Inland Empire Of Crap… or Art?

So this originally was going to be a scathing diatribe against the movie Inland Empire by David Lynch.   After going to see it in its Providence, RI premiere and expecting a weird but interesting film, we ended up walking out on it half way through, right around the time the dozen prostitutes started dancing in unison to "Do the Locomotion" in the lead character’s alternate reality or whatever it was.  I’ve never walked out of a movie before, but this one was just leaving me completely lost and befuddled.

In the time since then, I’ve read more critical reviews and some more fan reviews and spent time thinking about.   It has also intrigued my girlfriend and I to see the end of the film.  Given what I’ve read and our desire to finish watching the film, it has started to make me think about whether this is truly a rambling, non-linear piece of art school high-falutin’ pretentious crap or umm… just art.

Here’s the thing – if you’re looking to be entertained or enjoy anything even close resembling a normal movie, this isn’t the movie for you.  I am pretty broad-minded when it comes to art and culture, and I enjoy some pretty different movies.  One of my favorite directors is Stanley Kubrick and I’ve enjoyed movies such as Kayaanisqatsi, Madness of King George, Punch Drunk Love, and even Muholland Drive.  I enjoy movies that are challenging, creative, thought-provoking and original.  My favorite movie all time is still Pulp Fiction.  However, I have my limits and if it is simply too far out there, then I typically have a hard time enjoying it.

However, it has got me thinking about the role that such movies – and music and art for that matter – plays in the creative evolution of their genres.  Many of the classic movies that can seem dated and old fashioned now were cutting edge and controversial at the time.  Each has played a roll in the development of film and while some can still seem edgy, some have become much more mainstream as they have introduced a mainstream audience to innovative storytelling and camera techniques.  The aforementioned Pulp Fiction was certainly not the first film to utilize non-linear storytelling, but did it in such a masterful way that now many other films can do the same thing and audiences are OK with it in a way that they weren’t before.  However, there were other, arguably more innovative, films that came before it and laid the groundwork.  Watch the deluxe DVD with the subtitled commentary and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

So where does that leave a film like Inland Empire?  Like still-presiding President or a war not over yet, it is up to the history books.  It could end up being a art house film that only a very small group of people can even appreciate, even enjoy.  Or perhaps, 10, 20, or 50 years from now it could be considered a breakthrough in cinema.  For me, it is an absolute far-out piece of pretentious of artsy film making that made me walk out of the theater but yet strangely left me wanting more.