Thursday, August 23, 2007


* * * (Three Stars)

"It’s a dream-within-dream-within-nightmare-within-hallucination, wrapped in a cheese sandwich and sprinkled with bacon bits."

That's one description I found online for David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE.

To my immediate circle of friends, there's no surprise that I am a huge David Lynch sycophant. I have posters in my apartment for
Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, and Mulholland Drive. I own every Lynch film, Twin Peaks DVDs, Twin Peaks VHS, a documentary on Lynch, and 3 Lynch books. I just love the guy's work.

Being that I'm busier than God Himself nowadays, I missed TWO chances to see
INLAND EMPIRE in the theaters. So I bought the DVD and watched it in two sittings. Here's what I thought:

INLAND EMPIRE is basically an unadulterated unleashing of Lynch's brain onto 3 hours of miniDV video. Studio execs, actors' schedules, money, time and the constraints of the medium of film were some things that Lynch had holding him back in some of his previous works. Here, he shot whatever came to his mind, whenever he could, without a script. That's right, no script was ever written. A thought or image would come to his head and he would call people up and go out and shoot it. One of the first of these was a post-Mulholland Drive short film called RABBITS with Naomi Watts and Laura Henning. Pieces from this short are filtered throughout EMPIRE. He used a Sony PD-150 (a video camera that cost around $2000) and so he could shoot for as long as he wanted without burning thousands of dollars on film stock. The image created is obviously video, in 30 frames, with some blacks and darks being grainy and there's even some times when (intentionally maybe) there is dust on the video lense. But the look of the whole project is amazing and ingenious.

A video camera and a cigarette... another reason I smoke.

INLAND EMPIRE, however, isn't a movie.

It's a painting that takes you 3 hours to look at. David Lynch, doesn't make
movies in the conventional sense, he makes light and dark with some red and screaming spread over a canvas of thoughts and floating ideas. If you watch Lynch films expected to see a 3-Act character arc or a climax followed by a denouement, then you will severely disappointed. Because all of these "rules", among dozens of others, are bent and broken when Lynch suddenly has a monkey dancing in a strobe light with a bunch of crying prostitutes.

Story wise (what little there is), the film is similar to Mulholland Drive with a blond-haired actress who has wholesome values is thrust into the dark under belly of Hollywood and begins a downward spiral of moral corruption. This theme of "falling" or "throwing your pearls to swine" is a theme Lynch uses often. Laura Dern, who definently was Oscar worthy for acting out absurdity with perfection, goes from being warmly lit and well-dressed to messy hair with streaking mascara shots lit with only a flashlight in her face.

The ideas of space/time are dealt with in Lynch's often used analogies of alternate realities and the segue between dreams and reality. Another common theme used is the idea that who you were yesterday is literally a different person from the person you are today. And the person you are today has to literally come face to face with the version of you from tomorrow. Strange, I know. But it works. And I really liked this film. And I'll still like it tomorrow.

1 comment:

NateDredge said...

Yeah I actually prefer my Lynch to have a little more of a structure to it, though it can be a lose one as Mullholland Dr. is my favorite of the directors films. When I saw INLAND EMPIRE several months ago I came to regard it during viewing as not so much a movie (as you pointed out) as a meditation aid. Now I don’t mean that it put me to sleep, it didn’t, but it did create that dream like environment that lends itself to abstract reflection. You can sit and follow (to the extent that is possible in a film like this) the events onscreen, but I found my thoughts wandering in tune with the tone of the picture. It’s kind of mental brain washing, in the non-Manchurian Candidate/ George Romney sense of the term.