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David’s World

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A cigarette burns a hole through a silk underslip;
A girl’s taunting voice says “do you wanna see?”

Does the film start before the curtains part?

At the Rio cinema, in the 2nd row, the lights slowly dim to the sounds of a low whirling and metal clanking on metal …spotlight on the red curtains in front of the screen, empty stage…

“It’s magical – I don’t know why – lights go down – it’s very quiet and the curtains start to open, maybe they’re red and you go into a world.”
From David Lynch’s beautifully produced book Catching the Big Fish – Meditation, Consciousness and Creativity.

A searchlight — b/w — spells out the words INLAND EMPIRE. The screen is filled by needle stuck in the groove on an old 78 record.

The story is simple, told in a complicated way. Laura Dern plays an actress who’s lost in a multiple of parts and selves. She wanders down ever darkening corridors and through one door and out of another, crossing over different story lines. Dern is incredible, shifting through personas — housewife, actress, old whore, lunatic — seamlessly and with great subtlety, you don’t see the joins, only feel the fractures and splits…
Intense close up of her and actor Justin Theroux, fucking, under dark sheets… The mixture of sexual pleasure and babbling neurosis is spellbinding, scary.

There’s often a silver / bluish light in the actors eyes’ and then they black out entirely…

Jeremy Irons plays a film director making a film. I’m one of the few people to find Mr. Irons very sexy (I think Patti Smith does too) but often his performances can be pure English Teak – David seems to have directed him, so he’s compelling, full of anxiety and foreboding, a patina of sweaty anguish coats his face…brows knitted….

AS if I were there on set:

“Now Jeremy, you’re the director of Blue Tomorrows and you just know something bad is going to happen, but you don’t know what.”

“David… what kind of bad thing?”

“Well Jeremy, I don’t know yet …but you must somehow, give the feeling that your cast are in terrible trouble, but you can’t say what it is. You have a deep, deep sense what it might be, but you can’t tell it… yet,” David says.

“Now, I’m starting to worry… that… David, I’m…”

“You got it! Jeremy! You got it… just like that! Do it just like that,” David concludes.

The best cameo is by Harry Dean Stanton or what’s left of him, with dyed black hair, face caved in, on the hustle for a few dollars from cast and crewmembers: he passes through the film like a puff of smoke…

Having been possessed by genius (Marcel Duchamp, Marilyn Monroe, Tennessee Williams, Coco Chanel, Andy Warhol, David Lynch).

Catching the Big Fish — The book.

With short chapters such as “The Suffocating Rubber Clown Suit” (“Depression is thick and stinks like burnt rubber”) and “Bob’ Big Boy” makes you think, gives you a moment to consider David’s worlds, his views on filmmaking and ideas on art and it’s fantastically inspiring, because he’s not telling you, but quietly showing, pointing clues…or simply by being entertaining, writing about his meeting with Fellini, in a hospital in Rome, they held hands and Fellini told stories.

“Negativity is like darkness. So what is darkness? You look at darkness and really it’s nothing; it’s the absence of something.”
“I love to see people come out of darkness.”

To date, I’ve seen the film twice and am likely to go for a third viewing before it finishes its London run.

Inland Empire is on release across Europe. The Air is On Fire exhibition is at the Fondation Cartier in Paris until May 27th.

big_bertie.jpgABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Bertie Marshall is the author of novel Psychoboys and punk memoir Berlin Bromley. He belonged to the legendary Bromley Contingent and is on MySpace.
The paperback edition of Berlin Bromley is out June 7th.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, March 26th, 2007.