The long-running publication Cahiers du Cinema released their Top 10 movies of the 2010s list today, and at the top of the list was a controversial choice. David Lynch’s 2017 miniseries Twin Peaks: The Return. The rest of the list was predictably eclectic and embraced world cinema including Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Oncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Maren Ade’s Toni Erdman, and Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. But the contentious choice here is obviously Twin Peaks: The Return.
This isn’t a value judgment on Twin Peaks (I haven’t watched it), but rather asking what qualifies as cinema, and I think that’s a more valuable question that Cahiers du Cinema is asking with its top selection. What qualifies as cinema in an age where television shows are described as “one long movie” and the production values are at the level of Hollywood movies? What’s the difference between a movie and a TV show other than length?
However, I still have to come down on the side of Twin Peaks: The Return as a TV show simply because most filmmakers know they don’t have 18 hours to tell their story and even David Lynch doesn’t expect his audience to watch Twin Peaks: The Return as one 18-hour block. The medium of TV allows him to tell his story differently, and in fact, his story was told differently. It was released week-by-week while other movies on this list required around two hours to tell their story. To list Twin Peaks: The Return among their company is to neglect the storytelling restrictions of the medium.
Some may argue that this is merely semantics and that it doesn’t really matter, but I would counter that mediums do matter. They affect how we talk about and evaluate a work, and while putting Twin Peaks: The Return at the top of Cahiers du Cinema’s list is controversial and will get people talking, it does feel like a bit of a cheat.
Check out the full list below.
— Cahiers du Cinéma (@cahierscinema) December 6, 2019