Kool Kat of the Week: Russ Marshalek Walks with Fire to Reimagine TWIN PEAKS as a place both wonderful and strange

Posted on: Sep 12th, 2013 By:

Photo courtesy of Russ Marshalek.

When TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME was released in 1992, it evoked boos in Cannes and derision from almost all US critics and many loyal David Lynch fans. However, over time, the film, meant to be a hybrid of prequel and sequel to the iconic TV series, has acquired its own cult following who revel in the excessive grotesque, over-the-top symbolism and psychological horror dualism of Leland Palmer and the corrosive Bob. One of these new advocates is once-Atlanta resident/now New Yorker Russ Marshalek, a musician, DJ and looper whose previous project with Sophie Weiner, the Silent Drape Runners, devoted much of its creative energy to re-soundtrackings and re-imaginings of the iconically weird TV series, a precursor to quirky cable dramas of today. Now with his new solo project a place both wonderful and strange, he’s doing a live re-scoring of TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME this Sunday Sept. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Highland Inn Ballroom, and well, while Angelo Badalamenti‘s score was a film high point, maybe the Log Lady injected us with a primal sense of curiosity.

The idea of new fans and a new soundtrack makes me wonder if TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME might have been received better as a standalone feature, in other words, if the series hadn’t existed. I, for one, recall hating it for the same reasons as Quentin Tarantino did – Lynch was so out-Lynching himself that it became almost a parody of the cinematic vision I had grown to admire from ERASERHEAD to THE ELEPHANT MAN to, of course, BLUE VELVET, and WILD AT HEART. TWIN PEAKS was an epiphany when it hit the airwaves, and Audrey Horne (Sherrilyn Fenn) became my role model for how to be all innocence and tease, saddle shoes and maraschino cherries. Alas or maybe for the better, Fenn, along with Laura Flynn-Boyle, skipped the movie, although the pass did not save her career. Lynch also had lost his co-series creator Mark Frost by then, and even Kyle McLachlan sought to minimize his role. Maybe it’s the train wreck aspect also that perpetually fascinates, the longing that something highly anticipated, such as Audrey’s slow knotting of the cherry stem in her mouth, would be better than I remember. Chris Isaak and David Bowie also played roles in it. Yeah, just plain weird. Which also is totally Lynch.

ATLRetro caught up with Russ because I had to ask “why?” I’m happy to report, he left me asking “why not?”

ATLRetro: You and Sophie just disbanded the Silent Drape Runners. How is your new solo project, a place both wonderful and strange, similar or different to your past work? And is that place TWIN PEAKS?

The production work for Silent Drape Runners was mostly me, and when Sophie and I parted ways I immediately knew that I wanted to continue with what I’d been doing, so a place both wonderful and strange is a similar creative vision, but it’s mine. The music is a bit more accessible, I think, and live performances incorporate a heavy visual and dance element. That carries over into the FIRE WALK WITH ME show, which is a bit more theatrical than the SDR shows were. On the whole if you liked SDR, I think you’ll love a place both wonderful and strange.

Let’s go back to the beginning. What was your entree into the world of TWIN PEAKS, and why did it entice you so much as to become such a central theme of your music? Were you already a fan of David Lynch’s work?

Lucy, my friend/current vocalist/then-gf, introduced me to TWIN PEAKS when I bought her the Gold Box for Xmas one year ages ago. It broke the conventions of everything I thought could be done with using images to create a mood – I am, and have always been, more about words or sounds. That was the gateway drug. Combine that with the fact that Lynch’s influence is inescapable in the modern dark electronic music scene, and there you have it.

TWIN PEAKS’ second season was not as satisfying as the first — some say it descended into strange for strange sake once Laura Palmer’s murder was resolved. And TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME doesn’t get a lot of love from critics. What are your thoughts and why if the show didn’t end on a high note does it have still have such a following nearly 25 years later. 

I attended a lecture recently done by this group FEAST OF FOOLS here in Brooklyn, at the occult bookstore Catland, on David Lynch, TWIN PEAKS and the occult. In it, the end of TWIN PEAKS Season 2 was discussed: how when Lynch returned to the show he did so in a BIG way. And I agree – yeah, a lot of season 2 was “eh,” but the end of the show was phenomenal, and that’s what sticks with you. Honestly, FIRE WALK WITH ME is one of my absolute favorite things, and though it wasn’t adored by critics at the time, I think it shines as a terrifying masterpiece.

There have been other re-soundings of TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME. What makes yours different and worth coming out on a Sunday night? 

What we’re presenting is a unique vision: we’re not adhering to what Lynch and Badalamenti have laid down as gospel, but rather taking the dualistic playful/terrifying nature of the source material and using it as inspiration. There’s a live performance aspect that goes into it, and honestly if I ever scanned the notebooks of concepting that went into these two hours, it would be enough to drive a sane person nuts. Also, yeah, it’s a Sunday, but you’ll be home by 10 p.m.

Are there specific parts of the film that were especially interesting or challenging to re-conceive musically? 

Laura’s death. It’s easy to treat that with TOO MUCH gravitas, and that’s not what the show is about. Yes, it’s terrifying and emotionally draining and horrific, but it’s also campy and outlandish. The trick was finding a middle-ground. The whole movie, in fact, is like that.

If I understand correctly you did the soundtrack in collaboration with GHOST COP, aka Lucy Swope. What’s Lucy’s part in this? 

Lucy and I actually dated ages ago; we’re just friends now. Lucy’s GHOST COP project is really impressive electronic space pop. As I said, she introduced me to Lynch. She also had performed a few times with Silent Drape Runners, doing a twins/doubling performance with my former band-mate Sophie on a witchy version of “God Only Knows.” When there was a gig to fill doing a show for the David Lynch Foundation in South Carolina post-SDR, we talked and the pieces kind of fell into place. I love FIRE WALK WITH ME, probably more than the entirety of the series as a whole, so the show kind of started from there. We took to the film with a scalpel and came up with something that’s playful, a little inappropriate and creepy as hell. She does the majority of live vocals.

Looping and goth music are obviously strong influences on your work. What about some of the iconic experimental industrial groups such as Throbbing Gristle and Einsturzende Neubaten?

Looping/drone was one of my first musical loves. I used to walk around the Barnes and Noble on Peachtree in Atlanta and listen to the sound the store’s air conditioner made. It was a really uniquely repetitive tone that was strangely highly nuanced. IDM stuff like Autechre and old Warp/Rephlex Records stuff also factor in there, too. The work of Chris and Cosey‘s stuff under that moniker more so than Throbbing Gristle, though obviously Throbbing Gristle is incredibly important. Nine Inch Nails. My Bloody Valentine. My hair stylist pointed out to me the obvious nods to Coil.

Russ Marshalek. Live photo taken by The Culture Of Me. Photo credit: Zhang Qingyun; Art Direction: Deanna Paquette.

What do you think of DUNE? To me, it’s always been an intriguing but tragically flawed film, and I’d be very interested in seeing a re-sounded interpretation. 

HMMMMMMM. 🙂

You and Lucy used to live in Atlanta. Does your show here have a special resonance because of that, and what else would you like locals to know about what you have planned? 

Atlanta’s always a fun place to play. My old band had a great time playing some gigs there last year. It’s where I grew up. Plus it’s the last show of the tour. We’re doing four shows in four days, so I will be in a pretty festive mood after. Maybe we should all go to The Bookhouse? 😉

While you’re here in Atlanta, you’re also DJ’g a Depeche Mode after-party Thursday night at Noni’s. Can you tell us a little bit about what you have planned for that? 

Yeah that should be fun – the folks who run the NONSENSE Atlanta parties and I are doing that . Up here, I DJ so much pop music that I’m really excited for a chance to dig into some darker dance tunes without anyone asking me for “Blurred Lines.” I have an external hard drive full of stuff that I can’t wait to play.

Will there be a recording of the re-soundtrack and what’s next for a place both wonderful and strange? I take it that it won’t be all TWIN PEAKS, or will it?

No, no recordings. The original Silent Drape Runners re-soundtracking of the TWIN PEAKS pilot was recorded at our final show in August, and that’ll be coming out next month, but I feel about this show the way I felt about that one – it can’t be experienced unless it’s live. The live, performative aspect of it is what makes it special. What’s next for my project? I’m putting out the music video for my single DNT CM, finishing my ep.

Finally, gotta ask. If we went to a diner, would you order coffee and cherry pie?

YES, but not at Waffle House.

Advance tickets are recommended and available at http://aplacebothatlanta.eventbrite.com/.

 

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Retro Review: Cult ’80s Fantasy Movie KRULL Makes a Comeback as a Genial, Albeit Deeply Ironic, Pleasure

Posted on: Apr 4th, 2013 By:

KRULL (1983); Dir: Peter Yates; Starring Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony; Starts Friday, April 5.; The Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

A few years ago I attended a science-fiction double feature (woo-oo-oo) at the Carolina Theatre in Durham. This particular series had been running monthly for over 10 years at that point and the theatre was packed with die hards, who I assumed were, like me, there to see David Lynch‘s DUNE (1984), a theory I confirmed when the host of the series stood up and begged the audience to stay for the night’s second film, the infamous fantasy flop KRULL. The host pointed at a guy in the front row. “It’s his fault,” the host shouted. “He’s begged me to program this movie for years!” The guy in question raised his hands in the air and took a small ovation. I had always planned to stay—who goes to a double-feature just to see one film?—but I immediately guessed that Krull Fan and I were going to be sharing an empty room.

Shows what I know. Nobody left. In fact, I’d wager the crowd even grew a little as some KRULL fans wandered in late, apparently happy to dodge David Lynch to get to their main event. KRULL, I learned, has its fans. And, as the movie chugged along to its laugh-out-loud finale, I became a bit of a fan myself. Now, Atlanta audiences get their own chance to rediscover KRULL when it starts a big-screen run at the Plaza on Friday.

If STAR WARS (1977) was the huge stone thrown into the Hollywood water, KRULL was that last tiny ripple on the other side of the lake, marrying science fiction and fantasy together from a similar recipe, but achieving dramatically different results. KRULL, an American production shot in England at the legendary Pinewood Studios, concerns a mythic alien beast, creatively named The Beast, who descends onto a peaceful planet populated by fantasy characters—think Druidia from Mel Brooks’s SPACEBALLS (1987) and you’re halfway there. After The Beast wrecks the planet’s ruling kingdom, survivor Prince Colwyn (Ken Marshall) goes about the business of rescuing a captured princess (Lysette Anthony) in the usual way, by gathering a band of allies and pursuing a quest for a mythical weapon of legend known as The Glaive. This weapon, a five-bladed throwing star, is the only thing capable of slaying The Beast, which is pretty darned convenient when you think about it, since the critter’s not even from around there.

If the plot sounds right out of a game, that’s no coincidence. Plenty of rumors link KRULL to a pitch for a Dungeons & Dragons movie that never happened (D&D creator Gary Gygax denied this, but it’s unclear whether he would have even known), and KRULL was one of the earliest films to attempt the cross-platform synergy marketers swoon for today, with a KRULL video game adaptation appearing in arcades and on the famed Atari 2600 home system soon after the film’s release. In fact, pretty much everything about KRULL suggests a charmingly misguided belief that the creators were building a world people would want to return to again and again. Instead, KRULL was a major box office disappointment and dropped into obscurity, wearing the label of “failed franchise” as if on a sandwich board over the words “please help.”

But enthusiasts like Krull Fan have helped the movie make a comeback as a genial, albeit deeply ironic, pleasure.  While the sum of its parts may add up to very little, the parts are often enough fun to help viewers overlook the film’s rough patches. KRULL has imagination, and it’s chock full of bits that could have been iconic in a better movie, none more so than Colwyn’s Glaive, the film’s answer to the lightsaber. The weapon sits at the center of the film’s plot and marketing, but poor Prince Colwyn barely gets to use the thing, as if the production had only one to spare and couldn’t risk breaking it. (Or perhaps the Glaive’s non-presence is an attempt to duck the logistics of the thing. It seems as if though one should only throw a five-bladed star if one is absolutely certain of having no future as a piano player.)

The film also boasts a suitably gruesome main monster, encounters with giant spiders and sorcerers, a bumbling wizard (all 1980s fantasy films were required to have a bumbling something or other), a friendly Cyclops and even a future Hollywood star—pre-fame Liam Neeson appears as a surly convict enlisted to Colwyn’s quest. There’s much to love about KRULL, even if it’s pretty hard to love KRULL. Frankly, the movie can be a bit of a slog at times. But there’s something to be said for ingenuity and imagination, both of which KRULL has in plenty. The film came from a time before special effects made it easy to create whatever world you could imagine, and from a time when fans of the fantastical had to settle for whatever they could get. KRULL is hardly one of the best fantasy films of the era, but it’s endearingly goofy, hand-made and eager to please.

Unless, of course, you’re hoping to see Colwyn really cut loose with that Glaive. If so, you just have to keep waiting for the inevitable sequel. It’s got to be coming along any day now, right?

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game writer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He writes at www.thehollywoodprojects.com and hosts a bimonthly screening series of classic films at theaters around Atlanta.

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30 Days of The Plaza, Day 20: Don’t Let Us Be Too Bad – Why We’ll Always Be WILD AT HEART For David Lynch

Posted on: Jul 7th, 2012 By:

WILD AT HEART (1990); Dir: David Lynch; Based on the novel by Barry Gifford; Starring Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, Crispin Glover, Diane Ladd, Harry Dean Stanton, Isabella Rossellini; Sat. July 7, 9:30 p.m.; Co-presented by and featuring a live performance by Women’s Work, come dressed as your favorite Lynch character, coffee and pie in the lobby; Plaza Theatretrailer here.

“I’d go the far end of the world for you, baby!”

“A man can’t ask for more than that.”

“You rope me, Sailor, you really do.”

These immortal lines are exchanged between Lula Fortune (Laura Dern)and Sailor  Ripley (Nicholas Cage), but in 1990, I’d have to admit I would have gone to the ends of the world to see any piece of celluloid created by David Lynch.

If you were a certain type of young person drawn to the deepest darkness but still enchanted by the lure that true romance can exist even if it kills you, you worshipped at the insane, amazing altar of Lynch back then. You saw a college or midnight revival of ERASERHEAD, and your head throbbed with pain while watching it, yet your eyes were glued to the screen. ELEPHANT MAN was even more excruciating because of the toll it took on your emotions, but you knew brilliance onscreen when you saw it. You really, really wanted to embrace DUNE and liked some of the visuals, but …well, but then came BLUE VELVET, and every time you heard that song ever after, it had a different meaning and while you didn’t want to admit it to anyone but your diary, Dennis Hopper made you all hot and bothered ever after. So, of course, you tuned into TWIN PEAKS like an addict desperate for a Lynch fix and told your lover “don’t let me too bad,” hoping just the opposite as you twisted a cherry stem into a knot behind your ruby lips.

Sailor Ripley (Nicholas Cage) in his iconic snakeskin jacket is WILD AT HEART for Lula Fortune (Laura Dern). Polygram/Propagada Pictures, 1990.

Into that era of Lynch euphoria arrived WILD AT HEART, perhaps the best example of how behind the violence, Lynch is sweetly sentimental about love. Based on the Barry Gifford novel of the same name (though Lynch changed the ending), the movie didn’t test well with audiences and was not completely critically well-received, but yet walked away with the Palme d’Or at Cannes. In other words, a typical Lynch movie. You either love Lynch or you don’t.

Without giving too much away for anyone who has not seen it before, the plot hinges on a simple love story–boy meets girl, they fall in love, girl’s mother (Diane Ladd) forbids them to marry and hires a hitman to take out boy, boy goes to prison and serves his time, girl picks him up and they hit the road, mom hires another hitman (J.E. Freeman) and craziness, violence – and yes, beauty ensue topped off by a cameo by Glinda the Good Witch (Sheryl Lee, aka Laura Palmer)! Yup, this road movie may be set in contemporary America and include all the requisite stops at seedy motels, but it’s also a fairy tale with heavy references to the Road to Oz.

Diane Ladd as Marietta Fortune in WILD AT HEART. Polygram/Propagada Pictures, 1990.

Like Woody Allen, Robert Altman or Quentin Tarantino, Lynch has been a genius in assembling an intriguing ensemble cast, and WILD AT HEART is no exception. It may be hard to remember now but Nicholas Cage was once a fine actor and just weird enough to make him a perfect Lynch leading man. In those days when he put on a snakeskin jacket and impersonated Elvis, he was sexy, not creepy. Pretty but still real-looking Laura Dern brings just the right mix of passion, forthrightness and stroppu Southern accent to pull off Lula without turning her into a cliche. Casting Laura’s mother, Diane Ladd, as her domineering, disapproving and crazy-as-a-Lynch-movie Marietta Fortune, though, was pure brilliance. At the time, Ladd was at that middle age where she wasn’t getting many great roles, and this one proved a comeback that earned her both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. The supporting cast also includes Harry Dean Stanton as a private dick and Marietta’s boyfriend, a scary-toothed Willem Dafoe as a psychotic gangster hired to kill Sailor, Crispin Glover as Lula’s cockroach-eating cousin (isn’t insect-dining a David Lynch movie prerequisite?!), Lynch favorite Jack Nance as a loony rocket scientist, a gone-blonde Isabella Rossellini (then still Lynch’s lover) as a gangster moll, and a cameo by Sherilynn Fenn (Twin Peak’s Audrey and then every Lynch-boy’s fantasy and every Lynch- girl’s role model) as a car crash victim.

Sheryl Lee (TWIN PEAKS' Laura Palmer) as Glinda the Good Witch in WILD AT HEART. Polygram/Propagada Pictures, 1990.

Sigh, because I’ll only be there “In Dreams.” Nope, I won’t be able to take that wild ride with Sailor and Lula tonight because I alas already am committed to other plans. So all I’m going to say is I hope you’ll go in my stead and fill up the Plaza as it should be for a special screening like this (come early and see STAND BY ME for a double feature if you can! If you missed Plaza Day 19, catch up here). If you haven’t seen WILD AT HEART, you should and encourage all your friends. If you haven’t seen it in a while or even more if you’ve never seen it on the big screen, this is a rare opportunity and another reason why Atlanta needs The Plaza.Remember, your ticket and any concessions purchases help keep Atlanta’s longest-running, locally owned historic independent cinema and Retro treasure alive!

 

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