31 Days of Spookoween: DAY FOURTEEN (check the actual date of this review and you'll see I'm way behind at this point)
Film #14: INLAND EMPIRE (2006)
Review: Even for David Lynch fans, his last feature length masterpiece (as far as we know anyway) is baffling and unpredictable for the entirety of its dense three hour length. "INLAND EMPIRE" may be the most experimental of Lynch's films, which is quite the achievement as Lynch's first film included mutant babies and women in radiators.
While very strange and occasionally incoherent, "EMPIRE" may actually be much more comprehensible than it first appears. It also may be of much higher skill and quality than it first appears. On my second viewing of the film, I found myself appreciating it much more and being better able to embrace its length, visual style, and confusing style. This is no doubt a flawed, jumbled, and difficult mess, but it is also a work of art built with bricks of the utmost genius. The darkest recesses of the human psyche are explored brilliantly; the film FEELS so much like a dream it's impressive. This is how the unconscious mind thinks and feels, and, in its own odd way, is also how the CONSCIOUS mind sometimes thinks and feels. It's jarring to see such abstract concepts be portrayed in the cinema, especially in such a creepy, mindbending way in which characters randomly appear and disappear and then reappear again and scenes are recreated from differing perspectives; this is a world where nothing is normal or reassuring (at least not until the very end, in which this 3 hour odyssey through Hell at last makes it way up to paradise in an emotionally satisfying and tear jerking fashion), and nothing (I repeat: NOTHING!!!) is as it seems or is in any way predictable. Even on a rewatch the twists are surprising and the images are grotesque. The psychological effect the film may have on a viewer is so uncomfortable it can even turn off those who are used to and are in love with Lynch's unique and nightmarish vibe.
I understand that some people will never be able to fall in love with this film like I did, but I do recommend everyone who sees it watches it a second time, whether it be days or years apart from your first viewing. On my second viewing, "EMPIRE" went from being impenetrable and borderline nonsensical to being, while still extremely confusing and disorienting, mildly comprehensible, filled with those "ah-HA!" type moments you get when you feel as if you remotely understand a line from "Ulysses" or (especially) "Finnegans Wake". Speaking of "Finnegans Wake", this film is also not afraid to be very funny! Of course, much of the humor adds to the discomforting nature of certain scenes (one scene in particular reminds me a whole lot of the "room service" sequence from the season 2 premiere of "Twin Peaks"), as it is extremely Lynchian comedy, and, more often than not, has an incredibly black and sinister flavor to it. But, that doesn't mean that there aren't certain scenes here that made me burst with genuine, intentional laughter!, as well as plenty of scenes that nearly made me gasp.
It is hard to close a review of such a film like "INLAND EMPIRE", and it's hard to continue one as well. It's the type of movie you want to TALK about, you know? It's a real conversation starter, which is why I think it's so special, especially since the conversation would not even strictly deal with film analysis. There are so many little bits of Lynchian brilliance throughout the film worth exploring...beautiful one minute moments, crazy camera techniques, hilarious lines of dialogue, creepy, grotesque imagery...it's all here and it's almost constant.