David Lynch brews up some hot new disco polo tracks.
It's a style appropriated by everyone from Ghostface to Iñárritu: speak in non-sequiters until the devoted audience, caught up in self-mythology making, begins to believe that the shit makes sense. David Lynch has had such temples built, be they gates of hell in paper bags by a Denny's dumpster or geodesic hunting lodges, spots to get your Transcendental Meditation on, loci to just hummmmm and hmmmmmm yourself to...well, wherever it is you go where there's checkered tiles, Elvis, and blood-red plaits of curtains for eternity.
No doubt already aware that even the very act of watching celluloid flicker involves leaps of faith, wherein the mind must fill in the gaps so that the picture stabilizes, grasping at any and all images and sounds in an attempt to bundle it into coherence, Inland Empire, Lynch's 3-hour, "I bought my shit at Best Buy" DV movie simply laughs at our brains. Fat Buddha-like laughter, not exactly mocking, but it titters and clucks tongues in such a way that he seems to simply wish that his audience would simply be The Tibetan Book of the Dead: turn off the mind and just let the nonsense flow, unhindered by reason, logic, cause.
Shot in Lodz, Poland (in addition to the corner of Hollywood and Vine) with long strands of dialogue in Polish, in a way, Inland Empire is one giant Polack joke. Snatches of dialogue throughout seemingly diconnect from their scene and instead waft outwards to deal with the dunderheaded straw-grabbing taking place in the seats, commenting on the audience's jockeying for knowledge:
"You're lost in the marketplace, half-born..."
"...surrounded by screwball stories..."
"Before, after...I don't know what happened first, a mind-fuck on me."
"I'm watching everything go around me like in a dark theatre before they bring the lights up."
The rabbitheaded sitcom that Lynch sprinkles throughout the proceedings (originally a short film on its own) begins to look more and more like the heads of jackasses, voicing such mental flailing as the search for "clues," referencing green jackets and clocks, as if these hero props might hold the key to "figuring it all out." And if Lynch could bring out a baseball bat into the audience at every screening (not an unlikelihood considering how few times this is showing before going to DVD), he would no doubt be screaming --between dinging taters out of our kneecaps-- "Pabst Blue Ribbon! Hot blondes! Titties'n'beer! Quit rubbing your fucking beard and thinking about this shit! One thing I can't fucking stand is warm beards! Makes me fucking puke!"
Barring said lumber, he instead brings me to my knees by using a fucking Beck song at the climax. "Okayokayokay, I'll stop wondering about the plight of women in this movie and how many personas Laura Dern has taken on. Bring back Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson snuff films, anything, just pleasepleaseplease, turn off 'Black Tamborine'."
And much like any tough iconoclast (I'm thinking here of folk like Cecil Taylor, Deniro, Derek Bailey, Christopher Walken) or anyone whose spent his career bristling and being different, at a certain point, even that act becomes a tired riff. Just because you replace Roy Orbison with Little Eva, or insert Polacks to stand-in for scary midgets, Dennis Hopper, or laughing old people, it doesn't change the fact that Inland Empire is the least frightening, visually fuzzy and garish work. If anything, IE reminds me of something like Thomas Pynchon's V., taking on "the mystery of women" in the way that only a Polack can. Identities blur, places and times change, Dern is both alive and in death throes, women are weeping virgins and screwdriver-wielding whores, and it's not for us to wonder why.
The terror of the everyday, a theme Lynch revelled in for decades, be it on green lawns, in blue tomorrows, behind every restaurant dumpster, under every skirt, is replaced instead with the terror that arises only out of never knowing where you are. And if you don't know where you are, perhaps you don't know who you are either. It's something that Lynch sledgehammers home often through his characters. Sure, there are snatches of fine scenes and infinite theories at play, but with three incessant hours of hammering, how could you possibly miss the nailhead? And what's so frightening about blatant incomprehensibility?