Saturday, September 22, 2007

A Chug-a Chug-a Motion like a Railroad Train


Like any good child of the 70's, yours truly experimented with the occasional illicit substance for recreational purposes. It was the way things were back in the day. Of course, I have not touched anything stronger than a Marlboro light since 1979.

That was until the other night when I watched David Lynch's Inland Empire.

If, One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small; Inland Empire makes you crazy (as in foaming-at-the-mouth-wearing-a-tin-hat-crazy).

What starts as the tale of a middle aged actress (Laura Dern) getting the coveted leading role in a film, ends up a colossal, beautiful, beguiling, maddening, Jackson Pollack-like work of art that will leave you clutching the remote control and wondering where the last three hours of your life went.

Did I mention the bunny tv-show?

All through the film, we get glimpses of this creepy rabbit family speaking banally to each other complete with a laugh track.

I have no damn idea what that is all about.

What I do know, is that Laura Dern (who was a producer of this film) turns in a once-in-a-lifetime performance. They don't have awards big enough for what Dern has done in Inland Empire; first she's a cool So Cal movie star, then she's a mid-western house wife, now she's a tough broad telling someone about the men she's beat up, then she's a Sunset Blvd. Streetwalker throwing up blood ... and frankly, she will blow your mind.

Since Inland... is actually a pastiche of several different themes and (one suspects) films, it is replete with odd cameos of actors who show up once and then vanish. William H. Macy is a studio announcer, Diane Ladd (Dern's mother in real life) is a creepy, bitchy, gossip reporter, Grace Zabriskie is a prophetic next door neighbor who speaks in a thick eastern European accent, Mary Steenburgen plays another neighbor (in one of the alternate realities),Harry Dean Stanton plays a down on his luck producer ... and there are more, but frankly I can't recall the rest of them just now. My brain has still not fully processed Inland Empire (nor do I suspect it ever will).

Did I mention the dancing hookers?

Apropos of nothing, Dern (while in her mid-western housewife persona) stumbles into a room in her house where a group of working girls are chatting. In the distance a train is heard. Then, suddenly, the girls get up and do a fully choreographed dance number to that old chestnut, The Loco-Motion.

I have no idea what that was all about either.

But another thing I know about Inland Empire, is that it is one David Lynch's most personal films since Eraserhead. Of course that means, for the rest of us, that we will be left scratching our heads. And that's the thing with Inland ... go for the ride, hang on to something and just let yourself explore Lynch's Freudian landscape. Revel in the carnival workers, the Polish film-within-the film (complete with subtitles), the flashing colors, the disturbing soundtrack ... give in to the oddly touching moments (like the scene when a woman is reunited with her husband and son---what the hell was that all about? Who is this woman? What does it matter? You'll be crying like a baby) ... ultimately, Inland Empire is a nonsensical piece of work, that despite everything, makes sense ... does that make sense?

And for you super film freaks; see if you can catch the homage to Gloria Swanson's Queen Kelly that shows up at one point.

I know, I am all over the place trying to talk about this film, and that is because the film itself is all over the place.

And finally, did I mention that Justin Theroux is in this movie?

He plays Dern's leading man in the film she is making.

He does not do a lot, but I always like looking at this guy.

And I do have an idea what that is all about.

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