Just as the Weird Summer of 1992 was wrapping up, New Line Cinema gave us arguably the season’s weirdest wide release. Sure, it played half as many screens as its fellow August 28, 1992 releases HONEYMOON IN VEGAS, PET SEMATARY II and FREDDIE AS F.R.O.7., but I think it’s fair to call it mainstream. There was awareness, it was based on a recently popular TV show, and it at least opened bigger than FREDDIE. As far as per screen averages it came in 4th place for the weekend.
TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME is, of course, David Lynch’s big screen prequel to his pop-culture-phenomenon TV series Twin Peaks. I’ll get into my history with the show later, but for now I’ll just note that I’m unfamiliar enough that I watched this as pretty much an outsider, looking at it almost as a stand alone movie.
And at first it really does fit into the indie releases of ’92 – it makes sense as a contemporary of NIGHT ON EARTH, ONE FALSE MOVE, RUBIN & ED, and JOHNNY SUEDE. It tells the story of FBI Regional Bureau Chief Gordon Cole (David Lynch, ZELLY AND ME) teaming up stoic veteran Special Agent Chester Desmond (Chris Isaak, MARRIED TO THE MOB) and nerdy bow tie wearing rookie Sam Stanley (Kiefer Sutherland, RENEGADES) to investigate the murder of a teenager named Teresa Banks (Pamela Gidley, CHERRY 2000, HIGHWAY TO HELL) in the small town of Deer Meadow, Washington.
Though the subject matter is grim, there’s a dry, quirky humor here. When Desmond gets the call he’s in the middle of an unexplained arrest of women who maybe hijacked a school bus full of crying children? And I love the inexplicable hostility all the locals have for the visiting feds, and in Agent Desmond’s lack of reaction to it, not counting when he grabs a deputy’s nose and forces him into submission. That would be Deputy Cliff Howard (Rick Aiello, a.k.a. the cop who killed Radio Raheem). He and a secretary (Elizabeth McCarthy, THE DELINQUENTS) smirk and laugh at all of Desmond’s questions and won’t let him see the sheriff (Gary Bullock, ROBOCOP 2) until he forces his way in. They later examine the body and notice, for one thing, that her finger is missing a ring.
They stop for coffee at a diner where the deceased briefly worked, and talk to an older waitress named Irene (Sandra Kinder) who treats them just like the cops did. What is with these people? At the trailer park where the deceased lived the manager Carl (Harry Dean Stanton, WILD AT HEART) isn’t exactly welcoming at first either, but at least he has the excuse that an annoying number of people have come asking and “It just means more shit I gotta do now.” And he’s still nice enough to make them “a cup of Good Morning America.”
The clues lead Desmond to look under a trailer, where he finds the missing ring… and then it cuts to FBI headquarters in Philadelphia, where Cole says that Desmond has gone missing. Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan, THE HIDDEN) is telling Cole about a weird dream he had about some guy (David Bowie, LABYRINTH) coming for him and then he sees from the security cameras that the guy really was there and some other weird stuff happens, etc.
I’m not completely ignorant, I know that Cooper is the hero of the TV show, so I noted how cool it was that we got this whole prologue before he finally shows up 27 minutes in… not realizing that the prologue was supposed to be his main part, but MacLachlan was pissed about Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost mostly abandoning the show in season 2, and could only be talked into shooting a few scenes for the movie. I really like Desmond and the fact that when Cooper finds his abandoned car somebody wrote “Let’s rock” on the windshield, so I think it worked out for the best.
Cooper has a premonition/prediction about the next victim in this series of murders. He says it will be a blond, sexually active, drug using high school girl. The rest of the movie focuses on just such a girl, so even if we didn’t know there was a whole show about the investigation of her murder we’d know there was an expiration date on her.
This is the story of the last week of Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee, WILD AT HEART)’s life. What started as an odd procedural now turns into a mix of teen melodrama and avant garde horror. Laura is (we later hear) the homecoming queen at Twin Peaks high school, and she’s no angel, though she talks about angels and has a painting of them in her room. Her hobbies include cocaine and two timing her “goon” boyfriend Bobby (Dana Ashbrook, WAXWORK) with motorcycle riding James (James Marshall, GLADIATOR). She works at a diner but also goes to a bar called The Roadhouse where the bartender Jacques (Walter Olkewicz, 1941) pimps her out to adult men.
“So you wanna fuck the homecoming queen,” Laura says to two johns with withering disdain, but they sure don’t seem ashamed of themselves. (This is also the fantasy of Sean Connery’s character in THE ROCK and the cops who quote him in AMBULANCE, though in those cases it’s supposed to be a triumph instead of a violation.)
Most of the movie is light on plot, medium on puzzling dream imagery, heavy on mood. The latter really struck me in the scene where Laura ditches her best friend Donna (Moira Kelly, THE CUTTING EDGE) and goes alone to the Bang Bang Club (or the Roadhouse? Is it the same place?), the bar in this little lumber town where you can walk in and see Julee Cruise and a full band with some surreal blue lighting. Laura listens to the song and starts crying. I guess it’s because she’s about to turn tricks, but in the moment I thought she just walked in during a vulnerable time, felt utterly alone in a crowded public place, and was moved by the music. I liked that.
The title is one of many cryptic phrases uttered in the film, but I think it describes the situation when Donna follows Laura to the Roadhouse, sees her with the johns and joins her as a naive act of support or protection. Earlier they hypothetically discussed “falling in space,” and “going faster and faster” and how “for a long time you wouldn’t feel anything.” I think Donna wants to intervene before Laura has to, in her words, “burst into fire… forever.”
So she goes with Laura and these disgusting older men (one calls Laura and another friend “my high school sandwich”) to a topless lounge to drink drugged beer and perform lewd acts. The only memory I had of this movie from renting it in the VHS era was that I liked this scene taking place in a bar with loud live music and subtitling what the characters are saying to each other rather than cheating on the sound mix.
This is still I think my favorite part of the movie other than the Desmond prologue. It’s sleazy and gross but it has such a vivid feeling of being a teenager just hanging out in a place that feels dangerous. Donna stands wide-eyed with these large adult men and her fearless, experienced friend, probly not knowing they gave her a beer with pills in it, feigning laughter at their jokes to pretend to be comfortable and understand what they’re talking about – which is honestly kind of how I felt watching the movie at that point, not sure how well I’m actually following it, but trying to go with the flow.
Their voices being so drowned out by the music gives the scene an unusual authenticity, but also a creepy sense of distance that moves organically into the dizzy disorientation as the drugs kick in.
Crucially, the “(loud instrumental blues rock),” as the subtitles call it, is a moody, aimless instrumental, not performing for anybody, just laying into the same groove over and over, the same riff chugging along with nowhere to go. Again, kinda how the movie feels at this point. It almost feels like time has stopped. The scene finally does come to a conclusion when Laura sees drugged-out Donna topless and writhing with one of the men. She runs over furious, panicked, throws a sweater over Donna’s breasts, abruptly protective of her friend’s innocence.
The transition from that long sequence to the next is perfect – a pan across the bar floor covered in a preposterous amount of cigarette butts, ashes and Rainier bottles dissolves to foggy Washington forest land. That’s the full spectrum of this town.
Reading about the movie afterwards I saw Lynch and Lee call it a story about a struggling incest survivor. That didn’t specifically come across to me without the context of the TV show, but Laura’s fucked up father Leland (Ray Wise, CAT PEOPLE) is clearly the source of her issues. At the dinner table he bizarrely fixates on her hands allegedly being unclean, then accuses of her of being promiscuous. Later he comes up into her room crying, saying he loves her and “Good night, princess.” He doesn’t quite say he’s sorry, though.
Donna lives with a similarly possessive/cleanliness-obsessed prick (Eric DaRe, SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT III: BETTER WATCH OUT!) who yells at her about scrubbing kitchen tiles and hits her. Men in this movie pretend to be fanatic guardians of women as cover for their love of defiling them. Seems familiar.
Another malevolent masculine force in Laura’s life is Bob (Frank Silva, property master, ONE FALSE MOVE), who I remember a little bit about from the show but here he seems to be either a psychotic delusion who only exists in Laura’s mind or a demonic force who she sees peeping in her window and finds crawling on top of her. She yells “Who are you?” until his face turns into her father’s. I guess that’s the confirmation of incest, but I took it as a symbolic nightmare premonition, like Luke seeing his own face under Darth Vader’s mask in EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. Did you guys know David Lynch turned down RETURN OF THE JEDI? A little rare trivia for you there – I’m gonna make that the headline of this review for clickbait purposes.
Reading that Leland raped his daughter changes what I thought was the movie’s big revelation about him. Flashbacks reveal the Deer Meadow murder victim Teresa was also a teenage prostitute, and sanctimonious Leland was (of course) one of her regulars. He tells her he wants to party with “those friends” she mentioned before but when he shows up for the tryst he sees (just in time to duck out) that one of them is Laura. So in my misunderstood reading of it it’s like there you go, creep. You’re practically victimizing your own daughter. (But not literally.)
It’s cool that Lee was (from what I understand) only in flashbacks on the show, but here she’s alive and she’s the main attraction and gets to give a hell of a performance. She plays mischievous, she plays lusty, she plays falling over giggling drunk, she also plays completely broken, panicked, and in one scene I think goes mega with the crying. I called WILD AT HEART “a juvenile delinquent drive-in movie from another dimension,” and I think this has a little bit of that too. Laura Palmer is the beloved prom queen who’s secretly the town terror, but every ounce of the movie’s sympathy is with her. All the adult men in her life are bastards and the young men are dressed up like they think they’re James Dean but they have about as much charisma as a bag of potatoes. I thought it was funny that Bobby wears a flannel tied around his waist (the ol’ Steve Isaacs) and a leather jacket that has a letter T on the back – I think meaning he lettered in football or whatever. All the archetypes in one. There’s also a scene where she goes to see the dumb poet boyfriend from LEAVING NORMAL (Lenny von Dohlen, ELECTRIC DREAMS) and he almost seems like the same character.
Much of the creepiness in the movie comes from the surreal dream sequences and people saying things that are either completely nonsensical or nearly impossible to decode just by watching the movie once. Things you can’t understand leave you feeling a loss of control. In the end this mixes with something more commonplace in scary movies: men who rape and murder, and the death of Laura Palmer. That was inevitable, but Lynch offers her some solace, I suppose, seeing an angel (Lorna MacMIllan) floating above her in… Heaven, or a dream, or whatever the fuck. She responds with what looked to me like devastation, then tears of joy, then an evil smile. Could be any or all of those things.
Theatrically released movies continuing TV shows still aren’t hugely common, but they especially weren’t back then. It had been a couple decades since shows like Dobie Gillis, Batman, The Munsters, The Monkees, Dark Shadows and H.R. Pufnstuf had gotten movies. In the ‘80s there had been some big screen companions to cartoons (G.I. Joe, GoBots, The Transformers), there had been Muppet movies and FOLLOW THAT BIRD. And in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s we started getting the adaptations of TV shows recast with movie stars (DRAGNET, THE ADDAMS FAMILY). And there had been THE NAKED GUN: FROM THE FILES OF POLICE SQUAD, a movie version of a TV show most people who saw the movie didn’t know existed. Otherwise the closest precedent to something like FIREWALK WITH ME were the six original cast Star Trek films released from 1979 to 1991. It would be years before shows like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, The X-Files, Firefly, Entourage, Hannah Montana, Sex & the City, and Downton Abbey moved their adventures to a larger canvas. Even still, this feels like something different from any of those.
Though initially a sensation, the show’s ratings declined in the second season, and ABC cancelled it. Since Lynch and Aaron Spelling Productions (yes, the 90210 company) had intended a third season, they quickly announced that the story would be concluded in a trilogy of films. Co-creator Mark Frost wanted to do a sequel, not a prequel, so he left and did his movie STORYVILLE (also released that summer, and I should’ve reviewed it, but I ran out of time, sorry).
FIRE WALK WITH ME, I think we can agree, does not seem like it gives two flying fucks about being commercial enough to kick off a trilogy. And of course it did not. It didn’t make back its small budget, it got very divided reviews, and it generally had a reputation as a disappointment for fans. I think that’s mainly because it sets aside the quirk that brought many to the show, instead focusing on the dark and tragic through the esoteric arthouse nightmare style of Lynch’s subsequent films. I like that the opening credits play out over a closeup of television snow. It starts out blurry and abstract, starts to get clearer, but almost hypnotic, then the camera pulls out to show the TV just before it’s smashed in a fit of violence. As if to say that this is not the TV show, this is something else. He tried to warn you!
It’s irrelevant in the context I’m watching it, but I’m sure people were also bothered by the small part for Cooper and other major characters not being present. Some cast members had scheduling conflicts, some didn’t want to participate, many filmed scenes that were cut because the movie was much too long and Lynch chose sort of almost making some kind of vague sense for this specific story over checking off all the boxes of who you’d expect to see from the TV show.
And that’s why FIRE WALK WITH ME is a perfect capper for Weird Summer. Here is a director with an opportunity to try for a crowd pleaser making the deliberate choice to go another direction. 30 years later the movie is much more appreciated, in the Criterion Collection, called a masterpiece by some. Lynch used some of the things he set up in Twin Peaks: The Return, a limited series that by all reports leans heavy into the arcane David Lynch shit, but by that time there was a large audience that wanted, expected and embraced it.
Here’s my history with Twin Peaks. I watched it when it aired, when I was a teenager, but not from episode 1. Maybe not from season 1? In those days you didn’t expect to have to watch every episode of a show to understand it, you just tuned in when you wanted. My parents, who never watched a David Lynch movie in their lives and did not go for the weird shit, nevertheless loved it for a while. My mom bought the soundtrack CD and wore it out. But in season 2 it got “too weird” and they stopped watching and that’s when I got more into it. Creepy owls, the little guy talking backwards, zig zaggy floors, all that shit. The weirder the better, at that age. I was into political allegory and stuff but I didn’t need to find meaning in a thing – I loved it if it was aggressively hard to understand. If my parents were turned off by it being weird or people were outraged about the Penguin being too scary for kids that seemed like a badge of honor to me. Getting something in front of normal people that made them uncomfortable seemed subversive.
One of the few goofy scenes in FIRE WALK WITH ME is right at the beginning when Cole welcomes Agent Desmond at a small airport with the “surprise” of a young woman named Lil (Kimberly Ann Cole) who wears a bright red dress and does a little dance. Later in the car Stanley remarks on that being “really something” and Desmond explains that it was actually a coded message. Her “sour face” meant “we’re going to have trouble with the local authorities,” both eyes blinking meant “trouble higher up,” one hand in her pocket meant “they are hiding something,” etc. It’s funny because as far as I can tell there’s zero reason to keep any of that secret and also it doesn’t help them in any way.
At the end they discuss a particular detail about her dress:
“Did you notice what was pinned to it?” Desmond asks.
“A blue rose,” says Stanley.
“Very good,” says Desmond. “But I can’t tell you about that.” And he doesn’t.
Later Cooper will say that the Teresa Banks murder is “one of Cole’s Blue Rose cases,” so it’s a classification for a certain type of case. A wiki on fandom.com describes it as a case involving the supernatural or UFOs – basically an X-File, I guess. I’d like to forget about that context, though, because I like this scene as a description of Lynch’s approach. A whole lot of symbols, some of them maybe mean something, though good fucking luck decoding it on your own. And some of them – sorry, I can’t tell you about that.
I never went full blown into Twin Peaks, but in my twenties I considered myself a Lynch fan. I probly would’ve had BLUE VELVET and THE ELEPHANT MAN on my list of favorite movies. I liked ERASERHEAD too. I often listened to the soundtrack, with the eery wind sound effects and all. I rented On the Air and Hotel Room. I went and saw LOST HIGHWAY when it came out. I didn’t get it but I thought I kinda liked it.
By the time of MULHOLLAND DR. my relationship to the weird had changed a little, though. I actually reviewed that one for The Ain’t It Cool News because I went to an early screening of it at an art museum. Naomi Watts and I guess it was Richard Green, who is credited as “The Magician” in the movie, presented the movie. He just kept raving about how brilliant she was and all the awards she should win and it seemed like he really had it bad for her. It’s weird to think of now because she wasn’t very famous yet. I knew her from TANK GIRL.
I liked the movie but I had a different experience from most people. You may remember that MULHOLLAND DR. was originally shot to be a TV series. The new Twin Peaks. A co-worker loaned me a tape of the pilot, so I saw it in that form before it was turned into a movie. When you see it that way you see it as an introduction to a world and characters and a set of mysteries that will be explored over the course of the series. When you then see it as a movie it seems mostly like that pilot but then with a bunch nonsense tagged on at the end in the place of what would’ve been the meat of the show. Most people seemed to take that stuff like Lil’s dance, they thought each little thing had a specific meaning. I thought it was just an empty box for you to fill, and instead of accepting it for that, I thought of it like a scam. Like he didn’t know where it was going so he figured just slap some weird shit on the screen, nobody will know the difference. So I didn’t keep up with the Lynch movies after that or ever go back and watch the rest of Twin Peaks.
But I continue to change. Now I think my attitude back then was as superficial as when I just wanted to see some weird shit that would freak people out. Now I hope I’m more open-minded about there being a wide range of approaches to movie making. Not all of them are for everybody, and I’m included in everybody. I recognize that I tend to prefer something a little more narratively structured and direct than some of those Lynch movies. But it doesn’t need to be as long as I can find some hook or idea that I can connect to emotionally, or relate to something about life that I care about. This summer I found a little slice of that in FIRE WALK WITH ME, I found more than ever of it in ALIEN 3, I found it in BATMAN RETURNS just as I always have.
If we look at the subsequent career trajectories of many of the directors of Weird Summer (see Appendix) we can see that it’s very possible – or at least was back then – for directors who make movies that only appeal to a niche audience to survive and/or prosper, especially if they don’t retreat after a perceived failure. And I suspect that coming of age as a movie fan in that era is part of why those are the type of directors I respect most. I love mainstream pop culture and franchises and shit but I can’t relate to these people that want to make the biggest, widest appealing movies, the people who talk like corporations instead of artists, who want to have brands and make content instead of using this medium to express something that’s inside them or that’s unique to them. That can mean something inscrutable like FIRE WALK WITH ME or LIGHT SLEEPER and it can also mean Tim Burton taking the actual biggest pop culture icon of the time and painting it in his personal obsessions.
We have good movies now, and we have good directors, even working within the system where most of the big budgets go to established comic book universes and other types of name brand remakes, reboots and sequels. But I think most of them see themselves as professionals hired to please the studio and “give the fans what they want.” Sometimes they put their spin on it, but how often do they put their soul into it? And how many of their movies will stand out as a singular work 30 years later like BATMAN RETURNS does, or even like the hated-in-its-time and disavowed-by-its-director ALIEN 3 does? Worse, there don’t seem to be directors even trying to make something like that. That’s what needs to change. Fuck being a salesman. Be a weirdo.
Epilogue: Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis)
I started the summer obsessed with Check Your Head, and that didn’t wear off, but some time around September 8, 1992 I picked up another CD that changed my life. This is one I bet most of you never heard of, so I’d love to hear if anyone else here is into it or what you think if you check it out.
The group is called Praxis, the album is Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis), produced by Bill Laswell. It’s hard to encapsulate Laswell for the uninitiated, but he’s a fusion bass player who co-wrote and produced Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” (the song that birthed a million turntablists) and later with his label Axiom masterminded a whole universe of genre-defying experimental music with legends like Sonny Sharrock, Archie Shepp, Henry Threadgill, Pharaoh Sanders, Tony Williams, the Last Poets and even William S. Burroughs. I first learned of him because I was obsessed with Parliament-Funkadelic, and in the ‘90s he started using some of them on his projects (I think The Third Power by Material might’ve been the first one that got me).
So in ’92 along comes this new Laswell project built around my absolute favorites, Bootsy Collins on space bass and Bernie Worrell on keyboards. I knew the drummer Brain was from a band called Limbomaniacs, because Laswell produced their album. Scratches (and, I later learned, other strange sounds) were provided by someone credited as AF Next Man Flip (Lord of the Paradox), better known as Afrika Baby Bam from the Jungle Brothers. And on guitar was a head-spinningly talented 22-year-old called Buckethead. On the fish-eye-len back cover photo he’s wearing what we now know as his trademark white plastic mask; I couldn’t tell his hat was a KFC bucket until I read about it elsewhere. All I had to go by was the name and the playing.
How do you describe this album? It’s part futuristic funk jams, part weird metal, a little bit of dystopic hip hop, even a little new age. In method (but not sound) it’s kind of jazz, I think – two veteran virtuosos with decades of experience laying it down both on stage and in studios getting together to improvise and bounce off of some young up-and-comers, building it into songs that allow them to take turns going wild on.
The unlikely combination of these people at this time jamming in the studio under Laswell’s direction created something unlike I’d heard or have heard since. It’s all instrumental except for the single “Animal Behavior,” on which Bootsy sings, but mostly ad libs (“Hey Buckethead – what’s in the bucket, man? Ey Brain, whatchyoo thinkin about? ”). The rest swerves through funk grooves, sledge hammering metal guitars, spacey Worrell organ dirges, sounds of power tools, telephones and electronic toys. Buckethead alternates between sounding like some Cenobite-Terminator covered in drills, a malfunctioning super computer, and a rollercoaster running out of tracks, but then he’ll turn on a dime and play a solo that sounds like it’s torn straight from his heart. A robot with a soul. As a devout fan of vintage Japanese sci-fi, he also covers the theme from his favorite show Giant Robot, and also one of Akira Ifukube’s GODZILLA themes, treating them with the reverence of national anthems. In the “Animal Behavior” video he gets decapitated in a battle with Rammellzee wearing one of his robot-monster suits.
Transmutation is a perfect alchemy of the shit I love. My favorite bass player and keyboardist pushed into the craziest, most futuristic side of their genius to keep up with the hungry young weirdos they’ve found themselves in a room with. Laswell was the best at getting those guys to evolve their sound for the ‘90s without pandering to what was popular or leaning too heavily on nostalgia. But Transmutation is Bootsy and Bernie absolutely unleashed, experimental, free, pure, clearly excited to fly down the different corridors opened up by these unusual sounds flying at them. Most of their peers were playing greatest hit shows at casinos (and more power to them) but Bootsy and Bernie were off exploring new planets. It’s probly not what most old school funk fans wanted out of them, but for my specific tastes it was better than I could’ve ever dreamed.
I dubbed it on a tape that stayed permanently in the tape deck in the car, and I played it over and over again. I haven’t driven in more than 20 years but I still listen to Transmutation, almost always front to back. The way this album sounds, that’s how I want the world to be. Monstrous funk, scorching guitars and hard beats slamming through all rules and limitations. Freak flags on every window. You don’t need to do what’s expected, what’s broadly appealing, what you know people want. You do what is thrilling in your soul and you trust that somebody somewhere is cool enough to appreciate it.
Appendix: Weird Summer Filmmaker Where Are They Now
We discussed most of this in the reviews, but it might be helpful to look at it all in one place.
DELICATESSEN’s rookie directors Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro went on to make the ‘90s fantasy classic THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, split up over Jeunet’s Hollywood sellout ALIEN: RESURRECTION (where BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER screenwriter Joss Whedon undid ALIEN 3’s death of Ripley). Jeunet then made the international smash AMELIE, followed by a couple more with mixed reception, disappeared for years, made a straight-to-Netflix one this year. Caro went mostly into the obscurity of experimental animation. Whedon made TV shows and a couple giant Marvel movies and was cancelled for being a dick.
THE PLAYER’s Robert Altman continued to be a respected auteur (plus one John Grisham movie) until his death in 2006. He was about to make a narrative version of the documentary HANDS ON A HARD BODY and The Rock was gonna be in it.
NIGHT ON EARTH’s Jim Jarmusch continues to be a one-of-a-kind indie filmmaker doing his own thing, with eight more features to his name since then (my favorite being GHOST DOG: WAY OF THE SAMURAI).
ONE FALSE MOVE director Carl Franklin has directed five movies since then, but none since 2012. Screenwriter/co-star Billy Bob Thornton soon became a hot indie director and screenwriter and then better known as an actor. Oh, and musician and subscriber to Famous Monsters of Filmland.
POISON IVY’s Katt Shea has not received as many opportunities as her male peers but seems happy with her recent output of NANCY DREW AND THE HIDDEN STAIRCASE (2019) and this year’s dog drama RESCUED BY RUBY.
Somehow ALIEN 3’s David Fincher managed to navigate a career where he continues to make big, expensive, risky movies but only does projects where he can have complete control. He’s one of the era’s great perfectionist visionaries with ten more features so far, most of them great, and none of them sequels to other people’s shit (though he apparently came close to doing WORLD WAR Z 2!?)
ZENTROPA/EUROPA director Lars von Trier continued to make many acclaimed and/or controversial films, experimented with filmmaking techniques, mediums and artifice, became known as a provocateur, weirdo, etc. Unfortunately he has also been accused of sexual harassment by Bjork.
BATMAN RETURNS is interesting for Tim Burton’s career because is it a “one for them” or a “one for him”? It followed his very personal EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, but was weird enough to terrify those Happy Meal parents and the WB brass. Either way it was followed by a smaller, personal, black and white film that is arguably his best, ED WOOD. And at the same time he was producing the timeless classic THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS! Unfortunately I believe he used up most of his passion in those years and now makes movies that look cool but feel empty.
GAS FOOD LODGING director Allison Anders has directed five theatrical features and three made-for-TV movies since. MI VIDA LOCA made her enough of a ‘90s indie hotshot to do a segment of FOUR ROOMS, and GRACE OF MY HEART is well liked. Of course she now directs TV shows and teaches film.
DEATH BECOMES HER director Robert Zemeckis’ next film FORREST GUMP was a smash hit and won six Oscars including best picture, and he went through a phase as the Serious Adult Director who did CONTACT and CAST AWAY. Nothing against him doing that but I’m way more interested in his period as the rule breaker who pioneered motion capture animated features with THE POLAR EXPRESS, BEOWULF and A CHRISTMAS CAROL, not giving a shit what anybody said about it. He has directed 13 features since ’92, including this year’s PINOCCHIO remake.
Clint Eastwood arguably had a career peak with best picture winner UNFORGIVEN, but (I can’t fucking believe this) has directed an astonishing 23 movies in the years since, most of them good, one of them (MILLION DOLLAR BABY) also winning best picture.
Michael Ritchie directed four more movies after DIGGSTOWN and died in 2001. They are not movies I’ve had any interest in watching, so let me know if you like any of them.
JOHNNY SUEDE’s Tom DiCillo went on to direct five more narrative features and two documentaries (the last one in 2014). At the very least he maintained his idiosyncratic tone and subject matter and didn’t just do a gig for a paycheck.
Paul Schrader can’t beat Clint but he’s directed 15 movies since LIGHT SLEEPER if you include the made-for-TV WITCH HUNT. And he’s been in top form the last few years with FIRST REFORMED and THE CARD COUNTER (both following a similar template to LIGHT SLEEPER).
David Lynch has only directed four movies since FIRE WALK WITH ME, but 18 episodes of Twin Peaks: The Return counts for something, and he paints and roasts coffee and stuff. He seems to have done whatever the fuck he wants the whole time, as is the dream.
And that’s murder she wrote or whatever for 1992 – Weird Summer. Phew. Sorry it took an extra month. It’s been a fun time though, at least for me. I hope you got something out of it. Thanks so much for reading.