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Inland Empire

David Lynch's Inland Empire was, reportedly, filmed without the intent of being a feature. Instead, it was a series of scenes, scripted and organised shortly before filming, a free form narrative that Lynch decided should be released as a cohesive whole later on.

The film opens with a woman, crying, watching a series of images. A prostitute and her customer, their faces obscured; a family dressed up as rabbits; and images from a childhood. Shortly after, the film cuts to a strange elderly woman goes to Laura Dern's house, where the struggling actress is given a strange set of advice, which then cuts to the future. It's a strange scene, filmed with odd close ups, a lot of the time focusing on a look of confusion on Dern's face that persists through the entire film--but more than that, this opening scene suggests all the problems that will continue to grow as the film continues. There's no reason for it, the free formed nature of the scene has no perch, no weight to it, and exists on its strangeness, which unfortunately relies upon Lynch's bad choice of long, lingering close ups on actors that you'd rather wish he hadn't employed. Perhaps if Dern had not been the lead of the film I might have found it slightly easier to keep going, but the longer I watched the film, the more Dern's confused expression began to represent my feelings of the film.

As Inland Empire continues, Dern's character, Nikki, lands a role in a film, and the film's main conceit, that a film is being made within the film, and that Dern's character will slowly lose herself in the role she is playing. Eventually, the character of Nikki will disappear entirely, and be replaced by Sue, who is working class, and struggling through an unloving marriage. While this sounds perfectly fine, the execution of it is flawed entirely, and the film itself is unable to convey what is happening clearly. A collection of odd extras, who often appear to have conversations that do nothing for the plot or idea of the film, certainly don't help, and while the sudden burst of dancing during the Locomotion is funny, it really doesn't have any point. It mostly makes the film harder to follow, or, in my case, aggravates you. In fact, once the Locomotion had finished, I realised, just shy of two hours into the film, that I really wasn't enjoying what I was watching. I found it amateuristic, badly acted, poorly shot, and lacking focus completely--the Locomotion was not just a highlight, but at slightly past the midway point of the film, the highlight of the film for me.

Shortly after, I stopped it. There was just over an hour left on the film.

I felt like I'd failed some kind of appreciation of art test by doing so, to be honest. I've liked enough of Lynch's films in the past and, though I don't consider him anywhere close to being a favourite, I've nothing against him--and the idea of this film, in particular, with its free form narrative style, should have been my thing. However, if there is one thing I have learnt with any kind of experimental work, is that the line between genius and wank is paper thin, and that what crosses onto one side or the other is very often decided upon by the reader or viewer, and that this judgment is not universal, and will be as varied from one person to another where other works of art may not.

For me, however, Inland Empire was just wank.

Unwatchable, pretentious, wank.

Comments

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ironed_orchid
Sep. 17th, 2010 09:39 am (UTC)
It's wank.

I think Laura Dern ended up as the producer, and cos Lynch shot it on digital, there was no real stress about cost, unlike with film, and no one else inolved to tell Lynch and Dern that it was crap
benpeek
Sep. 17th, 2010 09:43 am (UTC)
you ever read the reviews of it? people go round calling it lynch's masterpiece.
ironed_orchid
Sep. 17th, 2010 09:47 am (UTC)
Maybe that's the sort of hipster irony I never understand.

Or maybe people are fucking idiots.

I have seen Lynch's masterpiece, and it is Mulholland Dr.

Seriously, that film was fucked up and beautiful and the people in it could act (and some did act better than they have before or since) and even though on some levels it didn't make sense, it spoke to people and there were moments of lucidity.

Inland Empire was 3 hours of thinking that Laura Dern is annoying and that wobbly out of focus digicam makes me feel ill and that nothing connected.
benpeek
Sep. 17th, 2010 09:50 am (UTC)
yeah, i liked mulholland dr, though i dunno if i'd call it a masterpiece (maybe i just don't appreciate lynch enough). was a cool film, though.

but inland empire... man, that was just wank. i'm glad there's more people who think so.
ironed_orchid
Sep. 17th, 2010 09:58 am (UTC)
One of my favourite Lynch movies is The Straight Story.
benpeek
Sep. 17th, 2010 10:10 am (UTC)
i liked LOST HIGHWAY and THE ELEPHANT MAN reasonably, but i don't know if i've ever loved a lynch film. mostly i just find them interesting.
ironed_orchid
Sep. 17th, 2010 11:49 am (UTC)
I found Lost Highway interesting, but didn't remotely like it, and couldn't watch it a second time.
lyndarama
Sep. 18th, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
This is one of my favourite films ever. I'm pretty sure it was directed by some other normal David Lynch who just happens to share the name with that other very odd David Lynch...
ironed_orchid
Sep. 19th, 2010 04:05 am (UTC)
Nope, it was the regular David Lynch. It actually shares a lot with things like Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet, but is way more subtle.
lyndarama
Sep. 19th, 2010 11:20 am (UTC)
I was being ironic lol
ironed_orchid
Sep. 19th, 2010 11:22 am (UTC)
I couldn't decide, so I erred on the side of helpful.
lyndarama
Sep. 19th, 2010 11:55 am (UTC)
Thank you kindly. I did double-check the director's name at the time of watching it...is not anything like a Lynch film as we know it. Which is possibly what makes it so good...*ducks from other commentators*
ashamel
Sep. 17th, 2010 10:00 am (UTC)
Inland Empire has been sitting unwatched in our DVD collections for at least a year. Maybe two. Never quite worked up the courage to start.
benpeek
Sep. 17th, 2010 10:07 am (UTC)
i didn't make it, man, i didn't make it.
buymeaclue
Sep. 17th, 2010 10:04 am (UTC)
When I went to see this one, I fell asleep. Repeatedly. And woke up, and every time the movie was still going.

I said at the end, "Life's too short."
benpeek
Sep. 17th, 2010 10:08 am (UTC)
lol.

yeah, that thought was in my head there. how's things been, btw?
buymeaclue
Sep. 17th, 2010 10:09 am (UTC)
Things are good! Vacation week. Leaving for a horse trial in Vermont in a few minutes, and then Florida for just-vacation most of next week. I will be good and relaxed. How's you?
benpeek
Sep. 17th, 2010 10:11 am (UTC)
not too bad, thanks. no vacations, but everything is drifting along at a decent speed, and i am not longer sick this week. which is all shiny :)
nick_kaufmann
Sep. 17th, 2010 12:53 pm (UTC)
I tend to be a big fan of Lynch, but even I'm avoiding this one!
benpeek
Sep. 18th, 2010 07:22 am (UTC)
i think it's time to step up and accept the challenge!
ataxi
Sep. 17th, 2010 02:37 pm (UTC)
Without dismissing it outright, I had a pretty similar experience. Gave up about an hour and a half in.

Calling anything by Lynch "just wank" is a bit harsh - I like the majority of his films a great deal. I'd like to see him give his ideas up to a script team, work with more constraints, etc.

Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway, which are identifiably works in a similar vein, are both excellent films. It's not that easy for me to articulate why they worked where Inland Empire failed.
benpeek
Sep. 18th, 2010 07:22 am (UTC)
i dunno, man, this felt pretty self indulgent, as a whole. it's hard to justify anything like that, despite the artist behind it--but then, it may also be that we're just on the wrong side of it. i saw that a lot of critics enjoyed it entirely and said good things about it.

to be honest, i expected everyone here to be calling me out and saying i was on crack for not finishing it.
artbroken
Sep. 17th, 2010 09:56 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed many of Lynch's movies.

Inland Empire is just a giant pile of shit.
benpeek
Sep. 18th, 2010 07:20 am (UTC)
what i like about this post is how i don't feel alone anymore.
artbroken
Sep. 18th, 2010 08:34 am (UTC)
Hey, did you see my post about BookConnect?

You should totally send me a copy of Black Sheep so I can leave it on a park bench in Chicago or something.
benpeek
Sep. 18th, 2010 11:59 am (UTC)
haha. i'd do that, except the only editions of the book i have left now are the fucked ones from the first version of it. i gave all the others out for folk to read and write about in an attempt to get some press ages ago.
artbroken
Sep. 18th, 2010 10:10 pm (UTC)
Well, fuckbeans.
benpeek
Sep. 19th, 2010 08:43 am (UTC)
i'll send you the next book.
lyndarama
Sep. 18th, 2010 10:39 pm (UTC)
I have often been told that if it looks like wank and acts like wank...

And thank you for your appraisal, because now I don't have to watch it or pretend I 'got' it. Lol.
benpeek
Sep. 19th, 2010 08:43 am (UTC)
no, no, no. now it's a challenge. don't you see these people here? how far into INLAND EMPIRE can you get!
ironed_orchid
Sep. 19th, 2010 11:23 am (UTC)
Well, I watched at the cinema and stayed until the credits... so I think I win, or lose, or something.
benpeek
Sep. 19th, 2010 11:28 am (UTC)
something, indeed.

a good thing i didn't promise prizes.
ironed_orchid
Sep. 19th, 2010 11:37 am (UTC)
Actually, the crediot sequence was okay. It looked like Eartha Kitt miming to Nina Simones' Sinner Man
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