Guts and Grog Tooned Up

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Maynard Enters Inland Empire


Alternate Title:
Inland Empire: A Woman in Trouble

Alternate German Title:
Inland Empire - Eine Frau in Schwierigkeiten

France / Poland / USA, 2006
Director: David Lynch


"I can't seem to remember if it's today, two days from now, or yesterday."

In some kinda way, that's almost exactly how I felt when I saw "Inland Empire" for the very first time. After I completely and utterly fell in love with his uber-masterpiece "Mulholland Drive" in 2001, I just couldn't wait for a new Lynchian mindfuck. 5 years later, Lynch delivered - oh boy, how he delivered!

"Hey! Look at me and tell me if you've known me before."

Hmm. Hard to tell. Is ist the same Lynch as always? I'm not sure. "Inland Empire" is basically as Lynchian as all of his more uber-bizarre movies, like "Eraserhead" or "Lost Highway", though it's surprsingly even more convoluted, complicated and fucked up than everything he has ever done. It's not easy or pleasant to watch, it's not fun or entertaining... hell, at times, it's really tedious and painful. It's three hours long and only the first hour seem to make sense, while the remaining two hours penetrate and rape your brain with an eagerness that is almost disturbing - but at the end, the very end, you realize that you just experienced another piece of Lynchian awesomeness, maybe not as sastisfying as previous efforts, but satisfying enough to make you cry everyday for the fact that he hasn't made another feature since 2006.

"I figured one day I'd just wake up and and find out what the hell yesterday was all about."

I hope that one day, I will wake up and understand every single second of this movie... this nightmare of a movie. This bizarre phantasmagoria. This somewhat traumatising succession of inexplicable events that happen to a woman in trouble... or is it two women? or even more? There is Nikki Grace (stunningly played by the great Laura Dern), an actress who makes her comeback in a film called "On High in Blue Tomorrows" which is actually a remake of a German film called "47" which was never finished because its lead actors were murdered. Nikki goes so far into her film character Susan "Sue" Blue that it not only changes and confuses her life, no, she eventually "transforms" into Sue!

As Sue, her life falls into a downward spiral. She becomes involved with drugs and alcohol, disastrous relationships and a husband who has weird connections to a mysterious Polish circus, as well as to a Polish organisation that consists of pimps who deal with prostitutes. In the end, she herself accompanies a group of prostitutes on Hollywood Boulevard where she gets stabbed by Doris, the wife of her film lover Billy (wonderfully played by Justin Theroux). And suddenly, we're back on the set of "On High...", Sue somehow transforms back into Nikki (or not?) and then, some more REALLY weird shit happens.

But that's not all: there's "The Phantom", a dangerous and slightly creepy hypnotist who often walks around with a light bulb in his mouth. A sad woman, called "Lost Girl" who constantly watches an unsettling semi-sitcom where a family of humanoid rabbits talks in riddles. American hookers flashing her boobs, dancing to Little Eva's "The Loco-Motion". Polish hookers in Łódź during the 1930s. A Hispanic and a Japanese woman talking about bus stops and drug addicts in Pomona. Nastassja Kinski, Ben Harper, Laura Harring, a lumberjack, a monkey and a one-legged man singing and dancing to Nina Simone's "Sinnerman".
Oh, and a freaky Polish woman rambling about "brutal fucking murders", telling two old Polish folk tales:

A little boy went out to play. A little girl went out to play.
When he opened his door, Lost in the marketplace,
he saw the world. as if half-born.
As he passed through the doorway, Then, not through the marketplace
he caused a reflection. - you see that, don't you? -
Evil was born. but through the alley
Evil was born, behind the marketplace.
and followed the boy. This is the way to the palace.

If you think I have any idea what this is all about, you're wrong. It could be "simply" a complex mix-up of various stories centered around Laura Dern's character, it could have something to do with parallel dimensions or Möbius strips, it could be a dream/nightmare within a dream/nightmare within a dream/nightmare - or maybe it's just something that I am too stupid for.
There are many, many nods to his earlier films, especially to "Mulholland Drive" (struggling actors, Hollywood clichés, red lamps & curtains...), but obviously that doesn't explain anything either. Doesn't matter. It's as Lynchian as it could get and that alone makes me love the hell out of it.

"I've been going around, meeting my new neighbors. I think that it is important to know one's neighbors. To say "Hello!" to them."

Lynch's direction is excellent. He gave a fuck about everything, didn't care about filmmaking rules, didn't care about a proper plot or narrative, didn't care about the audience. He just did whatever the hell he wanted to do. The digital camera work is at first pretty awkward, but once you get used to it, you realize how well it works, you realized its surreal effect on all the weird shit that is happening.

As I already mentioned, Dern and Theroux are both excellent, but there are other great performances too, like Grace Zabriskie as the eerie old woman, Jeremy Irons as nice director, Harry Dean Stanton as the director's strange assistant or Krzysztof Majchrzak as the Phantom.

The soundtrack consists of fabulous tunes like Beck's uber-cool "Black Tambourine", Etta James' wonderful "At Last" or Nina Simone's breathtaking "Sinnerman", as well as some awesome classic stuff from Krzysztof Penderecki and Boguslaw Schaeffer.

When the police came and they asked what happened, I told them: "He's reaping what he's been sowing, that's what.
They said: "Fucker been sowing some pretty heavy shit."

"Inland Empire" is the very defintion of a Lynchian mindfuck. It could be described as a masterpiece - it could be described as utter rubbish. It may be cinematic perfection - it may be amateurish bullshit. It's art - it's crap. Some love it - some hate it. Whatever.

If you try to enter "Inland Empire" expecting it to be a "simple" film - go away.
If you try to enter "Inland Empire" expecting it to be Lynchian a.k.a weird as shit through and through - hello and welcome, enjoy your stay!

Wiki ~ Imdb

Make sure to check out more of Maynard over at Horror Movie Diary. 

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