Tuesday, March 6, 2007

'Inland Empire' Crumbles

Watching "Inland Empire" is basically watching David Lynch masturbate over and over again. The only thing to differentiate the movie from a Lynch fetishist's student film is that the student film probably wouldn't last three hours and star Laura Dern. To be fair about the runtime, however, I should point out that Dern's blank-stare reaction shots to the film's so-weird-it's-art nonsense adds up to one of those hours.

Despite all the critics who have fawned over the movie, Lynch's only cinematic ambition is to give digital video a surreal aesthetic. In effect, the director plays with the limitations of the format and emphasizes its shitty quality. It isn't really dreamy, but it creates an effective tone to go along with the Lynchian cliché that makes up the non-linear, random structure.

Even the sound design is hackneyed. Low, rumbling noises, pseudo-sinister ambient synth music, feedback and line static change off as the background of choice. Where is something as inspired as the ticking clock in Buñuel's "Belle de Jour?"

Meanwhile, Lynch's visual experimentation is remarkably banal. Superimpositions and dissolves reign, and occasionally Lynch really tries to blow our mind. The image shakes, the loud rumbling noise gets louder and we see some flashes of light—maybe even a distorted picture of Dern's grimacing face for the super freakout. As a commentary on form, it's a 15-minute short at best. In terms of its structure and dialogue, it feels like a parody.

Lynch has basically created the surreal equivalent of bad melodrama. "Inland Empire" aims to manipulate its audience in the same way as "Crash" or "Dead Poets Society," but since the director targets for a more sophisticated audience, he works in trite mood rather than trite plot. In Dern's first scene, her character, a Hollywood actress, receives a visit from her new Eastern European neighbor—an old lady with creepy puffy cheeks. She tells her some parables about evil and prostitutes, informs her that she will get the part she's up for and then that she can no longer tell whether it's today, yesterday or tomorrow. This sledgehammer of a setup informs us that the film will soon degenerate into a mess of uninteresting story lines, the only hope for respite being that some of Dern's friends/colleagues/fellow prostitutes will show their tits for the hell of it.

It's derivative, predictable in its nonsensical dreamscape and unable to say anything compelling. If that's the point, Lynch shouldn't take three hours to make it.

1 comment:

Janean said...

I liked the part when the cat sat on the stage and watched the movie for 10 whole minutes before casually walking away. That cat had the right idea.