Thursday, January 25, 2007


So last week Angela and I took in a screening of INLAND EMPIRE, David Lynch's new movie. I've been holding off writing about it because I wasn't sure what I thought yet. I'm still not sure what I think, but I'm going to write about it anyway.

Bottom line: I thought the movie was good, but I'll be the first to recognize that David Lynch movies aren't for everyone. Local bloggers Seattlest didn't care for it that much. As this interview in the Times says, "it's about ideas." And that's exactly what it was about. Ideas. Feelings. Impressions.

Lynch's movies have always been interesting to me, because narrative is often secondary to the "art" of the film. Lynch was trained as a painter and sculptor first, and found film only as a way of experimenting with "moving paintings" or "moving pictures," much as film was originally intended to be used. His earliest short film, from his art school days, was projected in an art exhibit like a painting but with sound. Fair warning: it contains a siren that can be very repetitive.

Moreso than any of Lynch's other feature-length films, INLAND EMPIRE is a member of this group. It's a three-hour-long moving painting. Is there narrative there? Yes, but it's also one of the first real examples of a working "metafilm" that I've seen - as in, it involves things that aren't happening on the screen. It involves the audience. I would go so far as to say that the audience is a character in the film, if not the main character.

EMPIRE is about watching and performing. It's about audience. It's pure voyeurism, and even though it needed an editor, I liked it. It's certainly not going to appeal to everyone - this is probably the very definition of art film - but after thinking a lot about it, I liked it. And I will very likely see it again.

Just to clutter up this post with some more video, here's a new trailer:

In heaven, everything is fine.


Roger Whitson said...

do you wonder why Lynch is so obsessed with Hollywood?

I get a little annoyed with his almost postmodern Shakespearean "all the world's a stage and were but players in it" routine. Not to say that Inland Empire does this, because I haven't seen it yet, but it does seem--once again--obsessed with Hollywood and acting.

Jason said...

Oddly, I've never gotten the idea that he's aiming for an "all the world's a stage" feeling. If anything, Lynch is very interested in the relationship of the viewer/audience to the movie, and his movies tend to be about watching and observing - things that are absurd and their effect they have on you (Eraserhead), sexual voyeurism (Blue Velvet), observing your life from a fantasy angle (Lost Highway and Mulholland Dr.) I think the reason this movie is growing on me is that it really takes this theme to a different level - it seems to be very much a "metamovie" in that it's not intended to be a narrative in which the audience is lost, but it's a piece of art that should always be viewed as such - thus the audience becomes a character.