Sometime in 2007, I learned that David Lynch would be accompanying a screening of INLAND EMPIRE to the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, MD. Per the film’s tour schedule, said pairing of man and movie would occur no closer to the city I call home: Richmond, Virginia.
I had to go.
So I rang a buddy who lived in Silver Spring and made arrangements to stay over after the event. I asked him if he’d like to join me. As a teenager, he remembered watching BLUE VELVET with his folks. The whole family noshed popcorn while Frank Booth screamed “I Want To Fuck!”
He dug the idea. I sprang for tickets and counted the days.
Night of the event. A sold out screening. Lynch-heads swarmed the theater en masse and stretched a single-file line into the parking lot. My buddy and I grabbed a spot in line and waited. And waited. Stoked, we yammered on about this and that. Earlier that evening, we’d enjoyed some primo Peruvian Pollo Rico chicken from the local hot-spot. Word-of-mouth earned the joint much deserved raves. We speculated on the owners’ ceiling-high piles of cash.
Our bladders – full of the beer we drank with dinner – begged for death. Finally, the line gave. We entered the theater and jetted for the john. Relieved, we scampered for seats and found the only ones left were right up front. We didn’t care.
The Man entered the theater. The crowd roared with applause. The guy’s a demigod. Man of movies and transcendental meditation. An eagle scout from Missoula, Montana. That hair.
He thanked the crowd and looked forward to the Q & A after the film. He and a musician friend took to synthesizers and revved up the crowd with a musical prelude. Everyone was jazzed with anticipation. The music stopped, Lynch and his pal cut out, and the mindfuck began.
“A woman in trouble.” INLAND EMPIRE’s airtight tagline gets the gist across just fine. Further elaboration on my part would only taint the experience of the film.
The house lights came up. I was in a haze of cinematic euphoria and freaked-out fright. My buddy said it was the scariest film he’d ever seen. Lynch grabbed a stool and settled in for the Q & A. He was fifteen feet away from our seats. He was affable and entertaining. He gave direct answers to some questions, elusive answers to others. He appreciated his fans and rewarded them with candor.
It’s been nearly 3 years since I first saw INLAND EMPIRE and I’m certain it’s an experience I’ll never forget. I’ve since purchased the film on DVD and have watched it a number of times. Unlike most feature film DVDs, the disc offers no chapter markers, an omission I find fitting. If you’re gonna get into a David Lynch movie [or really, for me, any movie], by golly, you go all the way.
In preparation for this piece, I viewed the film again and was struck by an enlightening revelation, care of none other than Christopher Nolan’s recent dreamland-as-summer-blockbuster INCEPTION.
If you’ve not seen INCEPTION, it puts the heist movie in your mind. Like, for real. Leo Dicaprio and his merry band of misfits enter your dream state and either steal your ideas or – hence the title – plant one there. It’s a big, booming picture told on a grand scale with crazy-wild effects and movie-star performances. Worth seeing, in my book. It’s a fun ride.
But after some careful thinking and pointed interweb reading, all of the elements of INCEPTION that at first seemed to me so unique and mind-bending now began to feel like self-serving puzzle pieces, carefully designed to form one intrinsic whole. Sure, I could discuss the various states of dreaming and the WTF ending, but to what end? Unlike a real dream, INCEPTION now feels rather concrete and inflexible, its pieces and parts full of purpose and function.
This is not to say I didn’t enjoy Nolan’s film. Watching it in the theater was thrilling. But the afterthought left me cold. Exactly the opposite, I realized, from how INLAND EMPIRE makes me feel. I’ve seen Lynch’s film half a dozen times now and each time I come away with a new frame frozen in my mind, a new moment to mull over. Each time feels fresh, and fun. And you know what else? It feels messy, and that isn’t a knock on the picture. To me, that’s its beauty, its rawness. INLAND EMPIRE challenges me in a way that INCEPTION does not. It simply makes me think.
And then think some more.
David Lynch continues to create. Since seeing INLAND EMPIRE, and having loved MULHOLLAND DRIVE, I’ve come to spend more time with his work. Lucky for us, he’s a very hard-working, accessible artist.
His transcendental meditation foundation is quite active.
He recently directed Marion Cotillard in a 16 minute film/ad for Dior.
He helped put together a cross country Interview Project.
And in what’s presently his most endearing activity, he often offers a weather report from LA.
I’m not here to wax philosophical on the guy. I just dig the way he creates. And these weather reports, these consistent everyday moments, the now – they make all the difference. It’s that catch-it-before-it’s-gone, blink-and-you-might-miss-it quality to his work that makes it last. Plus, it really humanizes him to us, his fans.
You are a fan of David Lynch, aren’t you?
Which David Lynch image are you thinking of now?