ARCHIVE: from Idiot Ego Issue 3
(reprinted without permission)

If you know who David Lynch is, good for you. He's pretty famous these days. Among other things, David Lynch makes movies. His most famous are Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. INLAND EMPIRE is his newest project, but whether or not it's a "movie" is kind-of up to you. Lots of people have very specific definitions of what a "movie" is or should be. Mainstream Hollywood has made a bazillion-dollar industry out of giving people straight, uncomplicated conflicts with easy and complete resolutions so they can go home and go to bed feeling good. But Lynch is here to remind us that movies can and should have lots of different functions, and most of his best work deliberately subverts the traditional conflict/resolution narrative structure. INLAND EMPIRE takes you on a terrifying and incomparable journey, no question, but whether or not you'll go home feeling satisfied is debatable.

It's much more fun simply to think about "INLAND EMPIRE" (the title is to appear in all caps, per David Lynch) than it is to try to review it. I say "try" deliberately, because by virtue of it's lack of narrative, the film is basically review-proof. So, if Lynch isn't trying to tell us a story, what's he trying to do? You're welcome to ask him, but he'll probably only answer you with more questions. I was lucky enough to attend a screening where Mr. Lynch gave a Q & A after the film (at the Music Box Theater in Chicago) and his responses were interesting, but not necessarily "helpful." He was careful to be evasive. He wants you to figure it out for yourself.

What little storyline there is revolves around an aging Hollywood actress named Nikki, given a renewed chance at importance with a role in a new high-profile production called "On High in Blue Tomorrows." But that thread is dangled only for about 30 minutes or so, until Lynch pulls the drain plug, and things quickly get dark as we start circling the drain. This is a tough one to crack, and arguably Lynch's toughest yet. Where INLAND EMPIRE succeeds completely is as a culmination of all things Lynch, stretched out, on display, and amplified into some kind of hellish frenzy. But I can understand the argument that Lynch has let his creative fetishes get the best of him. The result of this uncompromised vision is a 3 hour movie with very little resolution, and one man's ultimate artistic achievement is another man's pretentious bullshit. Thus, INLAND EMPIRE will undoubtedly play better for most on DVD than it did the theater (It's unquestionably a lot to digest in one sitting, and I look forward to taking my future repeat viewings on the installment plan.)

The main mistake people make with Lynch's films is getting too hung up on "what it all means." INLAND EMPIRE is like an unsolvable Rubik's cube that you can twist and turn endlessly in your head, but never get right. If you don't get it, or you don't like it, I don't blame you. All I ask is that you watch it and think about it. That's what it's for. And remember, there are no stupid questions. Except maybe "what is it about??" But, if you really have to ask that one, just remember that every answer is right.

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