This Film is NOT a Future Release.
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October 11th, 2006:
Nikki (Laura Dern
) has just been offered a role in a motion picture that will be directed by Kingsley (Jeremy Irons
). Her co-star Devon (Justin Theroux
) is warned to keep things professional since Nikki’s husband (Peter J. Lucas
) happens to be the jealous type. In the film, Nikki plays Sue and Devon plays Billy, two characters that are having a steamy on-screen affair. However, Kingsley has failed to mention that the script is based on an old Polish gypsy folktale and is a remake of a movie that was never finished as a result of the tragic and unexpected on-set deaths of the previous leads. The strange aura of the production soon spills over into real life as Nikki and Devon begin to confuse each other’s real identities with their film personas. The two inevitably wind up in bed, unsure of whom they really are. Nikki in particular finds herself in a surreal state of bewilderment and finds it impossible to discern between her own personalities. Is she Nikki, Sue, or one simply acting as the other?What to Expect: David Lynch
’s cinema can be split up into two main categories: the nightmarish and the serene. Films like “Eraserhead,” “Blue Velvet,” and “Lost Highway” are prime examples of his twisted mind and his uncanny ability to create the most macabre universes. In “Elephant Man” and “The Straight Story” on the other hand, one can see a G-rated Lynch who approaches the material with almost childlike innocence. Regardless of which world the director is exploring, he always manages to keep his stories, particularly the nightmarish ones, drowned in surrealism. In fact, the main subject of his work is precisely that balance between dreams and reality, beauty and ugliness, and purity and corruption. Five years ago I feel he made his best film to date with “Mulholland Dr.” – a stunningly complex hallucination about murder, jealousy, and Hollywood that actually centered on a very touching and quite sincere story of lost love. It earned Lynch his fourth Oscar nomination, third for best director. He has yet to win a statuette. Article continues below
Fans of the filmmaker’s most surreal and terrifying visions will be happy to hear that “INLAND EMPIRE,” which is correctly spelled in all capital letters, continues in that tradition. Early in September, the film premiered at the Venice Film Festival and quite unsurprisingly, baffled many of the viewers. The release coincided with a well-earned, prestigious lifetime achievement award that was awarded to Lynch at the festival.
In many ways “INLAND EMPIRE” will touch upon the same fascinations that the director always seems to return to in his work, but aesthetically it will be quite different. The title comes from the area in California that lies about 37 miles inland of the Pacific Ocean and just east of downtown Los Angeles. Centered on the oldest cities in the region, it was once a rural neighborhood and has now become a drab residential area on the edge of the desert. In many ways, it is the antithesis of the glamour in “Mulholland Dr.” Interestingly, much of “INLAND EMPIRE” was shot in Poland where Lynch was no doubt able to utilize the bleak, industrialized landscapes that still remain from the country’s socialist period. It’s quite a clash with sunny California, or, at the very least, could be manipulated in such a way on film. Actually, it is unknown how much of the movie was even shot in the Inland Empire cities since Lynch never obtained the necessary filming permits required to shoot indoors or outdoors.
The film also marks a departure for the director from using traditional film stock. The project was shot entirely on digital video and Lynch has stated that he will not return to using film to make motion pictures anymore. Of course, the technology offers him far more flexibility, but many have complained that the cinematography in “INLAND EMPIRE” suffers substantially as a result. The rich, vivid colors found in the director’s past films are nowhere to be found in the murky, grainy photography of the newest feature.
The most intriguing part of the production was that it was shot without an official script. Lynch knew the basic premise that he wanted to stick to, but he wrote the actual scenes just prior to shooting them. He would hand the actors little packets of lines at the end of the day, but since they were never given a complete script, they had no idea what course the entire story was taking. Actor Justin Theroux, who previously worked with the enigmatic director in “Mulholland Dr.,” compared the process to what it will probably feel like to actually watch it. Even Lynch himself may not have been exactly sure what direction the filming would take each day.
As a result, this story of a film-within-a-film features several bizarre scenes that are as random as Lynch’s writing or as dreams themselves, but then again that’s still typical Lynch. There is a side story about the smuggling of women from Eastern Europe. Julia Ormond
’s character first shows up with a screwdriver in her stomach. A group of women perform “The Locomotion.” And finally, a family of giant rabbits, voiced by Naomi Watts
, Laura Harring
, and Scott Coffey
, appears on stage. Two of the rabbits sit on a sofa, while the third one irons some clothes. Laura Dern and Justin Theroux have both admitted to not being able to explain the film at all. Before the premiere in Venice, Dern said that she was “looking forward to learning more” when the movie would finally be shown.
“INLAND EMPIRE” will be another hallucinatory vision from the master auteur that will maintain his typically surreal and menacing atmosphere even through the most mundane or humorous moments. Lynch’s fascination with transcendental meditation and reincarnation is once again the driving motor behind the project. Everything in the story is supposed to be a part of a unique world and as such it makes sense within that world. Lynch insists that everything is supposed to make perfect sense if you just follow your intuition as you make your way through it. Whether it is entirely logical or there may be no true explanation at all, really does not matter in a picture such as this. The story is felt and experienced rather than understood. What does matter, however, is that at nearly 3 hours, this is Lynch’s longest film to date. With a loose narrative and a highly improvisational nature there’s a great danger that the film will simply meander without enough focus throughout the lengthy 3-hour duration. It could feel less like art and more like a chore. The digital video will then serve only as a distraction. Whereas the beauty of Lynch’s images enhanced or was the focal point of his films in the past, the new grainy cinematography is likely to take away a lot from the experience.In Conclusion:
Unsurprisingly, “INLAND EMPIRE” is yet to secure a distribution deal or a release date in the States. It is not the most bankable project, commercially speaking. Lynch is following his labyrinthine instincts as always, but I’m concerned that the beauty of “Mullholland Dr.” will be missing here. General audiences should beware, but independent art-house cinema fanatics should have plenty to rejoice over. At the very least, this is bound to be a fascinating three-hour-long puzzle to mull over during repeated viewings.Similar Titles: Wild at Heart
, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
, Mulholland Dr.