Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Inland Empire: Any Questions?

There are two things that I am not going to do regarding Inland Empire, the latest offering from David Lynch. One is refer to it in block capitals as Lynch prefers (the title - mentioned only once in the film, in Polish - refers to a residential area on the edge of the desert in L.A.) The other thing I am not going to do is review it, because I found it for the most part impenetrable, his most opaque work since Eraserhead and little I could say would illuminate the film anyway. Suffice to say that for a three-hour-long plotless art film with multiple confusing segments and a family of giant rabbits, Inland Empire is remarkably watchable.

I had put off going to see it for six weeks, not out of fear of its inaccessibility but of its length; when I told this to a Lithuanian acquaintance, he laughed and said 'it's only three hours, it's not as if it's a 20-hour film by Jonas Mekas'. That put me in my place. I went to see it with my friend Tim and we both arrived at different times - I missed the first five minutes and he about twice that - so that we both probably missed some vital clues as to the film's overall meaning, if such a thing exists. I had just had a falafel and the temperature in the cinema was conducive to drowsiness, so within twenty minutes I was nodding off (not an unusual occurrence chez moi). I asked Tim later if I had started snoring (the worst thing about falling asleep in public) and he said 'No, you just started breathing heavier', a piece of Lynchian dialogue if there ever was one. There was a touch of Matthew Barney's Cremaster cycle about the film but Lynch is not near the chancer Barney is and his production values - digital video with wilfully amateur camerawork - are a good deal lower on this one. It reminded me of what the man who introduced me to Lynch at the age of 16 said about Eraserhead: 'it's not bad, but there's no way in the world you can say you love it'. Or maybe the inverse is true: Inland Empire may not be good but there's no way in the world you can't say you love it. We stumbled out of the cinema after a bizarre title sequence that made the rest of the film seem like a Julia Roberts film. We went across the street for a drink and chatted about Middle Eastern politics with the Lebanese barman. Now, that's easy.