Food Movies

Inland Empire

When you watch an interview with David Lynch it’s always surprising how totally normal he seems. Once you get past the hipster hair style he’s got this unpretentious gee-whiz enthusiasm about things. Did you know he’s a vegan, or at least a vegetarian? He shows us how to make quinoa (pronounced kin-WAH) with organic broccoli, vegetable bullion, sea salt and liquid amino acids. It looks like fun and I’ll have to pick some up at the local organic market. While he’s preparing it he regales us with a story from his youth, travelling on a train from Greece to Venice, and meeting up with a girl who boards in Yugoslavia. He buys bottles of colored sugar-water at an unscheduled stop in Yugoslavia and pays with a small copper coin. He gets back the sugar-water and a large paper bill. Once they get to Venice he uses it to buy six Coca-Colas and gets them plus two handfuls of silver coins in change.

This means something. He also smokes a cigarette while telling it. Why do people interested in their health enough to make quinoa with organic broccoli, vegetable bullion, sea salt and liquid amino acids (tastes like soy sauce!) smoke cigarettes, too?

“Quinoa” is one of the bonus features on the two-disc special edition of Inland Empire. It’s shot in high-contrast black and white, probably in Lynch’s own home. It’s shot in real time while he makes up his dinner from scratch up until the time he eats it (delicious!).

The main feature is on the other disc. If you’ve seen “Mulholland Drive,” you’re familiar with the concept. An actress is making a film. Something happens — she falls through the rabbit hole — and everything is different. She’s someone else. She may be the character in the film. She may be someone long dead. Mysterious characters come and go making oracular pronouncements which of course turn out to be true.

The movie starts out with a black-and-white flashback of a couple in a hallway, on their way to a tryst. Their faces are blurred out with a white glow. They say cryptic things, “who are we?” Next is the rabbits. Any way I could try to describe this scene will make it sound ridiculous. Remember the cowboy in Mulholland Drive? It’s like that. Superficially ridiculous, with an air of deep menace lurking beneath.

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Then we meet the actress, played in a tour-de-force by Laura Dern. She’s in her luxurious Hollywood home and is visited by a woman with a heavy Polish accent, played by Grace Zabriskie. Shot in extreme closeup, she tells two short fables that will set the stage for the events that are to come.

After she lands the part, at the rehearsal with the director (Jeremy Irons) she and the leading man are told that it’s sort of a remake. The original production, which was being shot in Poland, was abandoned after the two leading players were murdered. They hear a sound behind them, and the lead actor goes to investigate. The first of the woman’s fables comes true.

For the next two-plus hours it’s a dizzying fractured ride through Laura Dern’s head as she switches back and forth between herself, the previous actress, and the character in the movie. And it’s never quite clear what is what. It’s an open question — who is she, when is she, what is she? The rabbits return.

A typical David Lynch film is confusing and demands attention and thought. This one even more so. At close to three hours, the amount of information he throws up without explanation is staggering. I also watched it on my laptop the first time. According to one of the interviews on the special features disc, this is a mistake. “A great sadness.” And don’t even think about watching it on your phone!

And there’s very good reason. The soundtrack and sound design are amazing. There’s the constant sound of wind. Music of Penderecki (one of the numerous Kubrik references). Ambient noise and distortion. Train whistles — they shot in a warehouse instead of a sound stage to save money, and it was next to busy railroad tracks. They loved the sound and kept it in.

Later on I’m going to mix myself up a big bowl of quinoa with organic broccoli, vegetable bullion, sea salt and liquid amino acid and watch it again on the big TV with the sound really really loud. That’s the way he wants it.

24 thoughts on “Inland Empire”

  1. When you talk about these “rabbits” is that your hint that this is an updated Alice in Wonderland? Or are there actual rabbits in this movie?

    Anyway, it sounds good and it’ll be nice to watch Laura Dern again. It’s been too long.

  2. Well not exactly. It’s just a suggestion of “down the rabbit hole,” meaning that things are turned upside down. There are not actual rabbits, but people dressed up in rabbit costumes. This description does no justice to the surrealism of the scenes.

    Are you up-to-speed on David Lynch’s movies? If you’re not familiar with his stuff, prepare to be totally weirded out.

    I did watch it again last night, loud. I have the TV set to run through the stereo speakers with about 150 watts behind them. It definitely gets your attention sometimes.

  3. I’ve heard of David Lynch, but i’ve not a single one of the movies that were listed under his name on imdb.

    But, as you know, i have no problem being weirded out. So how could i have missed all these movies? Are they indie films? Maybe that’s why. We usually go to the multiplexes and watch the blockbusters (not always my choice btw). And these days, not even that. I wait til what I want to see is available on ONDEMAND.

    But i’m so intrigued now, i’m gonna try and rent this one to watch tomorrow.

    We’ll be staying home for Easter after Church. I’m making prime rib. Have you got an awesome prime rib recipe and time to write it down and email it to me maybe? I know how to make it, but you’re a much better cook than I am.

  4. That’s very nice of you to say, considering that the one time you were here for dinner it was like the worst dish I’d made in years. You should see me when I don’t suck sometime.

    Take a look at the recipe for rib-eye steaks I posted a while back. This starts out with a bone-out rib roast but will work just as well — if not better — with a bone-in one. Just adjust the oven time up a few minutes.

    You need to start the day before for the flavors to seep in.

    Even if you like to serve a whole roast instead of steaks, this is a good starting point to flavor the roast before cooking. Just be sure to scrape off the seasonings a little while before it’s done roasting so you have a chance to properly brown up the top.

  5. Thanks for the recipe. I don’t have any time now to do it a day ahead, but i’ll start early in the morning and see how that works out. I did notice that recipe you posted last week. It sounded so good. I’ll use that. Happy Easter to you and the family, cousin.

    BTW, the dinner you served us did not suck at all. It was great. If that sucked, then i’d love to come over for dinner another time.

  6. Just to clarify for our other readers, Shari and some of her family were in town for Easter a few years ago. I tried Anthony Bourdain’s recipe for 7-hour leg of lamb, something I’d wanted to do for years but never had the right occasion.

    Anyway, his cookbook calls for you to make a quote-unquote dough out of 1 cup of water and 1 cup of flour and use that as a caulk/grout to seal up the roasting pan you’re cooking it in. The problem is, those proportions give you a thin paste, not anything you could caulk with. Considering it was like 7:00 in the morning when I was doing this — it needed seven hours cooking time, after all — I was too foggy-headed to think it through properly. So I just added a little more flour until it sort of started to stick to the edges of the pan, and went back to bed.

    It quickly fell off in the oven of course, defeating the whole purpose by letting steam escape; and so eventually the damn lamb just dried out. A houseful of guests and a leather slab of grey meat. This was one P.O.’d cook, I’ll tell you that.

    I must have redeemed myself with the side dishes, that’s all I can think of.

  7. I remember being very impressed by the side dishes. Don’t remember what they were, but i remember that they were good. And i remember the meat and the coffee and the desserts all being good. The wine you served me before, during and after the meal was real fine too.

    I remember because i never have eaten much lamb and usually didn’t like it but that day it smelled really good, and then it tasted even better. I had no idea there was anything wrong with it til you just said so.

  8. You should pat yourself on the back for your side dishes. You deserve to.

    The Man Upstairs knows that we McGee’s are not known for our modesty……(it’s not that we brag. it’s that we tell the truth.)

  9. Wait. Maybe modesty was the wrong word. You know what i mean anyway. I’m taking vicodin right now for this friggin migraine that has been hanging around since Saturday.

  10. The rib roast was the best i’d ever made. (There’s that McGee coming out). Great recipe. I learned of a trick i didn’t know before. You roast the thing for a little over an hour and then turn off the oven and let it sit in the unopened oven for 3 more hours. Then reheat for another half hour. Perfect texture and coloring.

    The asparagus dish had a wee bit too much white wine. I eyeballed when i shoulda measured. The mashed potatoes were, well, mashed potatoes. Blah.

    The migraine is all gone now. Thanks for checking up.

  11. Yes that’s how I would make the mashed potatoes. But i didn’t make them this time. Jamie did. And she’s totally into health and fitness and healthy eating. And totally not into things like butter or salt, or heavy cream. I noticed the potatoes were very white, not a little yellower like they should’ve been. I think there was little if any butter in them and i know there was little salt. The milk was mostly likely 1%.

    I know that it’s a good thing to be into healthy living, so i ate the potatoes.

    We’re kinda getting used to eating like that around here since she usually does the grocery shopping now. I’ve even learned to appreciate wheat bread with a lot of nuts and twigs in it. And cereal with lots of nuts and twigs in it. etc etc

  12. Well if you really want to be healthy skip the potatoes altogether and go with brown rice or … Quinoa! Funny how things can all get tied together that way.

    When I made mine I served it with homemade french fries. So there.

    Maybe some extra-virgin olive oil instead of butter? A bulb of roasted garlic squeezed in there? A handful of grated parmagianno-regianno?

    The nuts are good. I can just tell that you don’t like the twigs, and I don’t like them so much either.

  13. I do want to be healthy and the first thing i could do to accomplish that would be to quit smoking. (which i did for Lent but started up again). Then we can talk about brown rice, which isn’t that bad, granted. Then maybe even some exercise. I used to be so buff and could do 40 push-ups (man push-ups not the girl kind) and would run a mile a day. I could never get over that one mile hurdle. And every day i would do Buns of Steel and then lift weights with Jane Fonda. But that was a few years ago and i wasn’t working at the time.

  14. Watched Inland Empire a few nights ago. During the 3 hours, the phone rang several times, the kids came in the room a few times to talk and/or ask for money, and I dozed off quite a bit during the last hour, but I have no idea what this movie was about. Other than the vague outline you gave (without which i wouldn’t have had a clue) I cannot say what the plot line is. Was she a rich actress, a street druggie, an insane person? Did she have a son who died or a live one? Was she a brunette or a blonde? Have to return this movie today so can’t watch again.

  15. Maybe the confusion is part of the point. She was a rich actress playing a street druggie, and real life and the role started to blur into each other. Remember the scene where she’s having an affair-related conversation with the leading man and she says “wow, this is starting to sound like our script!” and then you hear the director yell out “cut .. what the hell is going on here?”

    Perhaps it was making her a little bit insane, she couldn’t tell where she was anymore. I think the baby thing was a third thing bleeding into it, the footage from the earlier production that had started in Poland.

    But yeah, it requires some attention. If you play it really loud the soundtrack is just great, with the added benefit that you can’t hear your kids begging for money.

  16. Yes, i remember that part where she said “this is starting to sound like our script” and it was at that point that i started to sort of get it – like something was messed up in her head or something was screwy somewhere. I just didn’t know what. Thanks for clarifying. I guess i kinda got it after all. I really wish i would’ve been able to pay better attention to the movie tho, but there was this guy sitting next to me who kept saying “this movie is dumb. this movie has no plot.” And the most annoying comment: “iwhat is this? A bunch of scenes put together from other movies?” Oy Vey! I told you about that guy. He prefers war movies or your standard Bruce Willis vehicle to anything that you might have to actually think about. Yet this guy has the nerve to tell me I’m bloodthirsty because I like to watch the occassional vampire flick. I digress….

    We do need to hook up some speakers to our new TV tho. It really doesn’t have the volume level for the way we like to watch TV. That is very very LOUD. Sometimes the kids will tell us, “geez you guys, can’t you turn that thing down?!”. (Same thing our parents used to say to us!) I suspect that years of going to rock concerts did some major inner ear damage.

  17. My favorite is that new classic with Brad Pitt.. oh yeah and that overrated ass clown Tom Cruise (who was actually great -for once- in the role of LeStat). There are two Tom Cruise movies i like. The other one is War of the Worlds.

    Kate Beckinsale was in a vampire move lately wasn’t she? She’s a pretty good actress and i know that because I know who she is. i.e. she stands out among the younger generation of actresses who all look alike, talk alike, act alike. Seriously, until recently I couldn’t tell a Kate Beckinsale from a Naomi Watts from a Michelle Williams. I’m still a little iffy on Naomi Watts. I get her confused with a bunch of other chicks.

  18. She was in those “Underworld” movies, running about in skin-tight black leather. Yes, she’s a fine actress all right. Seriously, though, I think Naomi Watts is amazingly good. Since we’re talking about David Lynch movies, you’ve got to see Mulholland Drive. She’s a virtuouso in that.

  19. I plan to watch Mulholland Drive one day. Next time i go to the video store. Noticed Inland Empire is still sitting on my bedside table. Guess i forgot to return it. Will have to pay that darned “restocking” fee.

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