You notice a lot seeing Inland Empire a second time. First of all, you realize you’ve been getting tired of capitalizing the title like that. Then, it sinks in that David Lynch is right: Inland Empire makes perfect sense–and it’s about a woman in trouble.

The reason Inland Empire works so goddamn well, I think, is the structure. It’s like Trey said at Coventry: I just wanted to see how weird I could get and still have people dance to it. On the Koyaanisqatsi commentary track, Philip Glass talks about leaving space between the images and the music–the key, he says, is to leave a room for the audience, for their ideas and imagination (his example were the maneuvering jumbo jets with the etherial voices.) Somehow, Inland Empire leaves tremendous spaces without ever quite snapping the tenuous lines of connection that hold the entire thing together. It’s a strange film, but you can definitely dance to it.

A woman in trouble. The tagline suggests an entire narrative, and it’s there. Inland Empire is structurally sound; once again, you can map a hero’s journey onto the film–with hookers doing the locomotion and talking bunnies, but still a hero’s journey. Scene by scene, it’s extraordinarily compelling and loaded with clues, cross-references, and payoffs to reward and further confuse the viewer. In Catching the Big Fish, Lynch likens ideas to fish, and he says he likes to dive deep: “Down deep, the fish are more powerful and more pure. They’re huge and abstract. And they’re very beautiful.” Because of its many disparate parts, and its length, Inland Empire is difficult to contain in words, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to grasp it. And indeed, it’s huge and abstract, and very beautiful. It’s also very, very funny.

Some things to watch out for the next time you see Inland Empire: What do whores do? Who is the Phantom, and what kind of an “opening” is he looking for? “It has something to do with the telling of time”–so is it 9:45, or after midnight? Who lost their son? What does the tatoo on Nikki’s right hand mean? Who has a way with animals? What are the rabbits waiting for? Who’s a freaaaaak? “Take a good look and tell me if you’ve known me before.” Is there a bus to Pomona? You’re in a movie theater, in the dark, before they bring up the lights. Keep up with your angle vis-a-vis the screen. Is there murder in On High in Blue Tomorrows? And what is the significance of the bright light?

Inland Empire. David Lynch, 2006. *****

[tags]film, 5 stars, laura dern, david lynch, inland empire, surreal, rabbits, ifc center, koyaanisqatsi, philip glass, trey anastasio, hero’s journey[/tags]