Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Movie of the week:

I like to put ground pepper on my food.

When the plate is put in front of me, I instinctively reach for the pepper grinder, or for the grated cheese - whatever is appropriate - whatever is handy - whether it needs it or not. Some chefs get insulted when you do this. They’ll claim that they’ve already added it, that it’s been seasoned to perfection and shouldn’t need anything else.

I don’t get insulted when I’m the chef or the server. I want people to put their own touch on the dish. To me, the dish is not complete when it is served. To me, the final step in the preparation of the dish should be, must be done by the person who is going to eat it. The very act of adding the pepper makes me part of the process of creating the dish. At the restaurant, when the waiter comes around with the pepper grinder, I want to snatch it out of his hand and grind it myself - that’s MY job! A good chef will understand that - a chef who’s not all full of himself, that is.

David Lynch, director of INLAND EMPIRE, is like a good chef who’s not all full of himself. He doesn’t serve you up a perfect dish that’s been seasoned to perfection and doesn’t need anything added. In fact, the film isn’t complete and doesn’t achieve perfection until you, the viewer, add the final bits to it. INLAND EMPIRE takes this idea steps further. You are given characters and plot elements - and it’s not immediately clear how they go together or what they mean. You have to pretty much work at fitting the pieces of the film together.

I like to think of this film like a photo mosaic. You’ve seen them. It’s a photograph - but as you look closer, you see that it’s made up of lots of smaller photographs. These smaller discreet photos are completely independent from one another, but they somehow magically blend together, as you step back away from it. INLAND EMPIRE is like that. Lynch gives you discreet plot and character fragments. While you’re watching the movie, something will happen and you might say, “What the hell was that?!!” Then something else will happen and you’ll probably say, “W-W-What?!!! What’s that got to do with what I just saw?!”. Then something really arbitrary will happen and you’ll say, “Well, that was pretty arbitrary.” And then something really strange will happen and you’ll want to say, “I think it’s interesting that Lynch parallels the labyrinthine back stage movie set as a corridor that connects seemingly disconnect realities. This obvious symbol of a woman in mortal danger runs the breadth of his earlier films, and in a way, it is a reference to the twists and turns in one’s mind. Too many wrong turns and you could be lost forever. He has obviously read the works of D.R. Stickgold.” You would like to say all that, but all you manage is, “Fffffffffft…….”

BUT - when you step back from it all, in time that is, you start to see the composite image. Some time later (a couple weeks, maybe a few years, who knows?), when you think about this film, you won’t think of individual scenes or plots. You’ll remember the emotional feel of the story. You’ll remember the intensity and the edge. You remember the overall arc of the narrative. You’ll see the face pop out of the mosaic, and not the individual component pieces. This movie is NOT for instant gratification. It won’t reveal any of it’s mysteries. It won’t tie up the loose ends for you at the end. This is something to take with you, and mull on it later.

This is a much more complex tale than, say, Mulholland Dr. which required only a shift in your frame of reference to understand what’s happening ………..whatever that means. INLAND EMPIRE requires you to put the pieces together and take your own meaning away. Everybody will have a different movie-watching experience. It’s up to you to add the final touch - the interpretation. I’ll be happy to tell you mine ………………..after I’ve had a chance to mull it over for a couple years or so.

The movie has a great cast: Laura Dern, Jeremy Irons, Harry Dean Stanton, Diane Ladd (Laura Dern’s real-life mother), Julia Ormond, and even William H. Macy and Mary Steenburgen (yes - that’s Back to the Future III Mary Steenburgen) and Nastassja Kinski and even Naomi Watts as a rabbit (don’t ask). Laura Dern is the star of the film. In a career-making performance that not many could pull off she plays the girl(s) in trouble. And since Lynch likes to experiment with multiple realities per character, ……..that’s a lot of trouble.

Warnings: For those of you who have never seen a David lynch movie in all its freaky goodness, and are considering watching this with your kids - don’t - unless your kids are really old, or have been really naughty. There’s just a tiny flash of nudity and no graphic sex - also there’s not a lot of violence, but there is a lot of profanity (not Blue Velvet level of profanity, but plenty just the same), and many of the scenes may be disturbing ( or maybe they’re “disquieting” - yeah! that’s it). So, now you’re thinking, “Why even watch it at all?” So here are my

10 Top Reasons to Watch INLAND EMPIRE

  1. As unlike any other movie as you’ll ever get.
  2. Everyone at work is going to be watching it. At the water cooler, you’ll want to talk about the latest bugs in the Vista operating system, but everyone else will want to talk about INLAND EMPIRE.
  3. There’s to be a debate this winter about your favorite David Lynch film. You have to see them before you can discuss them.
  4. You’ll overhear someone say, “It’s all in the beans - and I’m full of beans.” You’ll want to be IN on the joke.
  5. There may be some Oscar buzz for Laura Dern’s role(s). See what the buzz is about.
  6. It’s three hours long. You get your money’s worth on the rental.
  7. Don’t let #6 put you off. “Dancing With the Stars” is 4 hours. OK, so maybe “Dancing With the Stars” is only an hour - but certainly feels like 4 hours.
  8. Finally! Learn what the word “Dystopian” means. As in, “An actress takes a wrong turn and is drawn into a nightmarish Dystopian world.” Don’t you hate when that happens?
  9. You know how in many movies, you’re watching and then you suddenly know how its going to end. You see the inevitable coming - very predictable. Don’t you hate when that happens? I guarantee that won’t happen here.
  10. “Fffffffffft…….”

Enjoy INLAND EMPIRE with a loved one (but not your kids - unless, as I said, they’re old or bad).

view trailers


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