Friday, March 23, 2007

INLAND EMPIRE: drunken musings

First point to consider is that most “big” Hollywood directors wanted to be filmmakers. And while they may have been in love with film as a primary artistic vehicle, they were still preoccupied with storytelling.

David Lynch’s early films were not stories at all, but film loops presented and or commissioned as art installations.

Lynch’s first artistic goal was to be a painter.

Recently, he has said: “I want to create a never-ending loop that never repeats itself.”


Most reviews say the same thing; the movie is not to be deciphered. It is an experience.

The film abandons “narrative” in any sense that can be put into words. Film here, while not “pure,” (blegh) is divorced from the narrative dictates of the novel that Hollywood seems to demand. Hollywood is his theme. It continues an arc begun with Lost Highway and taken to a more complicated but still primarily bicameral (brain) structure in Mulholland Drive. Inland Empire is at least tricameral.

The film’s credits open with a movie projector beam highlighting the title. We are drawn to the fact that this is a movie. The “identity” of the film is established: projected light in darkness.


If it is up to everyone to determine the “meaning” of the film for themselves--which Lynch seems to have tacitly acknowledged by refusing to shed light on his intentions--then attempts to interpret or otherwise explain the film are futile.

It’s significance rests in the experience of the film. What each viewer brings to it, and what each viewer’s expectations, feelings and physical condition at the time of viewing determine what the “meaning” may be.


If an intelligible interpretation cannot immediately be made, we are left with sensation and emotional response. The film disorients not only with techniques of (audiovisual) editing and narrative disjunction, but with emotional dissonance. One literally doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Patently absurd histrionics still disturb. Ridiculous images still cause a sense of apprehension. One laughs at horrible things. Doubt is cast.

The film represents a kind of device for exploding normal sensibility and expectations surrounding received Hollywood tropes to shake us out of a complacent viewing posture.

The relationship between the cinema and the dream comes out of nowhere, with bells on. The oneiric condition continues beyond the screen. One leaves disoriented. This is augmented by the unusual length of the film, not to tell an overly complex story, but to overload the senses in order to manipulate the emotions and destroy the craving for logic.


Even with such apparent chaos and confusion, repetition and wormholes in time abound. Despite three hours of motion, we are in fact immobile in chairs, static. Cinema is a medium of time. Painting is a medium of space. Inland Empire attempts to reconcile the two and partially succeeds.

The length of the film accentuates the stasis and dynamism. David Lynch is fascinated with the loop: stasis and repetition within the confusion and situational meaning of events. The moviegoer is not used to ambiguity, not really used to the schizophrenia of characters except as a narrative device. Rarely is the whole act of going to the cinema so violently interrogated. Telling is that in this “film” Lynch has abandoned film but opted instead for commercially available digital technology.

There are many viewers. The film’s multiple identities don’t even begin to do this justice.


Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and It’s a small world.

....Straight Story....Some kind of heads up?

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