Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with a review of one the big curiosities out there for me. I found I agreed with the point of view of the below reviewer in regards to watching David Lynch's films... I can't wait to see this new one, even if it is 3 hours long. I read recently that it was pulled from the Sitges Film Festival, with the Fest director saying that the studio didn't want to screen it to a bunch of Lynch fans who will love it no matter what because that'll just give Lynch ammo against the studio when they start asking him to cut the film down. It sounds, from the below review, that it could stand to lose some running time, but I hate that sneaky crap. Did these producers honestly think funding a David Lynch movie was going to result in a commercial blockbuster? You do it because he's a demented genius, not to become rich.
Anyway, here's the review. It goes over a lot of the film, but I predict that no matter how much you read you can't really be spoiled for a David Lynch movie. There's just that extra something that he puts in that negates the ability for his films to be spoiled. Enjoy the review!!!
Hi Harry, Longtime reader, first-time writer, you know the drill. I had the pleasure of seeing David Lynch's new opus, INLAND EMPIRE (all caps, please), at the New York Film Festival last night. Haven't seen much on the web about this, which is a shame, 'cause it's a cinematic experience all AICNers should take. Emphasis on cinematic, because in Lynch's typical style, sound design is a big part of the experience. It just wouldn't be the same viewed at home. Some context: I'm a big Lynch fan when he has a project out, but in between, I'm not running back to rewatch his films. I'll confess right now I've never seen Eraserhead. I know, I know.... But I was pretty obsessed with Twin Peaks back in the day, and even now, when I flip past Fire Walk With Me on cable, I'll stop and watch, usually for longer than I expect. Salon did a feature on Mulholland Drive a few years back where they tried to piece together what the heck was going on in that movie. I both loved and hated that enterprise; Lynch's films are about the beautiful/terrifying irreducibility of dream logic, and what happens when it starts to infect waking life. So to reduce them to a linear narrative is a disservice to his art. That said, the urge to understand a story is so practically hard-wired in us, and Lynch's capacity to create an intriguing mystery is so strong in all his films, you can't help but want to piece together what's going on. Who among us wasn't dying to know who killed Laura Palmer? Our disappointment at the denouement of that series after the revelation only underscores the difficulty at the core of Lynch's work; he draws you ineluctably toward a conclusion that you badly want, yet inevitably find lacking. Journey not the destination, Cooper meditating, Tibet, dugpas, yada-yada. INLAND EMPIRE is both continuous with this thematic element of Lynch's work, and discontinuous with his usual visual approach. In the first ten minutes, you won't believe how terrible the DV looks. COPS-level, people. But then Lynch fave Grace Zabriskie (Laura Palmer's mom) shows up with a Polish accent troweled on as thick as her makeup, and down the rabbit-hole we go. The next 40 minutes race by as we're treated to a variation on Mulholland Drive's narrative of actresses, doubles, betrayal, and performance. Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons, Harry Dean Stanton: you're seeing actors you love engaging with sharply-observed material in a familiar vein; it all feels very comfortingly, familarly Lynch-ian. "Oh good, I'm going on this ride that I like. People are becoming unstuck in time, actors are reading dialogue that melodramatizes what they're really feeling about each other, terrifying showbiz types are lurking around the edges, and dark corners are being peered into. I know what this feels like, and I missed it." Again, the importance of Lynch's sound design; one scene where Theroux searches a presumably empty movie set amps up the creep factor through selective use of what's heard and what's not quite heard. Again, you're drawn to peer around the next corner, with trepidation. As time goes on - and you DEFINITELY feel every one of the 178 minutes - you start to see that Lynch is taking full advantage of the expressive potential of DV. Numerous scenes explore variations of dingy gray-on-black color schemes, which you can only capture on DV; others feature super-saturated color and high-intensity contrast that give the picture an otherworldly feel. At the Q&A afterward, Lynch spoke of the liberating feeling of working with DV, and it shows in the variety of angles, textures, and palettes he works with in the film. What at first feels like a limitation - the low image quality - becomes an area of creative exploration that Lynch exploits, if not to its full potential, then quite far for his first effort. Despite the elliptical narrative, Lynch gives you the keys to the castle early on: Grace Zabriskie's character, who appears in the first fifteen minutes, exists primarily to explain to Laura Dern's character that she is about to become, like Billy Pilgrim, "unstuck in time." With that idea in mind, the rest of the film's temporal shifts become understandable as part of the character's experience, intensifying your identification with her. Twenty minutes in, Jeremy Irons's character, the director of the film Dern and Theroux are working on, appears (along with the inimitable Harry Dean Stanton) primarily to explain that the film-within-the-film - which has a wonderfully Lynch-ian title involving "blue tomorrows" - is an unintentional remake. (What a great concept!) That is, the producers failed to inform Irons until shooting was about to start that a prior attempt had been made to produce this story (this screenplay? not clear), but that production was never finished. Why? Mild spoiler: the two leads were murdered. With that, the back-and-forth to the scenes in Poland with Polish actors start to make sense, and you can follow them in the rest of the film as two parallel stories - Polish actors in Poland playing out the unfinished "original" of "Blue Tomorrows", and Dern and Theroux making the presumably to-be-finished American "Blue Tomorrows". Inevitably, the two stories start to bleed into one another. Now, when I say, "you can follow them in the rest of the film," that's pretty relative. The point is that within the first half hour, you have laid out for you nice and clear the basic rules of the game, which the rest of the film proceeds to bend to the breaking point. But throughout, you understand that Laura Dern is unstuck in time, and that two parallel stories about adulterous lovers are playing out and gradually merging as she ping-pongs through identities and timeframes. In that respect, the narrative elements are quite simple; it's their arrangement and the lack of connective tissue that are beguiling and frustrating. This dual quality is clearly a product of Lynch's creative process on this one. During the Q&A, both Dern and Theroux talked about the liberating feeling of Lynch's unusual writing style on this project. He would write a scene, they would shoot it; he would write a scene, they would shoot it. Dern went so far as to say that she may have known too much about characters she's played in the past - meaning, having the whole script ahead of time leads you to make certain choices in scenes that set up things you're going to do in later scenes. "Pointing the performance in a certain direction," Theroux called it. In Lynch's set-up on INLAND EMPIRE, the actor has to react more like a person in the real world; you don't know what's coming next, so you react and live in the moment. Now, no one would mistake these characters or their dialogue for the real world - they're stylized in the best Lynchian way, off-kilter, absurd, and periodically menacing. But the idea that each individual moment felt more real to the actors because they didn't know what's coming next is alluring; and the performances do have a certain relaxed naturalism. Let's just go with it, the actors seem to say. Did I mention the return of Julia Ormond? Or the Mary Steenburgen cameo? Or the circus subplot? The bottom line is that you could easily lose an hour on the three-hour running time and get an even more compelling, beautiful, and creepy mystery. But what's there is definitely worth seeing. Maybe Lynch, with his recent campaign to raise $7 bajillion-ty dollars to fund universities of peace or some such hoo-hah, is trying to teach us how to do transcendental meditation through watching his films. But in any event, Laura Dern's heroic, harrowing performance, the sound design, the cinematography, and the patented Lynchian dread-in-the-mundane vibe are worth the price of admission. If you use this, call me The Good Dale is in the Lodge.