film 5 of 6

Inland Empire

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 26, 2015

Much later David Lynch now. It’s brave, bold, indulgent, annoying. He’s a genius, and an empty provocateur (this after coincidentally screened a Terry Gilliam and a Werner Herzog, in just the last few days). We have aggressive incoherence and a lurking suspicion of craft ineptitude, and/or the ultimate and proper enshrinement of dream illogic/irrationality over the tyranny of linear narrative. Dada/surrealism over the Classical! Life is a nightmare, and the charnel house is it’s best emblem!

Wait a minute… The video image, and most of the footage it harvests, is really grimy. On purpose, and pretty unpleasantly. Lynch has made this whole thing look like the interior of Ed Gein’s basement, or maybe of Ed Gein’s brain. It’s an accomplishment for sure, and probably a pretty dubious one. Still, the array of unsettling devices here is not only really impressive, but really useful for the practitioner or poacher. The spotlight in the park! As she’s done before with Lynch, Laura Dern comes off like some kind of heroic martyr, or masochist. That poor mouth of hers!  On the other hand her long monologue on the subject of abuse really is a tour de force. And she spits all that blood up! The apparently celebratory dance that happens at the very end (listen to the critics getting carried away) doesn’t quite fix things.

As you can see, the returns are mixed, at least with regard to my own experience with the film. It’s probably important to recognize though, that this is a Real Individual at work, saying and doing things that have roots and resonance, and which you’re not going to encounter anywhere else. Of course that’s both a commendation and a warning. What it isn’t is boring, or perfunctory, and that’s nothing to sneeze at.