Rant - Me and Inland Empire

Being a functioning member of society, I'm often asked what I've been up to as of late. Given my sedentary lifestyle, I'll likely respond, "Nothing much. Caught a movie." The other party will then inquire, "Cool. Which?" From then on in, the conversation proceeds in one of two possible directions:

Case the First

[insert name of film]

Other guy
What's that about?

[tentative pause]


Case the Second

The Dark Knight. Again.

Other guy
Fucking awesome, is it not?


Both parties then proceed to bump fists or exchange an intricately detailed handshake whilst quoting lines from the movie.

Nine times out of then it's Case the First (I'm not
that sad, folks). The pause noted above is in reference to an ongoing internal debate on my part--that being exactly how to answer the question posed. You'd think this would be easy, but seeing as how I'm a film geek rather than a productive member of society I have a propensity to watch films that make answering this question all the more difficult. Thus, with Case the First, I end up facing another two-pronged dilemma: do I tell them what it's about on a literal level, or do I describe its overarching themes, issues, etc.? Again, an issue that's almost entirely nonexistent for normal people but a likely occurrence for me.

Sometimes it's relatively straightforward: if someone asks me what
Zodiac's about, I'll briefly summarize its plot, name the actors involved, maybe even the year of its release. Soderbergh's Solaris is more easily described on a less literal level, maybe bringing up its focus on human relationships and emotional isolation.

But then there's the inevitable roadblock, a roadblock in the form of David Lynch's
Inland Empire. Though, "roadblock" doesn't do this particular flick justice; instead, imagine a sudden earthquake splitting the highway--a lost highway, of course-- in twain a half-second before you can safely brake, sending you and your '92 Geo Spectrum plummeting into the abyss. But rather than slamming headfirst into the planet's molten core, you end up in midwinter, turn-of-the-century Poland. Stumbling out of the wreck, you round a corner and come face-to-snout with a golden retriever who possesses the hands of a man and the singing voice of Roy Orbision. That is Inland Empire.

Also, Dean Stockwell may be in attendance.

To describe Inland Empire in a literal fashion is possible but impractical. Saying it's about an actress (convincingly portrayed by Laura Dern) making a comeback and getting sucked into a very nonlinear dream sequence doesn't do the film justice and, in fact, makes it sound a lot less engaging than it actually is. But when I try to discuss its themes, I don't even know where to begin. How does the nonsensical sitcom starring bunny people fit into the narrative? or the hookers performing a choreographed dance to the "Loco-Motion"? or anything involving Poland? For Christ's sake, there's an unnamed Slavic girl who spends the most of the movie sitting on a hotel bed, partially nude and crying. For the life of me, I couldn't tell you who she is, or why she's crying, or why she's wearing only a blanket or why, near the end, Laura Dern plants a kiss on her lips. Is it climactic? symbolic? I don't fucking know.

They've got to swing their hips, now.

Were this directed by anyone else--say, a hipster film student with an affinity for black turtlenecks--I'd simply cry pretension and chuck the DVD right into the damned waste basket (or video store return slot. Take your pick). But this is David Lynch, the man who brought us Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks and Mulholland Dr. Sure, these are all severely messed-up features in their own rights, but I was able to get the gist of them after the second or even first viewings. And I know that Inland Empire is a good film. I've known that since I first watched it in a pitch-black classroom two years ago, affecting me more than any other movie I've watched to date. Heck, it's sitting on my DVD shelf right now. I even tried to watch it a couple of weeks ago in another failed attempt to comprehend it.

More than
2001: A Space Odyssey, more than Naked Lunch, more than House of Fucking Leaves, this movie is indecipherable. But there's something there, something just beneath the surface, something hidden by some chick in a rabbit outfit voiced by Naomi Watts.

Seriously, what the fuck?

Oh, great, now some hooker's exposing her breasts to her fellow courtesans and I don't know why.

Fuck you, David Lynch. Fuck you hard.

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