Inland Empire15¦ Blu-ray, DVD
One of the most fascinating and intriguing US directors of his generation has to be David Lynch. It’s a surprise to think then that he has to date only released ten films, with this one, released in 2006, his last.
It gets the newly restored treatment here, making it a timely opportunity to see the director at his most surreal.
Sitting at in her nice home is Nikki (Laura Dern). She is entertaining a woman (Grace Zabriskie) claiming to be a neighbour who has rocked up unannounced, but Nikki still maintains being the perfect host.
She gets unsettled by something the woman says however, as she prophesises what’s to come in her life. She puts it to the back of her mind however, as she is an actress, about to star in her latest film On High in Blue Tomorrows.
But as she gets deep into shooting, she realises what the woman saw is starting to come true.
This is, without doubt, the worst David Lynch film by a country mile. It is embarrassingly self-indulgent, with a three hour running time to match. It is then, a watch that is quite the undertaking.
And yet there’s no denying glimpses of Lynch the auteur. Yes the film is a strain to keep up with, what appears to be a hybrid of a pretentious East European art house film with an American independent experimental movie. And yes, it’s as jarring as it sounds.
It’s a film that makes its audiences work far harder than it should, as Lynch is almost brazen in delivering a film with zero commercial appeal whatsoever. That said, it was lauded by many critics on its release as a work of genius, but that is simply hyperbole to the extreme, with more than a whiff of the Emperor’s new clothes about it.
But although it doesn’t work as an accessible narrative, it does have its moments. One of which is Laura Dern’s performance; in fairness, Dern’s work has never been that appealing to us, but she really earns her pay check here, with what could almost be interpreted as unique spin as an adult Alice, in a truly wondrous world, albeit an unattractive one. If there’s any kind of gel holding this pretentious mess together, it’s Dern.
And if you’re willing to put in the work, there are snippets of brilliance from Lynch, in the forms of examples of editing, framing, structure etc, which will likely appeal to those who study film. It’s also an example for being quite meta, especially when it explores the theme of what’s real and what’s fiction.
It’s a curiosity for sure, and one that is bound to make an impression on the big screen in its restored form, as well as its home entertainment release swiftly soon after.
Even the biggest fan of the director would have to concede that he is not at his best here, but what it could be said to be is a truly creative mind at its most free and ambitious, sadly at the expense of a befuddled audience.