Inland Empire

November 13th, 2008 DVD Reviews, Film, Xpress

If Satan’s greatest trick was convincing the world he doesn’t exist, David Lynch’s greatest trick is convincing so many people of what a genius he is and then turning out something like this.

Yes, there’s something to be said for appreciating the art of cinema just because of the imagery, but to most people cinema is about telling a story visually. So how you can enjoy a film where you have absolutely no idea what’s going on is beyond most of us.

Those who dismiss Lynch’s work as pretentious twaddle can feel somewhat vindicated as even his staunchest followers and critics from the black turtleneck brigade admitted they didn’t know what in God’s name Inland Empire was about.

If you don’t like David Lynch because you usually can’t understand what he’s trying to say, avoid this like the plague — it’s the most Lynchian of his films to date. An actress (Dern) who might be a trailer trash hooker dreaming she’s a famous actress (or vice versa) takes a role in a remake of a Polish film that was never made because the principals kept dying, leading to the belief that the film is cursed.

We watch this unfolding of events while apparently seeing sequences of the film in question. And it’s all watched on TV by a woman crying. Then Dern’s alter ego of the hooker (or actress). Then her cast and crew. Then a rabbit-headed family on a 50s sitcom set complete with laugh track. Then a group of other hookers sitting around discussing their night. And that’s just the stuff that doesn’t seem completely arbitrary to the plot.

Lynch probably has us all fooled and there’s no story. He’s said himself he shot scenes as they came to him, and he seems to have done so with no regard for what else in the movie they have to do with.

But cinematically, the dialogue is iron clad, every word lovingly laboured over reminiscent of Tarantino’s work. The mood is one of brooding menace and danger, with a low thrumming soundtrack threatening murder and mayhem. It’s lit darkly and muddily through digital, which Lynch now says he loved so much he’ll never leave, and the effect is great even if the story is nonexistent. For Lynch purists or heavy drug users only.

The extras on this Directors Suite edition include several chats and interviews with Lynch where he describes his very organic process.

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