The Empire Never Died
What I scribbled down in my trusty notebook*, moments after finishing all of INLAND EMPIRE when I really only meant to watch thirty minutes or so:
A girl’s gotten pregnant and not by the guy she’s with. She’s haunted by ‘Krimp’ — a ‘crimp’ in the umbilical cord — and by a screwdriver to the stomach, both images of losing the baby, possibly to the violence of her jealous husband, boyfriend, whatever he is. So she, the initial, sad viewer of that television set the film dives into, escapes into her star-blonde hair, the actress persona, and, this time, instead of that second act in some way mirroring or inverting the first act, which is the usual Lynch trick, the second act provides the exposition we’ve been missing, more or less, in that it’s an embodiment (again) of all the originating character’s whims and fears &etc. Until finally that persona fades away, taking with it the serial memory of the drawing room bunnies (see: ‘fertile,’ ‘non-monogamous’) and everything else, and the girl steps into the life she now has, where, surprise, the baby unexpectedly lived, and her husband loves her, and it’s either a happy, happy ending, or it’s an especially sad ending, as it’s all a projected fantasy of that star blonde actress, who can have none of this. All punctuated by a lighthearted musical number of a dream at the end — ‘dream’ indicated of course by the one non-sequitor in the room: the lumberjack, ‘sawing logs.’ But whose dream? Lynch’s, I’d guess, he who should really be disallowed from making movies about making movies, as the indeterminancy there has no end. And evidently there were more cameos than I picked up. And what of that director’s assistant (Stanton) mentioning rabbits? That play into the bunny room somehow, making the assistant the dungeonmaster here? And the new neighbor who seems to be somehow ‘above’ all this, in that she can see through it, speak about it? No clue; another blue box. Anyway, in the end, no, not nearly as bookended as LOST HIGHWAY and not as fun to tease apart as MULHOLLAND DRIVE, but still, you can’t look away. For three hours, you can’t look away. One thing I’m very glad of: that Lynch doesn’t do horror. Because this, whatever it is, it terrifies just about all I need, thanks.
And yeah, if I had the intellectual fortitude (this is a lie), I’d try to rig something together like that Salon/Mulholland article, linked above. Or, I mean — like I could even do this — Zizek’s Lost Highway book. So perfect. But, as it is, this too, just borrowed from somewhere, is a pretty fair response, I think:
* though, yeah, good guess: I added the links when transcribing. And no, now that I think about it, I have no idea what the call-girl chorus-line is about. Initially, I was pretty sure they were victims of her husband — either he was a killer, or just girls from his past. But then he’s pretty much a non-character, so who knows. What would be really cool in a Lynch film, I think, would be to have Kyle McLaughlin in it, but give him no import at all. He’s just some nobody, whom we’d of course be attaching all this significance to.