14 August, 2007


"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


Douglas A. Waltz said...

Sounds to me like Kynch is going back to what made him such an interesting film maker in the first place. Good for him.

Aaron G said...


If you liked IE, I suggest you check out Andrei Sukhorov's RUSSIAN ARK (shot in DV) and the even better LE NOUVELLe VIE by Phillip Grandrieux, for the surreal Eastern Euro sex-trade horror..

Robert Monell said...

Doug, you know, I'm not that big of a fan or TWIN PEAKS the TV and Film nor WILD AT HEART or LOST HIGHWAY, but this does seem to more in line with the cutting edge titles ERASERHEAD, BLUE VELVET and MULHOLLAND DRIVE. Not only does Lynch leave the mainstream far behind this is his farewell to the film medium.

Aaron, thanks for the recommendations and welcome to the blog. Where can I get these films. I've only heard of the first mentioned. Thanks.

I can't get IE out of my consciousness and I've only had time to watch around 4 of its 6plus hours of material. Even if you don't like the feature this is still a must-have DVD.

Anthony Thorne said...

I want to get this disc. A friend of mine (whose name might be familiar from a couple of boards) worked with Lynch on the distribution of INLAND EMPIRE and met and worked with him somewhat, with some funny stories. The funniest I heard had to do with those deleted scenes - they are the tip of the iceberg and Lynch had originally suggested releasing a feature version of IE literally 4 times as long (!) as it is at the moment, with hours and hours and hours of material ready. Maybe someone will do a big box set some day.

Robert Monell said...

Interesting. Thanks for that inside info, Anthony. The extra scenes are titled MORE THINGS THAT HAPPENEND and Lynch encourages viewers in his interview to watch them as a direct continuation of the 179m feature on the DVD. I still haven't made it through all the deleted scenes. The Lynch interview is split into titled segments on all areas of conception, production, post production and many outre riffs. He's intense, to say the least. I wish I could have seen it on the big screen. It's certainly the most exciting new film I've seen in a long, long time and this DVD is a must. I've been reading reviews which say it looks better on DVD than it did in theaters.

Pappy said...

I'm a huge admirer of Lynch and was fortunate enough to see IE in a theater last Memorial Day. I thought the DV-shot film looked like hell on the big screen so I was very anxious to see it on DVD thinking maybe it would look different and hopefully better. I haven't had a chance to watch the whole film yet but my brief sampling of the DVD confirms my worst fears - it looks awful. David if you're reading this - go back to shooting on film! The beauty of the images are just ruined in this murky, watery-looking medium. For such a supremely gifted visual artist to think that this looks good is dismaying to say the least.
This dark, dark film is unreadable. A disaster and I hope he gets back to shooting on film for his next project.

Robert Monell said...

I thought it looked pretty terrific on DVD, especially the Lynch color schemes. I also find the dark quality in some scenes appropriate considering it's kind of a nightmare anyways. It's a different aesthetic quality than film.

paul said...

I absolutely love this film, it gives you so much to chew on and laura dern is simply amazing. Her hollywood boulevard scenes are really something, (though julia ormond is wonderfully intense here as well).

scott said...

my city never got this one either and I am surprised to learn of it on dvd already. will have to see the dvd now.

didn't like LOST HIGHWAY but liked MULHOLLAND DRIVE? For me, I always found them to be like twins - female protagionists with dual characters inside. i thought MD was ok in the theatre but too close to LH to really make a big impression. Then, I didn't see it again until this year and it stod out to me more than it did on the theatre but films do that sometimes

Robert Monell said...

Paul, this film really strikes me as being about the true Hollywood behind the facade, and Lynch really goes beyond satire in the Walk of the Stars scene.

Scott, I find Lynch tends to take leaps forward and then regroups. He's like Orson Welles in a sense. He's attempted to innovate two mediums, TV and film. And I think he's succeeded at both. MD totally lost me but I found it hynotic. Now I find I want to get lost in Lynch's work because he's structuring a new kind of narrative, not linear, but he knows what he's doing, he's just not doing it in ways which are the ways production, preparation, format, distribution and exhibition hav been done. IE is a giant step away from mainstream in terms of structure, production methods and it presents aesthetic challenges and challenges the way movies are distributed and exhibited. And it's ORIGINAL, you really can't ever predict where it's going. I like that a lot.

Anonymous said...

Roma 20- 26 agosto 2007, Mostra Italia de Genere, Cineclub Cineporto, Ponte Milvio

Buko-san said...

I had the chance to see INLAND twice on the big screen and it was quite an experience, but I'm happy to report that after watching it on DVD last night, it looks way better on this format. The massive technical issues that went into the 35 mm blow-up must have been a nightmare of sorts and brought another texture to the film that didn't quite marry as well to the original look, although it wasn't an awful look either.

The presentation in the theatre I saw it in was also too bright (it wasn't one with the talked about presentation with Lynch himself) so that must've also played a part.

Either way, I'm very happy to see it looking this gorgeous and I, for one, love the David Lynch digital look. It might take some getting used to, but he's never going back to film and I can understand why.


Jojo Lapin X said...

I have not seen this film yet, but from what I have heard about it it seems to have some affinities with Kieslowski's LA DOUBLE VIE DE VÉRONIQUE (1991). Is it about a woman who is participating in an artistic project that could have potentially dangerous consequences? Does she have a doppelganger who lives in Poland? Well, these things are story elements also in VÉRONIQUE.

Robert Monell said...

Welcome to the blog, Jojo X! Good to have you here. YES, I did notice a strong influence of the KK film on second viewing. I was trying to think what it reminded me of most the first time around and you hit it. IE, though much longer, actually seems to move a lot faster and is has a wildly different tone. I remember being depressed after seeing VERONIQUE but IE really is high spirited. There is the cursed film from Poland, unfinished, but you don't when you are seeing scenes from it or if you are seeing scenes behind the scenes. It's VERY ambiguous and full of HUGE plot holes, in fact it's about holes, or rips in reality or consciousness. Mostly, it's a front assault on contemporary Hollywood and its product and culture.