The Camerimage International Film Festival, hosted annually in the city of Bydgoszcz, Poland, places the least-exposed of documentary, narrative, and short-subject cinema side-by-side with the largest productions staged by any entities, studio- and television-wise, in a given year. The result, thanks in at least some part to jet lag I never fully kick, is dizzying in the most stimulating of ways: it’s possible to run run from The Shape of Water to, downstairs, a Georgian documentary about small-town living, and, excepting the obvious matter of what gets a bigger screening space, not find any greater or lesser amount of respect afforded to one over the other. You still wouldn’t necessarily expect that the hottest ticket by a country kilometer gets you into two TV episodes that have been widely available throughout the world for nearly six months. Being an annual assembly of international and, often, difficult-to-encounter cinema, that could raise eyebrows, even a bit of scorn — except, I think, when said ticket is for the season premiere of Twin Peaks (presented in its original feature-length form) and an hour-long Q & A with David Lynch.
No matter the huge stir his appearance caused, it was just as enticing that these episodes were granted theatrical presentation. Follow the man’s words and you’ll know that means a lot to Lynch; stay for the show and you’ll understand he was onto something when expressing ambivalence about his work being predominantly experienced via cable-television streams. To watch Twin Peaks live, as so many of us preferred and cherished, on even the nicest set is to encounter any number of small-but-irritating technical errors — washed-out colors and brief broadcast stutters among the most common — which says nothing of the fact that his preference for headphones is only compatible with a (likely) smaller computer screen unless you’re willing to shell out for a device that makes them compatible with a television. Provided a good internet connection, these components are improved when viewing the show through services such as Showtime Anytime or Hulu, but even those now prove at least a couple of steps behind theatrical exhibition.
The show, hardly composed with a televisual sense for space, blocking, colors, or editing rhythms, looks and, more importantly, moves — in pace, temperament, tone, and delineation of narrative — more like a film within these confines and upon this larger canvas, feeling not at all out-of-place in a festival whose loudly stated intention is to celebrate the art of cinematography. That’s ostensibly the main draw, yet one would be well-advised to pay admission if only for an amplification of Lynch’s intricate sound design: here, at last, are the atonal droning, air-light music cues, and percussive notes from Chromatics I’d otherwise never noticed on multiple viewings; here, again, are punches, steps, gunshots, and technological flourishes (e.g. every piece of the glass-box building) that were always known but are now unmasked.
This enveloping experience was to be cherished, though hopefully not as one of fleeting quantity.Only time will tell if this massive turnout encourages Showtime to begin organizing much-desired theatrical bookings for their most-discussed series, so I’ll try to further roll that ball along and note this: a crowd largely reliant on subtitles, many also sitting in the aisles once seats were no longer available, was willing to come out on a freezing Tuesday afternoon and fill Bydgoszcz’s large Opera Nova theater, and those I spoke to afterwards were only left wanting more. Make of that what you may.
Then, of course, we had the Q & A. I’ll be upfront and say that most the enjoyment will and does stem from a sizable gulf between the quality of questions asked — hopes for clarification on meaning, symbolism, and their dread like abound — and Lynch’s light, friendly jabs disguised as “Lynchian” responses. (I imagine this comes as a surprise to few.) I’d have opted for a technical inquiry in the first place, and now there was no excuse. So: those who’ve seen the premiere will no doubt recall his remix of Muddy Magnolias’ “American Woman,” a slowed-to-the-point-of-dizziness drawl from the mouth of hell that brings Dale Cooper’s evil doppelgänger rolling into the series. How he became acquainted with the original, then decided to remix it, then decided to use it at this — and, later in the series, another — integral point has been a fascination for some time.
To my question about that and, further, how remixing compares to creating original compositions, he responded:
“Engineer Big Dean Hurley was given that piece of music. He played it for me and I said, ‘Dean, half-speed this thing,’ and Dean half-speeded it. [Laughs] I said, ‘Oh, my goodness, that is so beautiful.’ And it started talking to me when it was low and slow, and seemed so powerful. A whole feeling came through that seemed like this, what you said, for the scenes. Remixes: at first I heard about remixes and I thought, ‘This is maybe not right, to remix people’s music,’ but it is okay, I think, for a variation on the theme, and sometimes a new thing can come out that is thrilling — if you have their permission to do it.”
When the moderator prompted for a follow-up concerning remixes, Lynch told us:
“I’m a non-musician musician.”
Another strong question-and-answer exchange involved the difference between his first and second series’ textures, per the switch from celluloid to digital:
“I’ve said this before: the quality of celluloid film is extraordinarily beautiful, but there’s so many advantages of working in digital, and digital is getting better every single day. To me, this is very beautiful and fulfills the mood and look of Twin Peaks.”
Otherwise, it’s an enjoyable conversation for the stated reasons. Listen to the full thing, including a Q & A mix-up that led to the life-altering event of David Lynch telling me “you sit down,” below. (Note that this was recorded from our spot in the audience and if a better-quality source becomes available, we’ll update.)