Inland Empire - A Personal Review (contains some spoilers)

Discussion of INLAND EMPIRE

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Red Room
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Inland Empire - A Personal Review (contains some spoilers)

Postby Red Room » Thu Mar 15, 2007 2:09 pm

Well, I saw Inland Empire two nights ago, and I still don't know quite how to describe the experience - but I'll try.

First off, this is clearly the most experimental work David has produced since his pre-Eraserhead days. In fact it makes Eraserhead seem almost mainstream Almost.

Technical Feedback:

Before viewing IE I was somewhat sceptical about the use of DV as a recording medium, and those concerns were at least partially justified.

The opening sequence looked amazing, however thereafter the picture quality varied from terrific to extremely poor, and back again. This was exacerbated in places by the sometimes-jerky use of a handheld camera, with no apparent image stabilisation.

The other "˜problem' with DV is the lack of clarity, which when magnified greatly on a cinema screen ensures that most close-ups have a fuzzy pixelated edge.

Given these limitations, I actually feel that a TV screen would be more forgiving to the format, giving Inland Empire a visual clarity that is noticeably lacking on the big screen. That said, there is still something "˜magical' about the cinema experience

The Film Content:

By the end of this three-hour opus, I had almost no idea what it was about. However, my head was spinning with imagery, theories, questions, and a feeling that I had just witnessed something very special. Above all else, I wanted to see it again!

Readers here will be all too familiar with David's non-linear approach to story telling, as I was, and yet I was still shocked by the number of twists and turns which rapidly fold into themselves, turning inside out, enveloping the film in a shroud of chaotic mystery!

This is not a complaint ' On the contrary, I've always been drawn to these elements in David's work. Even so, IE is an exhausting ride, both visually and mentally.

No amount of concentration or dissection will ever unlock the "˜true meaning' of this work, as clearly there is no story as such, linear or otherwise. Instead David has woven together numerous threads which play out in several worlds / dimensions / timeframes, seemingly all at once. Alternate realities are tossed around at breakneck speed, making the u-turns and twists in works such as Mulholland Drive and Lost Highway seem clear-as-day

Mysterious, sexy, scary, and hilarious ' Inland Empire is all of these and more.

Laura Dern gives a spectacular performance, as do all the key players. This film clearly showcases her talent, which I think was at least partially David's motivation behind it. The numerous story arcs enable her to portray multiple human characteristics. Her character(s) is/are warm and naive, frightened and frightening, confused and bewildering She is seldom off-screen for three hours, yet never becomes tiresome.

The rabbits are wonderful ' both funny and the stuff of nightmares.

David makes an amusing cameo (audio) "˜appearance'.

And yes, there are red curtains, along with other Lynch trademarks: flickering lights, lampshades, red / green colour pallets, etc. In fact, aside from the technical DV artefacts, this work is unmistakably drenched in Lynch paraphernalia.

The sets are well chosen, and easily match the standard of his prior works.

Oh, and the outro sequence appears to nod to several former Lynch projects, with the surprise (at least it was to me) appearance of a certain face in the crowd

Sound:

Despite the shortcomings of the DV medium, the postproduction sound-design & music is nothing short of outstanding! David has surpassed himself here, with a soundscape reminiscent of the Eraserhead world, yet more progressive and expansive.

As one would expect from David there are a smattering of well-placed 50's/60's tunes, whilst the remainder of the film is painted liberally with a beautiful sonic darkness.

Summary:

Ultimately I'm uncertain at this stage how this film stacks up against Lynch's portfolio, yet I am in no doubt that it is an important work that demands multiple viewing.

I didn't like the DV look, despite being transferred to celluloid for cinema viewing, although the film content and sound design mostly distracted from these shortcomings.

Oh, and it made me want to return to film-making ' something I drifted away from more than 15 years ago as my involvement in music took centre stage!

I loved it I think.
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Postby LauraPalmer » Mon Mar 19, 2007 10:12 pm

well said :D
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Postby sloclub » Tue Mar 20, 2007 12:28 am

Yes, Red Room, sometimes your arms do bend back! I loved the film and loved the quality of the images. I think there is a story here but once again it is up to us, the public, to find it for ourselves. I love how DL doesn't talk down to us by explaining everything or forcing a happy ending.

Whose face did you see? I don't remember that part.
Through the darkness of futures past,
the magician longs to see
One chants out,
between two worlds,
fire walk with me.
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Re: Inland Empire - A Personal Review (contains some spoiler

Postby Red Room » Fri Apr 06, 2007 4:22 pm

Red Room wrote:Oh, and it made me want to return to film-making ' something I drifted away from more than 15 years ago as my involvement in music took centre stage!

Well, I went ahead and purchased a DV camera + kit / software, etc. Looks like IE has pushed me back into that world... ;-) I'm now working on a soundscape as a basis for a new project.

I'll be seeing the film for the second time on Monday, this time with my wife for company who's also a Lynch fan, so it'll be interesting to see if any of my views (above) have changed... That said, I already have a better understanding of the 'story' since digesting the first viewing, and reading various 'interpretations' online.
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Re: Inland Empire - A Personal Review (contains spoilers!!!)

Postby Red Room » Wed Apr 11, 2007 9:58 am

Red Room wrote:I'll be seeing the film for the second time on Monday, this time with my wife for company who's also a Lynch fan, so it'll be interesting to see if any of my views (above) have changed... That said, I already have a better understanding of the 'story' since digesting the first viewing, and reading various 'interpretations' online.

Spoilers ahead...

Well, I saw INLAND EMPIRE for the second time on Monday, and I must say that the technical (DV) issues outlined in my original post seemed less distracting this time. Of course, this is partially because I already knew what to expect. Ultimately I still prefer film over DV, but it's less of a distraction after repeated viewing...

Story-wise, the film made more sense on second viewing, although clearly it can be interpreted in many ways. Whilst I've read some rather persuasive theories both here and elsewhere online, I'm also convinced that Lynch himself has a somewhat open-ended view of the 'meanings' associated with this particular work.

My wife, who is also a Lynch fan loved IE on first viewing, which is more than can be said for the two girls sat to our right who giggled (in all the wrong places) throughout the film! The other 6 people (yes, 6!) in the cinema seemed to enjoy it though...

I doubt that this will ever be my favourite Lynch work 'as a whole', and yet it contains some of my all-time favourite Lynch moments. :-) For example, the entire opening sequence / Laura's monologue in the room at the top of the stairs / the 'death' scene with accompanying dialogue from the homeless people / Grace Zabriskie's entire performance, (despite some decidedly dodgy camerawork) / the phantom-lightbulb scene / and, oh so many more wonderful scenes...

As I wrote in my first post, the sound design surpasses anything David has done previously, and envelops the film in a blanket of 'sonic wonderfulness'. :-)

Ultimately no review can properly prepare the viewer for IE, so I say go see it while/if you still can!

On another note, my (imported Region 1) Twin Peaks Season 2 set should land any day now - Hooray! That should keep me going until the June/July DVD release of IE... ;-)

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