Didn’t stick with me very well the first time, maybe because it didn’t make enough narrative sense for my brain to properly hold on to, like a wacked dream that I remember clearly when I wake up but is already gone by the time I hit the shower, not related enough to reality to survive my beginning to ponder my work day. Should have watched it a couple times originally. But now I see I should watch more than a couple times, maybe annually from now on. Lynch’s most free, most trippy and loose movie, existing almost entirely in dream state, but also his most dirty and real looking because the DV photography feels like a home movie. Completely inexplicable and entirely worthwhile.

image

Hard to watch at home. The three hour runtime, the almost entirely black scenes, and the very dynamic audio levels (quiet whispers turn into sudden shock sound effects and screams) work best when I’m home alone and wide awake on a winter’s night. I think it freaked out my birds more than anything else I’ve watched. Next time I’ll watch on my laptop, in accordance with Lynch’s dreams of an all-digital cinema.

image

The plot, thanks to Cinema Scope:

Dern’s first incarnation, Nikki Grace, is an actress who lives in a cavernous Hollywood mansion and lands a coveted role in a Southern melodrama titled On High in Blue Tomorrows opposite suave ladies’ man Devon (Justin Theroux). She soon learns that the film is a remake and that the original Polish production was aborted when both leads were murdered.

image

Nikki begins to merge with her character, Sue, and the script’s adulterous affair spills over into real life. But what’s real, and who’s dreaming whom? The boundary between the film and the film-within-the-film — indeed between all levels of reality — vanishes completely. Besides Nikki and Sue, Dern plays at least two other overlapping variations on the character: One lives in a shabby suburban house, sometimes with a harem of gum-chewing, finger-snapping young women. The other, a tough-talking Southern dame, is spilling her guts out in a dank room, telling floridly vulgar tales of sexual violence and terrible revenge. Interspersed throughout are scenes from a Beckettian sitcom with a rabbit-headed cast. Certain phrases, often pertaining to identity confusion (“I’m not who you think I am,” “Look at me and tell me if you’ve known me before”), repeat in varying contexts and start to acquire talismanic power. (The key to transcendental meditation, which Lynch has practiced for over three decades now, is the repetition of a personal mantra.) Meanwhile, the film we are watching is beamed to a TV in a hotel room, and a mystery brunette watches along with us, silently weeping.

image

Did I write this weeks ago, or was I quoting from a website?: “Dern changes identities and locations, each with only a faint memory of the others, giving her a constant sense of unease.”

image

The neighbor who visits her is awfully good in a Twin Peaks sort of way. A choreographed dance to “The Locomotion” manages to be one of the spookiest parts. Seeing father Rabbit leave his locked-down living room set is thrilling. Cameo by the girls from Darkened Room (actually only Jordan Ladd is strictly from Darkened Room, but I like to think they’re the same characters). William H. Macy in a big cheesy cameo as a radio reporter and Harry Dean Stanton as Irons’ sad assistant, always bumming money off people.

image

Bright Lights:
“It sounds complicated, but it makes clear emotional sense, just as Mulholland Drive did.”

image

House Next Door calls the ending hopeful, and I guess you could say that. Dern escapes from at least one of the films she’s trapped within, wakes from the dead and goes back home where, per HND, “Lynch returns to the face of Grace Zabriskie’s Neighbor and, before our jaundiced eyes, this formerly intimidating and ugly figure becomes suddenly beautiful and ethereal. Moreso than Dern’s final close-up (a stunner in its own right) I think the answers to the film’s many mysteries, for those who need them, are contained in Zabriskie’s sideways glance and virtuous smile.”

image

Extras on the UK DVD are all interview-style. One is by The Guardian, one is by Mike Figgis at a hotel in Poland.
image

Interviewer: “If T.M. creates positiveness… some people might ask: what about all the darkness that’s in the films?”
Lynch: “Exactly.”

On the inclusion of Rabbits in Inland Empire: “Sometimes we start something and we think it is that, and later… it sprouts and becomes a bigger thing.” Okay it’s not a great quote.

“Really the only difference [between IE and the earlier films] is Inland Empire was shot with DV… and it was a low-grade, bad DV.”
image

“It is true that the 50’s gave birth to rock and roll and that early rock and roll holds a very special power, I think. It started the whole thing rolling, but in my mind it drifted away a little too quickly. And I think there’s more gold to mine from that feel of the first rock and roll.”

Repeats the same information over and over, not saying much for long periods, interviewers asking stupidly general questions hoping Lynch will tell them a nice story. He does tell a couple light ones, but three times each. So the final segment, The Air Is On Fire, comes as a happy surprise. It’s a biographer (who knows enough about Lynch not to ask pedestrian questions) viewing and discussing Lynch’s paintings and sound installations.
image


“We’re cooking quinoa.”
“This pan is unbelievable.”
The U.S. DVD is already better than the U.K., with a b/w video of Lynch in his kitchen and a nice stills gallery, and that’s before I even get to the meat of the disc. Hey, he times his cooking the same way I do, by yelling out numbers from the clock instead of setting a proper timer.
image

More Things That Happened is outtakes from IE. First 20 minutes are scenes with Dern’s circus husband. He comes home late. He sells a girl a watch.
image

Dern continues talking to the man at top of the stairs. She has a crossed out “LB” tattoo on her hand. A girl with earrings talks to Dern about meeting Billy at a bar. Mostly people telling each other stories.
image

Ballerina
A ballerina performs behind cloudy overlays and blobby digital soft focus to ambient music. Some neat effects in there but too long by half.
image

Lynch (one) is a full-length documentary by BLACKandWHITE, whatever that is, company or person, on the making of Inland Empire. Lots of behind-the-scenes dealings, set construction, some talk with the actors, Lynch in every scene. Lynch 2 on the IE disc is presumably deleted scenes from that doc, another half hour of material. Not tremendously eye-opening, just gives you the impression that IE is completely Lynch’s artistic vision, if you couldn’t have figured that out before, down to the smallest detail. He yells at his crew on set then praises them up and down in interviews. We hear a lot about the improv nature of the film and script, but we see careful planning and scheduling of shots and scenes. Watching David choreograph the closing credits musical number, telling the lumberjack not to cut all the way through the log because “we’ve only got one log,” you realize that all the backstage footage in the world might be fun to see, but still wouldn’t explain a thing.
image

“It’ll be more than a mouthful, which will look real, and it looks great. And you can throw up a lot of blood. Two times you’ll throw up.”

“There was a thought for a long time that you had to suffer in order to create, and this is just about opposite of the truth. If you’re suffering, even a little bit of suffering cuts into your creativity. In fact, the happier you are, and the more wide awake and rested you are, the better it goes… then the ideas can flow way better, way smoother and faster, and more of them.”

Stories is Lynch talking for 40 minutes, maybe excerpts from the website Q&A segments, about IE and digital and meditation, the usual topics. This is where the famous quote about watching a film on a fucking phone is from. His hatred extends to computers as well, but I think if he was here and took a look at my television setup and laptop setup, he’d have to grudgingly admit that I’m getting better picture and sound off the laptop.
image

On a separate disc, Room To Dream: David Lynch and the Independent Filmmaker is mostly Lynch talking about himself and his working methods, and partly an advertisement for Avid systems. Best of all, it includes an extra scene related to Inland Empire. Windowboxed and interlaced, unfortunately – nice going, Avid.
image

Sur la route de Mulholland Drive is a half-hour behind the scenes, interviewing all the principals and watching the filming. More interesting than most backstage press-kits if only because I’m unusually interested in the film. Following that is a cutdown of the film’s Cannes press conference.
image

Le Son de David Lynch, another doc, from French television in 2007, interviews Lynch and a bunch of people I didn’t understand. Hmm, Wild at Heart was called Sailor et Lula over there. He and Badalamenti (below) recorded music for Twin Peaks and Lost Highway before shooting, and he’d play the music on set… wonderful.
image

On the Lime Green box set, Out Yonder is a three-actor stilted-humor throwback to The Cowboy and the Frenchman, only Lynch is one of the actors this time. Not really interesting at all, a conversation where all forms of the verb “to be” are replaced by “bees bein'”, with fart jokes, tooth pulling and a distant cavalry. In the next episode, a girl with gonorrhea seeks her missing chickens.
image

Scissors is a Cannes short previously known (to me) as Absurda. A Flash-looking dream-cinema piece incorporating bits of the ballerina footage.
image

A couple of greetings for film festivals, both in b/w, filmed in reverse, starring Lynch himself and just awesome.
image

Fictitious Anacin Commercial is exactly that, a half-minute gag commercial. A Real Indication is an amateur music video (if amateurs had a crane). And Early Experiments is 16mm footage from the Grandmother/Alphabet/Six Figures era set to overdramatic string music, with some cool motion paintings and lots of mirror symmetry.
image

Then there’s Dynamic 01: The Best of Davidlynch.com
David answers member questions about favorite pieces of music, how to write a screenplay, his box full of ideas on scraps of paper, Marilyn Manson, coffee vs. cappucino, and meditating with Roy Orbison.

Intervalometer Experiments:
Ambient videos with slow, rumbling music. The first consists of trees and a distant mountain at sunset, the video grain threatening to destroy everything. The second is a spooky set of stairs molested by an encroaching shadow. The third is the corner of a sunroom in time-lapse, with scary trees and a dormant alarm system.
image

Industrial Soundscape is a lock-groove computer animation three times as long as it needs to be. Maybe we were supposed to use it for meditative purposes. Bug Crawls is animation of a bug climbing a mad science house in slow-motion as a blimp passes by. Lamp is a half-hour doc of David making a lamp, which isn’t as funny as when he makes quinoa. And there’s another episode of Out Yonder, which I think I’m gonna skip. No, I guess I’ll watch it. “You bees bein’ barkin’ right up the tree which bees bein’ the wrong one!”

Darkened Room
A Japanese girl dances with the camera, talks to us about bananas before introducing her crying fried (must be Jordan Ladd of Death Proof) in the other room. I think I hear the Rabbits music. Third girl (Ladd’s Cabin Fever co-star Cerina Vincent) comes out to torment the crying girl. Hmmm, my note three years ago said this is six minutes long, but now it’s ten. Maybe last time I lacked the intro with the bananas. A few visual cues and mention of a mysterious watch purchase tie this in with Inland Empire and More Things. Little did I know the first time I watched it. Little did Lynch know, probably.
image

Boat / “When things go wrong, it gets like this.”
David takes his boat (the “Little Indian”) out for a spin, takes low-grade blown-out video then adds a woman-in-trouble descriptive voiceover. He goes fast enough to go into the night.
image

Nic Cage goes to jail. Twice.

image

Harry Dean is a lovestruck sucker, gets killed by three characters who are far more prominent in the deleted scenes: Quiet Dropshadow (Jerry Horne in Twin Peaks), talky, over-friendly Reggie (black islander Calvin Lockhart, who played “Biggie Smalls” in Sidney Poitier film Let’s Do It Again, which I must see sometime), and creeeepy cane-walkin’ woman Juana Durango (Grace Zabriskie, even creepier in Inland Empire, also Laura Palmer’s mom). Álex de la Iglesia made some sort of a sequel featuring these three characters called Perdita Durango or Dance With The Devil. I guess it’s not really a sequel, but both films are based on novels by Barry Gifford, who also cowrote Lost Highway and Hotel Room.

image

Lynch has plenty of contenders for Creepiest Character In Film History – there’s Robert Blake in Lost Highway, Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet… my personal pick is Willem Dafoe in Wild At Heart.

image

Crispin Glover also gets a bigger part in the outtakes, including the scene below where he’s almost discovered by our heroes working at a gas station. I can’t remember if the revelation that he impregnated cousin Laura Dern when they were younger was in the movie or not… I’m thinking it’s from the outtakes too.

image

“How many stars you think are up there, baby?”
“There’s a couple.”

“Look at my knees. Look at my knees!”
image

Things I’d forgotten about Eraserhead:

The curled insect-ring Henry gets in a tiny box in the mail and puts in a cabinet:
image

The sequence of events leading to the eraser factory. Henry enters the radiator, stands behind a railing, the baby’s head pops out of his neck, knocking his adult head on the checkered-floor ground. Blood pools, head falls into the pool and splats onto the street outside. A bum looks interested, his arm outstretched, but a boy grabs the head and runs, enters the factory. A man (Paul, below left) anxiously presses a buzzer until a bearded man (below right) comes out pointing his finger “OKAY, Paul!” Bearded man takes the boy into the back room where the eraser technician tests the head. “It’s okay.”
image

Kinda felt like I was going through the motions as cinephile and Lynch-fanatic going out by myself to watch Eraserhead on 35mm on the big screen… but WOW was it ever awesome. Such beautiful dark, dark imagery, and amazing to see it as intended sitting in a dark theater away from the comforts of home. Movie is a nightmare – that’s the most accurate description I can think of. Sure it’s a “horror film” among other things, but more importantly it is the closest thing I’ve seen to an actual filmed nightmare. There are no “dream sequences” because there’s no reality… the whole film follows a fascinating dream logic.

Made 30 years ago now. Mary’s mother Jeanne Bates (who also appeared in Mulholland Dr.) died last year. Sound man David Splet (who also worked on Days of Heaven and four other Lynch films) died in ’95. The actor who played Paul at the eraser factory, also in two John Carpenter films around the same time, died in ’98. Everyone else seems to be doing fine, but I also learned that assistant director Catherine Coulson later played the Log Lady on Twin Peaks, and co-cinematographer Fred Elmes (also shot five other Lynch movies and films by Cassavetes, Jim Jarmusch, Albert Brooks, Ang Lee, Mira Nair, and Charlie Kaufman’s new Synecdoche New York) is the only person listed on the whole IMDB to be born in Mountain Lakes, NJ. A hometown celebrity – and it’s a GOOD one!

Jack Nance was murdered Dec. 30, 1996. His final film was Lost Highway. Despite the IMDB’s claims, he’s not the same Jack Nance who co-wrote “It’s Only Make Believe” with Conway Twitty… wake up, IMDB.
image

Jack Fisk (below), alive and well and married to Sissy Spacek, has been production designer / art director on all four Terrence Malick films, two by De Palma, two by Lynch, and There Will Be Blood – an impressive career!
image

“Cinema is the ultimate pervert art. It doesn’t give you what you desire; it tells you what to desire.”

With his focus on the “traumatic dimension of the voice… which distorts reality”, I must believe that narrator Slavoj Zizek, with his heavily accented voice, is watching and interpreting slightly different versions of these movies than the ones I have seen. After all, I watch films and he watches “fillums”.

image

A few bits: the three levels of Norman Bates’s house representing the id / ego / superego… the power of the voice represented by Dr. Mabuse… “Music is potentially always a threat”… a look at the intersecting fantasies in Blue Velvet, and the related horror themes of Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive.

Calls a scene in The Piano Teacher “the most depressive sexual act in the entire history of cinema.” To think I once showed that movie to my girlfriend’s parents!

Wish Katy had finished watching this with me, could’ve helped defend my position on David Lynch movies. And for stupid cinephiles like myself, who love Lynch movies (and The Piano Teacher, and Eyes Wide Shut, and Blue) but get lost in their images and atmosphere without thinking too hard about their psychological implications, he handily explains the stories and characters from a psych point-of-view.

“I think that flowers should be forbidden to children.”

The movie might teach the rewards of closely analyzing a few great movies instead of trying to watch every potentially great movie. This is a lesson I will not be following. Maybe one day…

I feel so vindicated that he picks Alien Resurrection as a film worth discussing. When oh when will that gem get its due? Only the second of the series (after the Ridley Scott original) to count as a horror film, plus it’s good sci-fi and an innovative sequel/reboot that hasn’t been matched since (well, maybe those Chucky movies).

“All modern films are ultimately films about the possibility or impossibility to make a film.”

He compares Cecil B. DeMille to the Wizard of Oz to the mystery man in Lost Highway.

“In order to understand today’s world, we need cinema, literally. It’s only in cinema that we get that crucial dimension which we are not ready to confront in our reality. If you are looking for what is in reality more real than reality itself, look into the cinematic fiction.”

Set in the near-future of summer 2008, which would’ve worked better had the film played more than a couple film festivals in its intended release year of 2006.

image

I could go on and on summarizing plot strands and talking about story bits like Liquid Karma being harvested from the center of the earth and injected into Iraq war soldiers to give them psychic communication powers, TV ads that feature cars fucking each other, multiple sets of identical twins, triple-crossing double-agents in an undercover war between government spy corporations and the neo-Marxist underground… but it’s not worth recounting, really. I find the following bits more interesting:

1. The casting choices. Are they meant ironically, humorously, or meta-post-something? Admittedly some of these people are good actors, but it seems like stunt-celeb casting akin to Steve Guttenberg dancing in a reality show. These people actually appear in this movie:
– teen idols The Rock, Buffy, Seann William Scott, Mandy Moore & Justin Timberlake
– TV comedy vets John Larroquette, Jon Lovitz and Will Sasso
– SNL comics Nora Dunn, Cheri Oteri and Amy Poehler
The Princess Bride‘s Wallace Shawn
– Christopher “Highlander” Lambert
– The ghost expert from Poltergeist (now in her 70’s)
– Donnie Darko’s uptight teacher, but with an unpleasant fake accent
– Donnie’s dad Holmes Osborne
– Janeane Garofalo (somehow I did not recognize her)
– Kevin Smith in heavy old-man makeup
Mulholland Drive‘s Rebekah Del Rio (below)
– 80’s movie nerd Curtis Armstrong (Cusak’s wired friend in Better Off Dead)
– Miranda Richardson of Spider and Sleepy Hollow
– Bai Ling of Dumplings and Sky Captain

image

2. Apparent product-placement for Bud Light in both the movie and the comic, and empty references/namechecks of Robert Frost poems and Robert Aldrich films and Philip Dick novels. A location called “Fire Arcade” could fit in this category as well.

3. The post-modern fractured storytelling aspect, complete with lots of internetty technology business in plot and presentation. Doesn’t work as well as it did in Redacted, and it remains to be seen whether this concept will ever work completely in any movie (a fixed-length linear medium) or whether movies should simply not try to emulate DVDs, CD-ROMs and websites. At least the story was told in chronological order (as was Redacted).

A scarred and blood-drenched teen idol, who must’ve shot a lot of scenes that got cut out of the picture since he never quite seems to fit in:
image

4. The gall of this thing to exist, with its bad acting, big budget and mishmash story. It truly feels like Kelly was afraid that this might be his last film (it won’t – his Cameron Diaz and Cyclops starring follow-up with hardly any stunt casting is in post-production) and wanted to make it about every single idea he’d ever had all at once. Global warming! Internet privacy! Individual identity! The US perpetual war machine! Fart humor! Religion! If you want to be unkind you could say the fractured storytelling wasn’t even purposeful but just reflects Kelly’s total lack of focus on a single story or concept.

5. Commonalities with Darko (Kelly’s continuing obsessions with pop songs, 80’s culture, time travel and memory).

Parts of the comic, like the rapidly-growing baby and the bit about certain people evolving beyond the need to defecate are missing from the film except in coded messages. You poo too?
image

But these are the most interesting aspects of a kinda uninteresting movie. I’d have to say the whole enterprise was a waste of time, time better spent watching Stephen Chow kick stuff in Royal Tramp II. At the end there is an explosion, a young guy who goes through a rift in the space-time continuum, and someone who is shot in the eye. Why would a studio pay $17mil for a crappy remake of Donnie Darko? Then there’s a line about the messiah being a pimp. This is the way the movie ends. This is the way the movie ends.

Second half of shorts listing from Cannes 60th anniv. celebration (first half is here):

It’s A Dream by Tsai Ming-liang
image

Occupations by a hatchet-wielding Lars Von Trier
image

The Gift, more weirdness by Raoul Ruiz
image

The Cinema Around The Corner, happy reminiscing by Claude Lelouch
image

First Kiss, pretty but obvious, by Gus Van Sant.
image

Cinema Erotique, a funny gag by Roman Polanksi with one of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s large-faced actors.
image

No Translation Needed, almost too bizarre to be considered self-indulgent, first Michael Cimino movie since 1996.
image

At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema in the World by and starring David Cronenberg, one of his funniest and most disturbing movies.
image

I Travelled 9,000 km To Give It To You by Wong Kar-Wai.
image

Where Is My Romeo? – Abbas Kiarostami films women crying at a movie.
image

The Last Dating Show, funny joke on dating and racial tension by Bille August.
image

Awkward featuring Elia Suleiman as himself.
image

Sole Meeting, another gag, by Manoel de Oliveira and starring Michel Piccoli (left) and MdO fave Duarte de Almeida (right).
image

8,944 km From Cannes, a very pleasurable musical gag by Walter Salles.
image

War In Peace, either perverse or tragic, I don’t know which, by Wim Wenders.
image

Zhanxiou Village, supreme childhood pleasure by Chen Kaige.
image

Happy Ending, ironically funny ending by Ken Loach.
image

Epilogue is an excerpt from a Rene Clair film.
image

Not included in the DVD version was World Cinema by Joel & Ethan Coen and reportedly a second Walter Salles segment.

Not included in the program at all was Absurda by David Lynch (reportedly he submitted too late, so his short was shown separately). I saw a download copy… some digital business with crazed sound effects and giant scissors.

Yay!

A purely textural, immersive experience, defies all description or explanation. The actors in a film become their characters, teleporting to Poland, psychics and unknowns, and of course, Rabbits.

Sam writes: “most impressive to me was its function as a purely visceral machine. The sound in the theater was booming, giving his shock-moments of menacing narrative intrusion a physical as well as mental impact. The endless distorted close-ups, his use of darkness and blinding brightness, and the excellently interpolated sequences of abstraction (and those verging on it) contribute at least as much to this effect. Perhaps this is what has been missing in his films since Eraserhead: his attempts at messing with our imagination were only interesting inasmuch as we were interested in his, while in these two very medium-specific movies he ropes our physiological responses into the mix, and cuts far deeper in every way. In an era when the loudest and flashiest action films can actually seem boring (even when combined with artistic pretention as in Children of Men), the emergence of a truly shaking cinematic experience is good news indeed.”

Katy didn’t go.

image missing

Rabbits! Eight episodes of rabbity nonsense, with Laura “Rita” Harring, Naomi “Betty” Watts, Scott “scenes deleted” Coffey, and Rebekah “Del” Rio.

image missing

The rabbits seem to be having an actual conversation, but all the lines are out of order. So if you try to remember the dialogue in an episode, at the end you can piece it together, sort of. Or it probably doesn’t matter. And thrice there’s an episode where there’s just one person singing.

image missing

And sometimes this happens.

image missing

Six Figures Getting Sick
is exactly that. With an annoying siren.

image missing

The Alphabet
is my favorite David Lynch short film so far.

image missing

The Grandmother
is so disturbing on so many levels.

image missing

The Amputee
is lame, but it was a one-off overnight project so whatever.

image missing

The Cowboy and the Frenchman
is pretty damned funny, actually.

image missing

Lumiere
is neat, with some simulated cuts and visual effects.

image missing