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October 13, 2006

Inland Empire, 2006

inland_empire.gifOne of the recurring ideas that resurfaces from the Q&A with David Lynch after the screening of Inland Empire was the sense of liberation that high definition digital video afforded him, and this democratization of the medium can certainly be seen in the film's mind-bending, sprawling, opaque, hallucinatory, sinuous, and harrowing exploration of identity, performance, déjà vu, reality, intertextuality, surveillance, jealousy, betrayal, and fatedness. Indeed, inasmuch as the film can be accurately classified as indecipherable twaddle, it is also a description that defies reductive dismissal. Ever teetering between uncompromising inspiration and overindulgent madness, Inland Empire, as the title suggests, is a journey of interiority - not only of the way sectors of the cognitive brain can be arbitrary probed to recall seemingly random temporal and psychological regions of dreams and memories, but also in the way that the mind then subsequently maps the terrain of these disparate logic puzzle pieces in an attempt to reintegrate the information into some semblance of resolution, to make sense of our own indecipherable subconscious: a hysterical woman fixated on the static pixellations of her television; an eccentric sitcom featuring a rabbit-headed family; a privileged actress named Nikki (in a bold and uncompromising performance by Laura Dern), who is married to a powerful man has learned that she has just been cast in the role of a lifetime; the resurrection of a cursed screenplay that once led to the death of the two lead actors (and whose fate may be again be tempted when a well-known lothario named Devon (Justin Theroux) is cast as the male lead); a woman named Sue (also played by Dern, perhaps in the role of the film character) attempting to outrun her demons. But because of its entrenched irresolvability, Inland Empire, like Claire Denis' L'Intrus (albeit not as thematically distilled and compact), is the kind of film that becomes more intimate and intuitively - albeit abstractly - coherent with (temporal) distance and osmotic assimilation - when the arbitrariness of the seeming non-sequiturs, tangential encounters, oneiric repetitions, parallel images, conflated (and interpenetrating) realms of reality, and self-reflexive humor dissolve into the less concrete, impressionistic contours within the permeable fabric of human memory.

Posted by acquarello on Oct 13, 2006 | | Filed under 2006, New York Film Festival


Holy cow, Acquarello. This is a very Lynchian capsule. You're beginning to riff on your own style. My favorite bit: "Ever teetering between uncompromising inspiration and overindulgent madness..." (Or: describing L'Intrus as "compact". It is, isn't it?)

I really wish this film had been at TIFF, but I'll gladly wait for a "mind-bending, sprawling, opaque, hallucinatory, sinuous, and harrowing exploration of identity, performance, déjà vu, reality, intertextuality, surveillance, jealousy, betrayal, and fatedness". (Sometimes I wish you'd tack "respectively" to the end of a clause like that just to fuck with us. As a test.)

I downloaded the rabbit sitcom from Lynch's web site (or somewhere less official, actually), a year or two ago, and when I first read a description of Inland Empire I figured he'd just found a way to roll that and his other recent digital work into a feature film for theatrical consumption.

Maybe he did, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Mulholland Dr., after all, was rejiggered from TV material, wasn't it?

Posted by: davis on Oct 13, 2006 2:24 PM | Permalink

Heheh, yeah, would it at all surprise you to know that I wrote this under the influence of Nyquil? ;) [Got soaked from an all day rainstorm on Wednesday, woke up sick the next day, went to Pan's Labyrinth, then decided to call in the day on These Girls (and Viridiana and The Makioka Sisters) and donated my ticket. :( ]

I really didn't know what to think of Inland Empire when I saw it on Monday, so being behind on the writing actually helped me to focus on what I liked about the film and what I found messy. Anyway, I was sitting next to this older guy in the lobby waiting for the next film to start seating and he just flat out said that the film was meaningless bullshit and what amused me about the comment was that even though I completely agreed with him, I still didn't think of it as a criticism that it was a bad film. That kind of odd "neutrality" is very Lynchian too, I think. :)

Posted by: acquarello on Oct 13, 2006 3:15 PM | Permalink

Yeah, this review makes the film sounds particularly fuckedup, which is justly promising. It's great that such films can still be made no matter what. :)

"meaningless bullshit"?
Well I believe Lynch is ahead of his time, preceeding the critical tools to understand, like the surrealist revolution was. But his films still show an assured mastery and a profound understanding of cinema... unlike the vulgar bullshit we see around.

It's funny that Lynch continues on the filmmaking milieu (after Mulholland Dr.), as if it was more admitedly autobiographical/introspective than his previous work...

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Oct 13, 2006 9:21 PM | Permalink

Hey Harry, yeah, this film is particularly trippy. On the one hand, I can see why people are lobbying to have the film further edited because it would make the Laura Dern film-within-a-film more linear, but on the other hand, it would also make the film more spoon fed and conventional.

Posted by: acquarello on Oct 14, 2006 9:55 PM | Permalink

How is the visional/emotional texture? And do you find that Lynch has perhaps sacrificed this for a more psycholigicaly-tuned introspection into the subconcious and dreams?

Posted by: Jeremy on Nov 16, 2006 12:55 PM | Permalink

Hmm, interesting question. Visually, it is quite raw and not as polished as we've seen in Lynch's earlier work, which I think is part of what makes Inland Emipire seem so unfiltered and enigmatic, but it also makes the realms of "reality" more interconnected. It is a bit like watching Lynch unplugged in that sense, where you get a more direct representation of his thought process, even if the execution isn't always clean. It's definitely a film that operates better on an intuitive emotional level, when the initial resistance to reconciling the narrative becomes somewhat sublimated to general impressions and recurring ideas, so in that sense, I guess I'd agree that Lynch has somewhat sacrificed the aesthetic to get a purer, more unadulterated vision across.

Posted by: acquarello on Nov 16, 2006 2:45 PM | Permalink

Hm. It's just...I'm sitting here watching this rabbit clip and I'm like...this is fun and clever. But ultimately some more posing. Well, this review considerably excites me. Perhaps a bit more for Dern, but it still excites me. Out of curiosity how does this rank with your Lynch films?

Posted by: Jeremy on Nov 16, 2006 8:04 PM | Permalink

Well, I still don't get the rabbit connection (other than the usual Alice in Wonderland metaphor). :) Dern's performance in the film is really quite extraordinary because she's playing several roles and several incarnations of those roles. I'm actually not a die hard Lynch film, but I like this more than Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet in terms of his "warped dream" films. I still think The Elephant Man is his best film, but it's not exactly a "quintessential" Lynch film.

Posted by: acquarello on Nov 16, 2006 10:01 PM | Permalink

Would you consider it an Avant Garde film? (because of the formal audacity and the "senseless" narrative innovation)

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Nov 17, 2006 12:46 PM | Permalink

Hi HT- in the sense that Chris Marker or early Alain Resnais is avant-garde, I'd say so. It's not so much from the non-narrative quality of the film though as much as from Lynch's conflation of time, memory, and reality. It's very Resnais-ian in that sense (although without the formalism of his work).

Posted by: acquarello on Nov 17, 2006 9:08 PM | Permalink

The clip I saw (with the guy and 2 girls sitting outside and talking like if he was elsewhere, with a monotonous/asynchronous voice/emotion), looked more experimental dramaturgically than Dogville... was this clip in Inland Empire?

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Nov 18, 2006 11:39 AM | Permalink

Do you mean the "Room to Dream" clip at You Tube? Honestly, I don't remember the scene but I remember the characters, or at least the man, appearing (I think) in a backyard barbecue scene. There were quite a few of these seemingly unrelated tangent sequences throughout the film though that didn't directly connect to Laura Dern or her character's story.

Posted by: acquarello on Nov 18, 2006 4:51 PM | Permalink

Yes that one. Is it from a different DVD? It's so Lynchian. The way he creates tension out of nothing dramatic : just with the way he cuts, the framing hierarchy and the overstated timing. It's really disturbing, but I think it takes cinema into new territories (without readymade conventional shots). And this is fascinating.
Personally I can't stand Laura Dern... but apparently he likes her. Did you see he sported her for an Oscar in Hollywood blvd. with a cow? :)

Posted by: HarryTuttle on Nov 18, 2006 8:09 PM | Permalink

Well, it could well be in the film, I just don't remember it. But yes, Lynch does achieve a lot just with the framing and camera position, like the early "welcome wagon" scene with a busy body neighbor where just the odd camera angles and the exaggeration of the audio with respect to involuntary bodily functions (gulping, breathing, heartbeat) leave an air of foreboding, even before the film gets really weird.

Posted by: acquarello on Nov 18, 2006 11:04 PM | Permalink

Hey acquarello and HarryT-

The "Room to Dream" clip is not in the film, though the location and actors all are, maybe playing the same folks, maybe not. Reportedly, "Room to Dream" was Lynch's way of showing the possibilities of the digital medium, similar in intent to Rohmer's short "The Curve" (1999), which he made before embarking on "The Lady and the Duke." Vastly different results of course. :-)

Seen "INLAND" three times so far... one of my faves this year. Hope you'll check out my piece at "The House Next Door":



Posted by: Keith Uhlich on Dec 06, 2006 10:52 AM | Permalink

Thanks for clarifying, Keith. I knew I was confounded by some things, but I'm glad to hear that I wasn't that confounded as to forget entire scenes. ;)

Posted by: acquarello on Dec 06, 2006 1:54 PM | Permalink

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