*. I think David Lynch is a genius, and that’s not a word I throw around lightly. I was a fan right from the night I saw Eraserhead at a rep cinema. Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr. are landmark works of art. The first season of Twin Peaks is one of the best things there’s ever been on television.
*. As I would with any genius, I give Lynch latitude to make mistakes without excusing them or finding in them portals of discovery. No, as I said in my notes on Lost Highway, there is a good Lynch and a bad Lynch. And the bad Lynch can be very bad. I am not among those who now declare Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me to be a misunderstood classic. It’s terrible.
*. You’ll have guessed where I’m going. Inland Empire is bad Lynch. Very bad Lynch. It was a movie he wrote and produced on his own, even shooting it himself on a hand-held digital camera. It developed episodically and some of it was made up as he went along, though I doubt it would have made any more sense if it had been plotted out. As far as I can tell it’s just the usual playing around with enjambed timelines and dark alternative dimensions with resident demons. Make of that what you will, since Lynch isn’t interested in explaining any of it.
*. I won’t be so foolish as to try to offer my own explanation, beyond observing that it seems to be about an actress who is having a breakdown on set. To say anything more would be to give some credit to the idea that there is a point to it, which I don’t believe there is. I also don’t want to offer an explanation because I really don’t care. I’ve read various interpretations of what is going on or what the movie is “about,” many of them wildly at odds, but none of them mean anything to me because of this fundamental lack of any personal investment in the story. Should I care if Nancy/Sue is just dreaming all this? That perhaps she’s dead? Or never existed at all?
*. I don’t find anything in Inland Empire interesting because confusion is not interesting. So when it drags on for three hours it gets very dull. It’s also ugly, underlit, and unimaginative, lazily bouncing us back again and again to Laura Dern’s shocked or uncomprehending face. Since Dern herself apparently didn’t know what was going on this wasn’t acting. I think we are meant to relate to her mystification. But who knows?
*. I’ll just stop here. I didn’t understand it. Even after having given up on understanding it, I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, I had a very hard time sitting through it. Having done so I can only say that the experience wasn’t worth it.