Thursday, February 8, 2007

David Lynch's new film "INLAND EMPIRE" : Currently at Landmark Theatres

Link to the Official "INLAND EMPIRE" Site

Link to Landmark Theatres release schedule

Having waited awhile to say anything on the subject and instead given the film time (as ones impression of his films always develops with perspective) - I could easily write like a good long 600-900 word article-length response to Lynch's newest, but I'll spare you. Firstly, a bit of a narrative overview here, well... as much as one can do in a literal sense with Lynch. Like much of his recent work "INLAND EMPIRE" involves several stories folding in on themselves: Laura Dern's character Nikki's own life as a hollywood actress / Nikki's filming in 'On High in Blue Tomorrows' a remake of the film '4/7' (based on a Polish folk-tale by the title of 'Smithy's House') which itself saw the demise in a 'Brutal Fucking Murder' of the original male and female leads / Scenes involving the Polish actress, her lover; the lead actor in the film and the jealous pathological husband / All of these elements intertwining to blur the original/folk tale/film remake/Nikki's own life and the making of 'On High...' with a current modern-day American Polish cabalistic culture (?) and the potentiality of breaking the spell of the 'curse' of the original film '4/7'. Got that? ... Oh and then there are the Rabbits. Anyone who has seen the ongoing sitcom(?) featured on Lynch's site knows this little bit of unnerving TV-Americana commentary, which he has neatly fit into the dreamlike maze of darkened hallways, staircases and doorways leading from one world/film/reality to the next within 'INLAND EMPIRE'.

In response, I'll say that I liked it. Having followed his film for some 20 years of my life, I've come to develop a generalized relationship/understanding of his conceptual ideas and a (predominantly) Lynch-based criteria of sorts to gauge the impression of each of his new films by contrast to those that came before it, as well as considering the cinema environment/culture his new films come into during their time. My conservative response here some days after the second viewing of "INLAND EMPIRE" is to say that I found it 2/3 successful. What worked was amazing! What didn't work, I felt really detracted in a significant way from the whole of the film. The stylistic changes/advances were pretty profound - the sickening looking drained-color-palette of the DV he chose to shoot it on to begin with... Aesthetically, just from a visual standpoint, what I thought was going to be my least fave aspect of the film, ended up being what I found most distinct about it; the fact that it was shot on a form of outmoded DV (the PD-150 to be specific) that nobody uses because it makes colors look muted and sickly and behaves even more strangely (wonderfully!?) in low-light or near-dark shooting conditions (and doesn't run at 24p - which is the standard for video that most resembles 35mm film). So, I thoroughly appreciated the look of the thing and thought it brought much to the content in way of the 'not quite of our world' atmosphere. Story-wise the insane-cyclical narrative cycles... and the obliqueness through beginning and ending the same-said cycles something like 6 times - lent it the most powerful of the Lynch-dream-logic of all of his films. A cinema experience (of the nature that should be seen in the cinema) and quite unlike anything else he's done - I'd say worth ones time for the effectiveness of those factors alone.

On the critical side, the more concrete, greek chorus of sorts scenes of the 'Suicide Girls' were definitely a low, as were the excessively (seemingly) endless full-screen shots of Laura Dern's wide-eyed open-mouthed confoundination. And the unnecessary Beck music-video there near the end (mixed with the music of Penderecki) - a distracting and unfortunate choice. As much as I was killed by how amazing some of the advances in his art he's made with this film (Tangent here: holy jeeeze! the first 1/4 of the film made me totally giddy in the theatre, Grace Zabriskie as Visitor 1 spelling the whole thematic arc out, the blurred faces in super-low-lit shots, the first scenes of the duality of the films and the 'haunted set' scene, etc) at the same time I felt the middle section was overlong and the closing scenes after the delirious catapulting of the audience through a spectrum of emotions that late in the narrative arc of the thing, was exhausting (which may very well have been his intent). The 'soul-revival' ending rather than being liberating after such exhausting extended closing scene(s) did little for me. It instead took away from cyclical-return/culmination effect of the Nikki-witnessing-Nikki back in the domestic environs of her home (this scene in question being the one again with Zabriskies 'Visitor 1' as a guide). This particular shot seemed a perfect summarization of the mood of the close of the last narrative cycle, as well as a potent and effective reference to the beginnings of the film. That INLAND EMPIRE didn't end there left me rather confounded about the immediately following scenes which were a segue of sorts into the closing credit sequence. Was he going for some kind of Jack Smith "Flaming Creatures" Be Bop A' Lula closing here? I'm uncertain - and that uncertainty caused a moment of reflection and a 'stepping out' of the deeper saturation levels of Lynch's otherworldly (and often cited) dream-like state reached by the scenes just proceeding it. I felt it knocked the audience from the 'extradimensional' space of his cinema back into the concrete 3rd-dimension of the theatre with a mind-jostling clunk.

So in summarizing: As I said, I liked it. There were some profound cinema-as-magic moments throughout. Nonetheless it was overlong and had issues with its pacing, (this from a viewer who loves Tarkovsky, Bergmann, Tsai Ming-Liang, etc.) and to compare it with his own work, which I feel is the best way to measure any new film by Lynch "Mulholland Drive" in many ways was more perfectly balanced in pacing, duration and content. All these criticisms aside, I was substantially wowed enough by the film overall to spend the next day thinking about it - after both viewings. That's a significant sign of value for me in any work of art I witness. So yes. Was distinct, emotionally moving and thought provoking, but also a bit frustrating in ways that I felt it could have potentially been more powerful. To summarize all these thoughts in a bit more coherent/concise form: I felt it was a EXCEPTIONAL 2 hour Lynch film trapped inside of a GOOD 3+ hour Lynch film. Alright. Done. There's my thoughts on that. Maybe a 3rd? 4th? viewing will once again change my perspective on the film as his work is always 'open' to new understanding and reinterpretation through experience of it over time. Looks like I wrote that article length response here anyway... no real surprise considering the subject matter/filmmaker in question. As always he deserves whatever you have to give/bring to the experience and as such its often those very things that allow you to take something of his cinematic vision (a bit of that extradimension?) away with you.