodox family in the wake of the death of its matriarch. Said matriarch’s daughters and a wily aunt are the focus of the film, with Douglas’ humanist eye capturing in great detail the nuances of the sadness that follows an unexpected bereavement. This sadness runs through the picture, and at times verges on the disturbing. Any real feelings of disquiet are countered by a surreal edge, an element near-worthy of Lynch, with the family’s literal concerns accompanied by visual and aesthetic elements that mirror them. See, a house half submerged in water.

There’s a bookish-quality to Housekeeping, and a quirkiness that flies in the face of the serious subject matter contained within. A number of obvious touchstones came to mind while watching the film, chief amongst them the work of Hal Ashby, and the off-kilter familial grace of the Maysles’ Grey Gardens, and the small town fifties aesthetic of Terrence Malick’s Badlands. It’s a wonderful movie, and one that will hopefully be further propelled in to the public consciousness thanks to a newly-available on Blu-ray that sees release next week.

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