Mark Frost, USA, 1992)


The experience of co-creating Twin Peaks with David Lynch has obviously left its mark on writer-director Mark Frost.

His debut feature Storyville is completely in the idiom of that famous television series: a lingering, heavy atmosphere of dangerous sexuality; sinister Asian women and gross redneck men; disquieting, incomprehensible sounds that echo around every corner; and a plot based on the murky, corrupt secrets of a family's past.

Frost deftly weaves several story strands in this Gothic soap opera. Cray Fowler (a brooding James Spader) is running for political office in New Orleans. As he navigates between the three women in his life – wife, ex-lover and a mysterious one night stand – people come to him with disturbing questions about the property rights upon which his family's wealth is based.

Eventually, the plot manoeuvres itself into a fanciful courtroom showdown. As the respected elders of this clan, Jason Robards and Piper Laurie slither and growl with immaculate menace.

The finely chiselled mood of Storyville is compelling, and its theme of the return of the repressed is intelligently handled. What perhaps consigned this excellent film to video-only release in Australia is the fact that, in high Twin Peaks mode, every character is amazingly sexy, obsessive, eccentric or creepy – but never even remotely human.

© Adrian Martin July 1993

Film Critic: Adrian Martin
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