Friday, July 20, 2007

Trapped in a David Lynch Nightmare

As part of the "netflixing," I rented both Mulholland Drive and Mulholland Falls. Mulholland Falls is some sort of noir drama starring Nick Nolte--I think. I'm not sure 'cuz I haven't watched it yet. I watched Mulholland Drive the other night. It's the weird David Lynch one. It was great preparation for going to see his latest, Inland Empire at the Aero Theater in Santa Monica with my friend Jack last night. As confusing and elusive as Mulholland Drive was, it was like an episode of Sesame Street compared to Inland Empire.

First off, Inland Empire is NINE HUNDRED HOURS LONG!!! Well, really it's about three hours long, but it feels like it's NINE HUNDRED HOURS LONG!!! There are time shifts and multiple plot lines and characters morphing into different characters. The lines between fantasy and reality completely blurred--and a sitcom starring bunnies with an off-kilter canned laugh track. Lynch specializes in depicting the subconscious--the dream state where things are dark, twisted and our ugly inner truths are revealed.

You know how when you're dreaming and your friend Andy is in your dream but he doesn't look like Andy but you know that's who it's supposed to be and you're at the movies but then you're in the movie and then you're at a club with your friend Susan--even though you don't have a friend named Susan and in fact don't know any Susans and then the bad guys are chasing you and you're running and running and you realize that you're not getting anywhere...

That's pretty much how a David Lynch movie works.

If you go into Inland Empire realizing that--not trying to make sense of or even follow the plot, you're in for one heckuva ride. Although at times it feels like you're lost in a labyrinth--walking in circles, running into walls, covering the same ground over and over and not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Laura Dern is fantastic and very courageous. Justin Theroux, who was also in Mulholland Drive, does a great job here. The rest of the cast is top-notch--Jeremy Irons, Harry Dean Stanton, Julia Ormond--but it's Lynch's vision all the way. He is a unique and original voice. He's definitely an acquired taste and not for everyone. But if you can sit for NINE HUNDRED HOURS (OK, it's really only three!), you will be amazed at his artistry. Or alternately, you may be frustrated and/or bored out of your mind. Lynch does not spoon-feed his audience.

More accessible but no less weirdly Lynchian is Mullholland Drive. When I watched this Wednesday night, I forgot that Lynch's movies were dreams on film. So the first two-thirds of this film played like a classic noir piece, except for some ostensibly odd scenes here and there. In the last third of the film, it twists into an entirely different movie and recolors your understanding of the first part of the movie. This is the film that made Naomi Watt's career and she does a terrific job. Lara Elena Harring is also amazing here as a classic noir damsel in distress. If you're a newbie to the whole demented world of David Lynch, this film is probably a good place to start--as well as renting DVDs of the Twin Peaks series.

Inland Empire--and David Lynch's work in general--is not for the faint of heart or the lazy intellect. It is a uncompromising, demanding, challenging piece of film making. As Dern's character says in the movie, "I can't tell if it's yesterday or tomorrow and it's a real mind fuck..."

And so it is. And so it is...

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