Monday, October 09, 2006

Inland Empire - No Spoilers

If I know I'm going to see a movie, I hate hearing plot details in advance. So, I'll start off with a completely spoiler free recounting of my opinion on the film. Then I'll do a seperate post with in depth analysis, and try to unpack what the film is doing. Contrary to what some reviewers might tell you, there is a logic to this film, and out of the many disparate parts, there's enough for every viewer to make a structure that works for them.

I loved the film. After seeing it, I was energized and happy that something so unique and powerful was brought into the world. However, that's not to say that the film is perfect. The first hour or so is problematic for a number of reasons. One is the pacing, there's a lot of fat still on the film, I think you could easily lose ten minutes of the first hour without a problem. Once you get to a certain transition point, everything picks up and the film flows amazingly for the final two hours. The film is very fragmented, but that means that Lynch gets to indulge in moments of pure visual cinema. There's a lot of recurriing images and motifs from his previous stuff, but it's played in such a way that it's still fresh. And, particularly towards the end, there's a series of sublime moments to rival Club Silencio or Laura and Cooper in the red room.

One of the big issues surrounding the film is Lynch's use of digital video. It doesn't look like film, and I don't think he's trying to make it look like film. The film's first chunk will have the haters feeling validated, since there's some pretty ugly stuff that's also poorly composed. These shots wouldn't look good on film and I'm not sure what he was thinking with them. The wider shots don't play as well in DV, but closeups are gorgeous and a lot of the night photography has a grit and authenticity that you couldn't get with the massive lights needed for night film shoots. After a shaky start, things settle down, and it looks much better as the film goes on. In the moments where the film succeeds, the aesthetic supports its thematic intentions, when things aren't working so well, you're more aware of the issues. I feel like this is a film that will look better on DVD, because the PD-150 just isn't meant to be blown up to theatrical size. But, as I said, the majority of stuff looks pretty good, and some is absoultely fantastic, rivaling the best images Lynch has ever produced.

On the whole, my reaction to the film is similar to how I felt about Revenge of the Sith. In both cases, we've got directors who are serving their personal vision and producing a film that has an ambition and power that's nearly unparalleled. However, they both also stumble on some basic things, making the films an easy target for criticism. I'm sure many people will be saying the film makes no sense, is way too long and looks like shit. And, to an extent, all these criticisms are true. But, I think the moments of wonder far outweigh these flaws, and in the final assessment, this film is a totally unique, extremely powerful vision, that pushes Lynch's trademark themes and emotional concerns further than they've ever gone before, creating a film that's unlike anything else I've ever seen, or heard. The sound design in this thing was imposing and powerful.

After the screening, we were pointed to the balcony where Lynch, Laura Dern and Justin Theroux were sitting, positioned much like the blue haired lady from the end of Mulholland Dr. I didn't realize they'd all be there, so it was a nice bonus. In the Q&A Lynch talked a lot about the digital process. The film was shot over a period of three years, developing the script as they went along. He started out using the PD-150 like a toy, but gradually saw the beauty of the images and decided to shoot a film on digital. He stuck with the 150 because that was what first attracted him to digital, though I'm guessing he'll use a higher end camera on the next project. For that next project, he said he wants to use a script.

When asked whether the film has a concrete explanation/linear narrative, as Mulholland Dr. did, Lynch said "Yes." Lynch has talked about how he had a specific vision of what Lost Highway meant, but it differed from co-writer Barry Gifford. However, he has no desire to talk about his own interpretations of the work, because the real joy is in relating to the film on your own terms.

The questions were all pretty interesting, and thankfully no one asked him for an explanation of everything. The audience seemed pretty into the film, though there were a couple of walkouts. However, I got the sense it was mostly Lynch faithful there. I feel like this movie won't play with most people in a general audience, it's too demanding and idiosyncratic. It certainly won't have the success of Mullholand Dr.

After the Q&A, Lynch hung out and signed stuff and answered more questions. I asked him about the Twin Peaks season two DVDs, and he said that the 5.1 mix is done and they're sounding great. And they should be coming soon. Same for the Fire Walk With Me deleted scenes, which he said were coming. I hadn't heard of any progress on this front, but maybe there was an arrangement with the producers of the show DVDs. At least there's still hope. Lost Highway has been color timed and is ready for DVD release, but there's no progress on actually gettiing it released. Lynch was great, ignoring a staffer's request that he get going, he continued to sign stuff for a long time after. This was a huge contrast to the last time I saw him, during his maharishi promo tour. I got my program signed, and also asked him another question about the film's closing credits, which are different from his previous, but I don't want to spoil that. He also said that the film will probably be coming out in November or December, and considering today's announcement that he's distributing the film himself, he'd be the one to know.

If ever there was a film to disribute oneself, this'd be it. It's a very difficult film and isn't likely to make a lot of money. But, it deserves to find an audience, and hopefully Lynch will get it out to a lot of people. I know I would love to watch the film again, as soon as possible. There's so much in there, and I think it'll be debated as fiercely as Mulholland Dr. was.


garethw said...

Wow, thanks for the awesome review, Patrick.

You got me really, really jazzed to see this thing - whenevr it finally comes out in general release.

I haven't been this excited since I puncture Caroline's aorta...

PS. Damn, and from your sidebars, you're a VM fan, too. Cool!

Patrick said...

Thanks Gareth. Lynch claimed it'll be opening in November or December, though that'll likely only be in larger cities, I can't see your average multiplex playing this. But, now that Lynch is distributing it himself, who knows how it'll go. One things for sure, the DVD will probably cost $40 and only be available from his site.

And yeah, I'll be writing up Veronica Mars all season, so get the RSS feed going.

Justin said...

Great review, dude. I can't wait for this, and I'm glad you liked it.

Scabtree said...

eXcellent review! i absolutely cannot wait to see this. you're so lucky to have seen it this early, glad you enjoyed the film patrick. and THANK YOU for asking Lynch about the Twin Peaks season 2 dvds and FWWM deleted scenes! we hardcore TP fans have been waiting too long for these releases :) one question : do you see Inland Empire as being perhaps another FWWM for Lynch? where critics and fans alike will be disappointed or somehow let down after such anticipation, then just maybe after many years it will eventually enjoy more positive criticism and/or appreciation?

Anonymous said...

are you sure he used a Pd 150, which is an old mini DV model. I thought he was using HDV.

Patrick said...

He definitely used the PD-150. I've read a bunch of reviews that said the movie was shot on HD Digital, and that's just not true. He said that he first got the camera in 2001, and he decided to stick with it for the whole film, despite the fact that there definitely are better cameras available.

Scabtree, I think it resembles Fire Walk With Me in its inaccessibility. I think FWWM is Lynch's best movie, but it's also one of the most insular films of all time. Not only do you need to see all of the Twin Peaks series, you also need an understanding of Lynchian logic to really get the film.

It's the same thing for Inland Empire. A new viewer, who hasn't seen any of Lynch's previous stuff, will probably be baffled. However, I think fans of Lynch's stuff will really enjoy it because it's got so many of his trademark elements. I think critics wil generally either pan it or be rather bemused, not sure what to think, while fans will be split.

Some will probably dislike it, either for the DV or for the sheer excess of the film. If you're more of a Blue Velvet era Lynch fan, this film is probably too much rambling incoherence. I feel like Mulholland Dr. is the most accessible Lynch film because it combines the narrative exploration of FWWM and LH with the beauty and wit and the Twin Peaks series and Blue Velvet. This film is much harsher, but it's got a lot of rewards. That said, I think it's also such a singular vision that it sort of circumvents any expectations you might have. I don't think anything can really prepare you for what the film is.

And I think the general public will be rather confused. I'd love to see Laura Dern get an Oscar nomination, she certainly deserves it, but I think the film is just too much for that to happen.

Craig said...

Thank you for the lovely, spoiler-free discussion! It is much appreciated.

Joe said...

Great review.

The most exiting thing I have regarding this is his usage of DV instead of film. I'm guessing that the reason the beginning of the film is worse than the rest (production wise) is because David probably got better at filming in DV as he went along. Plus he was using an older camera. The hardware coming out now is awesome!

Anyway David should probably get with Robert Rodriguez, as he does alot of stuff in Digital now too. Sin City & Grindhouse are both shot digitally.

Ian Kent said...

Thanks for a great review. It is a very good insight without giving anything away. I watched Twin Peaks years ago and that brought David Lynch to my attention and I've watched a lot of his stuff since. I love his work because its different and makes you think differently even if the usual desire to have a film make 'sense' has to be abandoned in the traditional sense.
Your review has made me very eager to see it asap though I guess a UK release will probably be next year.
Anyway - thanks again for your excellent review.
Ian (Kent) Derby - United Kingdom

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review, and for the info on the forthcoming FWWM deleted scenes DVD, which I did not know had finally been agreed.

Best wishes,

Richard (UK)

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