The Boyf and I went to see Inland Empire last night at the Carolina Theatre of Durham. This morning I sent an email to Mr. Pink Eyes to tell him what I thought about it and my email said, simply, that I was strumming my lips with my finger and going, “Burblurblurblurblurble.” He asked whether this was a good burble or a loony burble. My response is below the fold in case you don’t want to read another’s impressions before you see it.

“The answer to your either/or question is “yes.” It’s good and I’m glad I saw it. I recommend it. It has a lot of powerful images and the bits of narrative to be sifted out of it are compelling but they never pay off (no one story element gets a resolution, and I think it’s only fair to note that up front because the movie is frustrating and dissatisfying if you go in thinking it is coherent). There are a lot of laughs and there are some great moments of tension and of humanity. It’s like Lynch just had some ideas for some scenes and vague story elements that revolve around the movie’s tag line (“a woman in trouble”) and shot them and voila, movie! Tah-dah!

“Like, looking at it from the perspective of a Lynch movie, it’s not his strongest (by my tastes) because it lacks so much of the compelling story I kind of expect from him. On the other hand, he does an amazing job of executing his favorite things about so many of his movies: tension, humor, simple human stuff. Laura Dern is pretty damned amazing in it, too. It’s just – it’s like Lynch knows that we the audience are going to try to construct some sort of complicated narrative explanation and he really doesn’t want that to happen. He wants to trip us up. So he starts us off with a coherent narrative and then takes it down a fairly familiar twist and then just starts grinding down our will to construct that narrative by giving us just enough to come up with a new idea and then shooting that down, repeating ad infinitum, until by the end you’ve (I’ve, anyway) just given up. I think he wants to actively discourage you from doing anything other than just sitting there and absorbing. He wants to toy with all the visual and aural and performed elements of suspense and narrative tension without actually having a plot underneath them. Also there are some visual shout-outs to his other work (including some pretty blatant Red Room references). It all sort of makes me imagine that Lynch has this Perfect Sequence in his mind and he’s spent his entire career circling in on it and this is another attempt at finding the right combination of elements.

“It’s… it’s hard to say whether it’s “good” or “bad.” I liked it. I sort of enjoyed it. I’m glad I saw it. I was all weirded out by the visuals of my drive home (long, dark stretches of 55 interspersed with insanely bright lights of gas stations). I was sort of giggly and sort of melancholy afterwards. It didn’t change my life but Lynch doesn’t want to change anyone’s life with this movie. (If he does, it’s an abject failure.) He just wants to engage your brain on a specific theme and specific visuals. He wants to ditch all the things for which movies and TV (especially TV) are currently enjoying a sort of surprise golden age: great storytelling, intricate plots. He just wants to toy with visuals and characters. There’s definitely a strong element to the, um, well, movie (since “story” is wildly inappropriate) of representing television as incredibly abstract and removed and dissociated from anything like the lives of the viewers (duh, yes, but I guess Lynch has his own special experience of that). There’s this weird sort of way in which I feel like he’s standing in front of the screen telling me to get the hell out of his movie, damn it, with my fancy ideas of structure and plot. In some ways it feels like a really strong trip that is perpetually on the verge of turning bad.”

There ended my email to Mr. Pink Eyes. All that said, I think it’s important to note something: I could sit here and try to construct some uber-point to the movie, something about the similarities of the problems of women who sell their bodies in one way or another – as a prostitute, as a kept woman, as a star – but I also think I would be drowned out by the sound of flies buzzing enthusiastically around the pile of bullshit that statement would constitute. I don’t think there’s a big point to the movie. If there is, I’m too dumb to see it. I think it is, pure and simple, Lynch noodling around with that one theme of “a woman in trouble” and that any attempt to read more into it than said noodling is misguided and actively discouraged. Wait, did I say that already? Fuck if I know. This movie left my brain in knots.