Inland Empire (18.)
Directed by David Lynch.
Starring Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons, Harry Dean Stanton.180 mins.
Some largely indisputable facts. It’s shot on a very basic digital camera, it’s very long and Laura Dern is the only constant, though she seems to be playing two or three different roles. At the beginning there’s a 50 minute sequence of relative clarity in which two lead actors are warned not to fall in love while making a film directed by Irons. After that the last two hours are a succession of seemingly disconnected scenes that keep circling back on themselves, the location flipping between Hollywood and Poland. Is it any good? It’s far too soon to tell.
I’m hedging because my DVD collection is filled with Lynch movies that were first time disappointments and this is objectively Lynch’s most impenetrable film yet. It’s a film where the nice ladies from its British distributors wish you good luck as they usher you into the screening room. It’s his bid for freedom from the studios; he’s even distributing the film himself in the States.
But freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose and he’s certainly sacrificed a lot for his independence. Remember the opening shot of Mullholland Dr, the limousine gliding through the Hollywood hills, Angelo Badalamenti’s impossibly seductive theme sweeping Laura Haring towards a meeting with an assassin and the car crash massacre that terminates it? It’s such a thrilling overture, so perfectly establishing that Lynchian balance between lush sensuality and gruesome depravity
Well there’s nothing like that here. IE is resolutely grainy and harsh, ugly and humourless. There are startling images but the effects are jarring rather than seductive. But as much as it’s all change with this stripped down, back to basics Lynch, in another way it’s same old, same old. Electricity, red curtains, industrial noises off, women screaming, hysterical laughter for no reason, all put in their standard appearance.
Extract from a one star review: IE looks like it’s the work of one of Von Trier's Dogme crew, a savage parody that reveals America’s leading surrealist to be a man trading on a few ideas that he regurgitates in every movie. It’s like an interminable student movie with a few famous faces in it. Stripped of his lavish production values and able to expound at length it sometimes feels as if, beneath all the obfuscations, his message is nothing elevating than all women are whores and sinister Eastern Europeans are taking over America.
Extract from a four star review: IE is a with-one-arm-tied-behind-his-back triumph for Lynch. He’s discarded most of the pleasantries that used to help bridge the gap between him and the rest of humanity and yet still come out with an extraordinary vision that’s frustrating, exasperating yet compels your attention even as it alienates.
I’m already looking forward to / dreading seeing it again.