Laura Palmer is exhumed most cruelly in David Lynch's "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me," the perversely moving, profoundly self-indulgent prequel of the director's darkly comic TV series. Memorable moments and ludicrous ones collide in this psychic autopsy, a weirdly fundamentalist cogitation on the intersection of Heaven, Hell and Washington state. Fans of the dark comedy will find little to laugh about unless it is Lynch's pretentiousness in this horrific look at Laura's last seven days.
Lynch, who collaborated on the screenplay with the series's writer, Robert Engels, makes his gravest mistake when he attempts to set the story in a variety of realms. We're not talking about what goes on under the manicured lawns as in "Blue Velvet," but the dimension of dreams, the Devil's workshop and Agent Cooper's extrasensory vibes. Laura's story is powerful enough, and Twin Peaks sure doesn't need gussying up with Sunday School angels. Worst of all is the Man From Another Planet (Michael J. Anderson), a dwarf in a red suit who talks backward. Luckily there are subtitles.
The story begins a year before Laura's death with the FBI's investigation into the death of Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley) by a couple of quirky G-men (Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Isaak). They disappear but not before predicting that the murderer will strike again. Meanwhile, Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) has an out-of-pajama visitation from the presumed-dead Agent Jeffries (David Bowie), which fills him with foreboding. Somehow linked into the Red Room, where the Man From Another Planet Lives. The man says things like "Give me all your garborzonia [pain and suffering]."
On another plane, Laura struggles with the terrible problems of her real life. Sheryl Lee, the gifted actress who played the corpse, brings Laura fully to life despite Lynch's artsy wrongheadedness. A victim of emotional and physical trauma, Laura finds no relief from her pain in her increasing drug use and promiscuity. Frightened by her obsessive father (Ray Wise) and betrayed by her weak-willed mother (Grace Zabriskie), she turns to her best friend Donna (Moira Kelly, not the old Donna), whom she almost brings down with her.
The two young women wind up in the back room at a Canadian dive called the Power and the Glory, a rock-and-roll hellhole with red strobe lights and plenty of half-naked women. Donna and Laura strip down too, and drunken lumberjack types writhe against them. Lynch finds countless ways to prostitute his actresses, who spend more time in their underwear than models for the catalogues of Victoria's Secret. He also has a thing for smearing women with lipstick. It seems Lynch has his own secrets and his own language mostly impenetrable.
Agent Cooper's non sequiturs are bizarre but translatable, but then there are times when Peaks-speak is wholly mumbo jumbo. There's the scene in which Jacques, the French Canadian proprietor of the Power and Glory, tells Laura, "I am the Great Went," to which she responds, "I am the muffin." Jacques returns, "I'm as blank as a fart." Maybe all Jacques is saying is "I am full of gas." Certainly "Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me" seems to be. The vexing thing is, Lynch actually had something grandly sad to convey, even if he has said it better before.