"There’s a vast network, right? An ocean of possibilities."
The above dialogue is delivered by a favorite veteran actor, Harry Dean Stanton, in his trademark desultory fashion, in David Lynch's three hour shot-on-digital-video epic INLAND EMPIRE, which was released today on a 2-Disk Special Edition. This will be the first of several blogs I plan on this truly overwhelming presentation of Lynch's groundbreaking, award winning synthesis of experimental, musical, horror, science fiction, melodrama, crime, and just about every other known cinema genre. It's for the adventurous filmgoer only, all others need to move on. On-the-edge is way too conservative of a covering term. This is. like the old 60's TV horror sci fi anthology, WAY OUT! I'm not going to describe the plot because there is no plot. There is what the French term "complot" or multiple narratives, stories, stories within stories, false stories, murder stories, Polish gypsy stories, urban legends, and Hollywood stories. Hollywood, its images, legends and products are the essential stuff of INLAND EMPIRE. It's the logical, or illogical, extension of MULHOLLAND DRIVE, but in a wilder, darker, bloodier, more stylistically daring key. Remembering that Jess Franco, our blog topic, has opted [for economic reasons] to shift to Hi Def in the last decade, Lynch has chosen to shoot this project on commercial grade digital video with a camcorder available on his website. It's homemade cinema which redefines the form.
I'm sitting here watching LYNCH 2, post IE, and it's an absolute delight to see Lynch darting around with his third eye, setting up jaw dropping compositions in a matter of seconds, and he just goes with it. This shot on DV making-of documentary is one of the 211 minutes of supplements, including short films, 90m of outtakes, extensive interviews with Lynch and lead actress Laura Dern, trailers, still galleries and much more. And David Lynch sure knows how to smoke a cigarette, many, many cigarettes.
I wanted to see IE theatrically but I couldn't because I don't live in one of the few major US cities it played in. Lynch had to distribute it himself. It was celebrated at last year's Venice and New York Film Festivals, among others, while reviewers scratched their heads. Lynch is still a painter and this is his broadest canvas yet. Shot in Hollywood and Lodz, Poland, this is a French, Polish, US production with a huge international cast mixed in with Lynch's informal stock company. At the center of the hurricane is Laura Dern, whose courageous performance is only matched by Lynch's determination to send her on a journey to the end of the night. And it's a night you will never forget. And you might want to, for this is a forbidding, terrifying film, which makes even the most graphic horrors of the recent spate of torture-porn movies seem like child's play in comparison. Working without a complete script, only giving actors some cues right before shooting, going on dangerous locations without permits or the usual amenities, there is only David Lynch between you and the door.
IE images Hollywood as Nightmare City of well appointed orange rooms where guests await the Inferno. But in Lynch's Hell there's dancing, scantily clad hookers, widescreen TV monitors and butlers. As in his past oeuvre, the only signposts are the haunting glitter of THE WIZARD OF OZ, SINGIN IN THE RAIN, SUNSET BOULEVARD, THE BIG KNIFE and A STAR IS BORN, which are further haunted by Kubrick's THE SHINING (Lynch lauds Kubrick's use of music in his interview), which IE repeatedly brings to mind with its repeated motif of fast moving forward tracking shots down eerie hotel corridors. Unlike the Overlook, the structures in IE are real dumps in downtown LA and Lodz, Poland, the latter chosen, according to Lynch, because it had a "truckload" of ancient factories (Kubrick's THE KILLING is another film which seems to have been a strong influence with its shattered time structure and urban maliase, but IE is much, much more radically unconventional). The element of Time (cap intended) is crucial in IE. The set up, Hollywood mainstream director secretly remaking a possibly cursed Polish film, 47, only to have the murdered cast members of that doomed produced reified in 21st century Los Angeles is at first ridiculous, but eventually it becomes clear (or unclear) that something from an unknown dimension is organizing unpleasant events. There is one blogsite review which actually relates the structure to "string theory" and posits 11 dimensions which the film illustrates and juxtaposes...it's possible. The film runs three hours but seems to go by in an instant, the fastest moving 170 minutes you'll ever experience. It's like a bullet train through Hell.
And I want one of those lamps. When you see it, you'll know what I man.
Lynch relates filmmaking to white slavery and acting to prostitution, both in Lodz and LA. The director of the slick, corny melodrama is expertly played by Jeremy Irons who defines the concept of "the banality of evil." His right hand man (Stanton) wears jet black suits and a red tie, sees the ghost of the lead actress and begs for rent money from the cast. This is Hollywood. And it's on Hollywood and Vine where Laura Dern pulls off an excruciatingly protracted death scene in the midst of the living dead of Southern California. Just before that she gets gutted by a maniac with a screwdriver which drops onto the star of Dorothy Lamour! But it's all a movie, it's only a movie, as Hitchcock pointed out to another actress. But movies can be art and are a commercial artform which, in Hollywoodland, are dictated by the Rules of the Game. IE joyously breaks each and every one of those rules again and again and again and again. And it breaks them in a way which suggests Humpty Dumpty may never be put together again.
And then there are the Rabbits.... But that's another blog.
(C) Robert Monell, 2007