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Inland Empire | DVD Review

“There’s no better retort to third wave feminist Camille Paglia’s assertion that art film is dead then to invoke the title of David Lynch’s surrealist opus”.

There’s no better retort to third wave feminist Camille Paglia’s assertion last week that art film is dead then to invoke the title of David Lynch’s surrealist opus. Inland Empire not only proves that we shouldn’t prematurely nail the coffin on art cinema just yet, but it’s a work that broadens the possibilities of creating image-driven films on small budgets. It seems the general reaction of most independent filmmakers in the HD/DIY/microbudget category is the rejection of using a camera as anything other then a capturing device. How many films released in the past few years feature a grainy camera lazily following young, bored, middle-class, wanna-be bohemians through their pedantic days of “working out” their meaningless existence? Thus, there’s no one more apt to counter this low-budget ennui than David Lynch, who departs from his lush complexities of film for the murky, shadowy world of DV. The shift may prove dramatic for some, but when you take Lynch’s entire canon into account, his films have always tried to find different way’s of capturing the landscape that exists between mind and reality. Although critics disagree, Inland Empire is a beautiful work of art. Scintillating it is not, but the DV captures light uniquely and it’s almost like there’s another subliminal film hiding in the DV grain. It’s Lynch’s most experimental since Eraserhead, both in terms of story and shooting style.

So what exactly is Inland Empire about? Who knows? Star Laura Dern claims she doesn’t have a clue and the sly Mr. Lynch has gained notoriety for never revealing his own interpretations of his work. The tagline bills the film as “A Woman in Trouble” and for the next three hours, that’s exactly what you’ll see. There’s no mcguffins, character development, FOILS or anything resembling imposed structure. It’s pure cinema, which leaves interpretation of images up to the viewer. In order to enjoy this film you’ll have to check your expectations at the door, forget actively trying to figure out “the story” and just let the images flow. This film is about what you want it to be about and that is why David Lynch is a certified cinematic innovator.

The 2-disc “limited edition” set of the film released by Rhino this week is as enjoyably comprehensive as anything Lynch-oriented out there. First off, the transfer almost looks better on a small screen then it did in the theater, which is good because this is how the majority of viewers will get to enjoy the film. There’s a cornucopia of extras to wade through as well. There are 90 minuets worth of deleted scenes in a featurette entitled “More things that Happened” which shows some profound moments not included in the final cut. Another goodie is the short film Ballerina which works well with the actual film. There are also some lengthy interviews with Laura Dern and Mr. Lynch as well as some trailers and a large gallery of stills. But the best aspect of this disc has to be the featurette Lynch 2. In this short doc the viewer gets to see the director really work. For over twenty minuets we see Lynch order around his staff, direct Laura Dern and brainstorm ideas for the film. It’s a master-class on the mind of this oft-recluse auteur.

The IFC center in New York offered a deal where if you went to see Inland Empire nine times you got the tenth trip for free. I only made it until round three but one shouldn’t feel remiss for not exactly getting it the first time around. Inland Empire is not for everybody and it’s certainly not the most accessible film of the year. But for those audiences who enjoy being challenged and don’t mind having their conceptions on cinema shaken, this is a rare treat. No one makes films like David Lynch and there’s no doubt that he’ll go down in history as a seminal master of the craft. So clear some room in that busy weekend schedule of drinking beer and watching youtube for a unique experience.

Movie rating – 5

Disc Rating – 5

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