Author Topic: INLAND EMPIRE  (Read 79175 times)

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Reinhold

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Re: INLAND EMPIRE
« Reply #330 on: May 25, 2009, 04:20:43 PM »
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let me post some of my writing about the film, cut from a much larger piece that frames my discussion of the film in a larger body of postmodern narrative techniques and concerns. it's not my best writing, but i hope at the very least that you'll see that lynch is up to some new things in this film.

Textual Analysis of Inland Empire
David Lynch - 2006

Many scenes in Inland Empire take place on diegetic TV/Film sets, leaving it unclear to the viewer whether the angles are from the movie/TV show within the film or not. They also blend “high” and “low” cultural forms. The “Marylin Levins Show” scene is a great example. The film switches between two digital recording formats, DV and HDCAM SR, to provide some difference between the TV show footage and the ordinary filming. The issue is that, while there is a difference, the status of the images remains completely unclear. Are the images presented to the viewer on-air or on-set?

The viewer will have to decide for himself/herself, though there is little concrete indication of how to negotiate this issue. This subverts the American cultural tendency to associate the cinematic image with higher quality than TV/ “video.” Studio TV shows of the sort depicted are shot on HDCAM or Digital Beta in reality, which both look better than DV. Most professional filmmakers of David Lynch’s stature refuse to work with DV, but significant sections of this film are shot on DV. The differences are that DV has a little less than half of the resolution of HDCAM SR, but has the same frame rate and depending on the HDCAM SR settings, can have an identical color sampling. If one image is sharper than the other, the film or the TV show within the film, which “should” it be? There is also a cultural tendency to associate sharper resolution (or higher-fidelity sound) with a higher degree of realism. For decades, lower-resolution film stocks and video formats have been used within films shot on sharper media to denote dream space, personal subjectivity, low production values that signify ineptitude, or other scenarios that distance viewers from the primary narrative. 

In the production of this film, the two formats were standardized rather than kept as disparate elements. Both the DV footage and HDCAM SR footage would have had to have been transcoded to a Digital Intermediate codec, a “container” for a video images with different resolutions that allows them to be reproduced infinitely without degradation or compression errors arising from the transfer process itself, and more importantly at the time of this film’s production, allowed the two formats of footage to be inter-cut in the same nonlinear editor’s timeline natively.  The intermediate codec standardizes the footage from different sources and creates a master file. A cut assembled from these DI codec files is the “print” distributed to the DVD publishers and optical printers for 35mm distribution. The final film image, then, is a composite nearly all major cinema imaging technologies in the last 20 years, with components ranging from hobbyist equipment to professional studio lenses and post-production rigs contributing to the look of the final product.

The film blends “high” and “low” forms thematically as well as technically. Characters repeatedly enter spaces that emphasize differences in social and socio-economic status. The gypsy woman’s accent, cheap make-up and dress reveal her as impostor from the moment she arrives. Then her movement within the space is emphasized by distortion, the product of an extremely wide-angle lens used in close quarters, to contrast her with the prim stillness of Dern and her home. Prostitutes in the parlor and hotel scenes with rich men are either desaturated, emphasizing video noise from high-gain (a camera setting used to over-use available light. The noise results from the camera dynamically missing detail on the image.) In more traditionally treated scenes, the blending of high and low arises solely from the plot. The assistant director, apparently poor, shamelessly begs people for money with a rehearsed speech. “I know. I’m a bum,” he states distantly, staring forward. He has just finished praising the reasoning skills of dogs, and the viewer is left to contemplate the value of a dog’s wisdom as he collects several hundred dollars from the lead actors.

The assistant director’s begging is also useful when examining the role of characterization in narration. The first time that viewers encounter this speech, it seems like a hackneyed scenario on the part of Lynch, however admirably lit and performed. Upon a second encounter, overheard later in the film, viewers now attribute the tired, trite quality of his begging routine to his character. Viewers treat the character’s dialogue as an aesthetic decision ultimately lying with Lynch as writer and director. The second encounter elevates what would have been simply an inclusion of a tired scenario to set-up for amusing character development. Effective characterization, of course, is also heavily reliant upon performance and a number of technical factors.

The diegetic filmmaking narrative foregrounds performance among several influences other than the director’s. First of all, the story is about actors literally bringing the work to life. Secondly, Jeremy Irons’ character is a chump. In addition, several scenes depict other people’s labor under the influence of the director. Even moving a 2,000-watt flood light is extended and complicated by the rigger’s confusion. He either can’t hear or is trying to impose his opinion of the placement of the light. This scene highlights the surprising degree of difficulty that directors can face, even when they are clearly communicating simple messages to the crew. As in Mulholland Drive, here Lynch foregrounds rehearsal as a transformative moment, in which the boundaries between a character and the actor’s identity are most flexible.

The texture of the actors’ clothing and the degree to which it matches the sets also highlight the materiality of the mise-en-scene. In the scenes with the mafia bosses, the elegance of the rooms make prostitute’s dress look cheap and out of place. In the crack whore [sic] sequence in the dream-set, the women’s clothing fits the atmosphere better, but Dern’s character is alarmed by her image and the degree to which it matches the garish images of the prostitutes. The prostitute from the mafia scene watches the sequence unfold on a television, and Dern will eventually enter her bedroom.

The opening sequence of the film structurally foreshadows the concerns that will unfold. The title text “INLAND EMPIRE” is rendered as a 3D text object, digitally lit with 8-bit white light. The digital “camera” settings required to produce a text object that looks precisely like this are identical to the actual camera specifications of the Sony PD-150, the digital camera with which Lynch shot significant portions of the film. It is worth mentioning here that digital nonlinear editors and effects generation programs capable of 8-bit renders are also capable of 16-bit and 32-bit renders, each with more complex shading algorithms to reduce banding and produce a more “natural” grade of light and shade.

The profilmic object and lighting are also highly significant. The camera is extremely close on a phonograph scratching a record as it plays. It reshapes the surface of the disc further the longer it plays. Here Lynch again asserts his concern with the affective, abstract, “raw” qualities, the music, and their physical origins and manifestations, its groove and the peeling curls of the disk collecting on the needle. This image also lends itself to the effects of performance on identity construction that Lynch will explore for the entirety of the film.  The plot focuses on an actress’s experience making a film that increasingly shapes her life as she continues to play the role.
Also, beginning with the following shot, digital versions of camera qualities and effects will accompany their physical counterparts to underscore the blending of media that constitutes this film’s particular mode of communication. Throughout the rest of the film, digital blurs coincide with changes in depth of field, and contrast ramps as lighting changes. Similarly, the camera lingers on reflections, dirty panes of glass, and juxtaposes vignetting and physical lens flares with digital banding.

By choosing a consumer-grade camera and putting a higher quality, faster lens on it than it is designed to use, Lynch both maximizes performance and strains the capacities of “vision” of the camera. Where the set’s light is too bright to be read by the PD-150, the CCD “blows out” and the bright area of the frame, or cuts off its reception of luminance at a certain level. The camera effectively “chooses” not to pick up detail because it is not equipped to reproduce signals at those high frequencies though the CCD can detect them. The reason for cameras being produced this way is that TV signals won’t carry the high frequency whites, and many consumer televisions also will not accurately display brightness over a certain level even if it is received in a signal. The issue here is that in addition to shutter speed, aperture, and other traditional considerations, digital cameras also actively change the image in the moment of recording in order to ensure accurate distribution of the recording overall on consumer grade televisions. Like a person trying to present the most widely palatable version of a disturbing memory, the camera literally drops detail so that certain parts of the depiction will not disrupt others.
When printed to film, the subtleties of the blown out areas, which have some errant pockets of detail, are brought to life by the film grain when printed to 35mm and projected. A similar phenomenon also occurs with digital noise in low light throughout the film. Because Lynch literally foregrounds these relationships on the surface of the image, the technology he chose to tell this particular story of transformation is integral and formally relevant. This narration raises issues of favoring authentic detail (analog technology that needs a lot more light and work) and building limits into one’s work based on what will be reproducible (the drawback of simple, fast, and easy digital technology).

Digital blurring effects and shifts in depth of field also play an extremely significant role in the spatial-temporal organization of the film. Consider the sequence in which a mysterious figure appears on the back of the set during a rehearsal and the later scene in which the figure is revealed to be Dern’s character emerging from a fantasy-limbo space. The reverse shot between Dern and Irons shows Dern’s chair empty, suggesting that she occupies both dream and physical space simultaneously and exclusively, that she has nonlinear access to information in the diegetic real world via the supernatural/non-physical activity. The placement of the second scene so late in the film destabilizes viewers’ hypotheses about the spatial/temporal status of each scene. This effect is created partially by the apparently linear structure of time that the narration takes between the two scenes. Because the viewer has followed Dern’s character, and witnessed her entry into the space in the second scene, he/she must rationalize the information that is presented.

Where and what kind of space is it? Is it illusion? Did the events really happen as they are depicted? Based on how the set and blocking are spatially and temporally set up in relation to a plane of focus, I hypothesize that there is a diegetically invisible boundary, on either side of which divergent temporal logic applies. The characters that cross this plane do not appear to be conscious of it. In this way it resembles the ambiguous, elastic boundaries of technologically mediated postmodern experience. That boundary, like the one in the film, is observable to those paying attention, remains hard to articulate, and cannot accurately be presented as actually occupying a particular point in space or time. As in life, crossing that boundary has consequences in the diegetically real, physical world.

Echoing the relationship of the two characters, Theroux crosses the plane, granting him access to Dern’s thoughts and emotions. He does not like what he sees or gets impatient, and leaves. The camera pursues Dern’s character into the limbo space beyond the focal plane, and after this point in the film, the narration will never again stably represent linear time in merely Newtonian space. The actress’s emotions and concerns motivate expressionistic lighting, absurdist imagery, and dynamic sound scapes. She is afraid of her husband and of being considered a whore by both him and Theroux’s character. The plot focuses on the performances she must execute for herself, the other characters, and her professional commitment to the film being made within the film. She attempts to negotiate these overwhelming and private fears in environments manifest them externally.

Recall that the pink interior house set is used throughout the film as a sort of dream-limbo space in which Dern’s character’s subjectivity is externalized, amplified by the disturbing nature of the scenario, and re-internalized by her character. Early in the film, during a rehearsal, mysterious figure appears near this set, far in the back of the studio space. Theroux goes to investigate, but returns, telling his coworkers that whoever was back there “disappeared where it’s real hard to disappear.”  When she enters the studio space from the limbo space, she first appears out of focus and walks through a plane that is in focus. In a reverse angle, Theroux approaches from the other side and comes into focus. The plane of focus remains at the same location in space.  It is observable to the astute spectator, but goes unnoticed by the characters. Interestingly, because it cannot be visibly spiked or noted in a way that shows up on camera, its “invisibility” requires special awareness of it on set. The crew and Lynch must approximate the plane of focus in space, plan the focal depth of the camera, block the camera and actors. All of this must be done to maintain this bit of continuity, however subtle. In my view, its subtlety itself beautifully suits the facility with which the two temporalities blend.

Obviously what you are doing right now is called (in my upcoming book of psychology at least) validation. I think it's a normal thing to do. People will reply, say anything, and then you're gonna do what you were subconsciently thinking of doing all along.

polanski's illegitimate baby

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Re: INLAND EMPIRE
« Reply #331 on: January 16, 2010, 06:28:36 PM »
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Might as well make my first post a vengeful one...Greetings and fuck you David Lynch for hurting my eyes, ears and not pushing enough dopamine through my brain. The all-great qualities of Mulholland Drive and others somehow deteriorated into the most blatant form of sadomasochism in this new movie. How careless and sadistic do you have to be to create something so vulgar? I know it's like a cool thing to do nowadays--make it the most unbearable film viewing experience ever in order to illustrate some life-changing concept. But, for fucks sake, at least do what Kaufman did in the Synechdoche--shoot an agonizing film on a great medium. As a viewer, i do not give a shit for any postmodern attempt of reactionism, if you will. If you have some quibbles with filmmaking and its constant urge for honesty then you should perhaps participate in theatre as it's much better fit for pretense. You want to retrograde and make me feel like a voyer? Well you have already done that. This film might very well be a marvel, but i can't see past all the selfishly-imposed shit that obscures its supposed genius.


Oh btw, i didn't just stalk the forum for 5 years as you can see i registered in 05 and then promptly dropped out of film school and didn't use the forum. But came back, to get some spiritual guidance and talk some shit :)
every time you find yourself reading this, think of other great things you could be doing... :)

socketlevel

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Re: INLAND EMPIRE
« Reply #332 on: January 16, 2010, 07:55:13 PM »
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dude i like your style already. i'm with you on all your points.
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bonanzataz

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Re: INLAND EMPIRE
« Reply #333 on: April 17, 2010, 10:39:13 AM »
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I think I like this movie now.
The corpses all hang headless and limp bodies with no surprises and the blood drains down like devil’s rain we’ll bathe tonight I want your skulls I need your skulls I want your skulls I need your skulls Demon I am and face I peel to see your skin turned inside out, ’cause gotta have you on my wall gotta have you on my wall, ’cause I want your skulls I need your skulls I want your skulls I need your skulls collect the heads of little girls and put ’em on my wall hack the heads off little girls and put ’em on my wall I want your skulls I need your skulls I want your skulls I need your skulls

Reinhold

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Re: INLAND EMPIRE
« Reply #334 on: April 19, 2010, 02:08:14 AM »
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Might as well make my first post a vengeful one...

Obviously what you are doing right now is called (in my upcoming book of psychology at least) validation. I think it's a normal thing to do. People will reply, say anything, and then you're gonna do what you were subconsciently thinking of doing all along.

NEON MERCURY

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Re: INLAND EMPIRE
« Reply #335 on: April 22, 2010, 10:23:00 AM »
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I think I like this movie now.

 :love:

yes!

Pubrick

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Re: INLAND EMPIRE
« Reply #336 on: April 22, 2010, 11:04:37 AM »
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i still don't.

i think lynch went off the deep end with it and that's why he hasn't been heard of since.

i like the IDEA of it but it's completely unwatchable. also he must be kicking himself now with the advancements in DSLRs and video in general. seriously if he had shot this movie with his butt it could not have looked much worse. his BUTT!
endless 'nothing is what it seems'-isms

Pozer

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Re: INLAND EMPIRE
« Reply #337 on: April 26, 2010, 09:34:45 PM »
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i hate this movie so much that i removed it from my DVD shelf, took a magic marker and wrote "nothing really matress" on its casing and placed it on the side of the street.

Alexandro

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Re: INLAND EMPIRE
« Reply #338 on: April 26, 2010, 11:04:51 PM »
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dios mio. you all sound like ron fucking howard. inland empire is no easy sit but it's obviously not meant to be an easy sit. if you find nothing else to hang to, laura dern's performance is enough to warrant multiple viewings. at least that. it looks as if it was shot on video for no money...so what? I understand if some people were let down by it, but what a backlash for such a free spirited unconventional film. it is actually a very rare example of an experimental film that goes all the way without ever feeling overly pretentious, it is a raw fucked up thing that good or bad, has no parallel in today's cinema because everyone is too worried that a film "works" or has  "tight" narrative or lookw pretty. lynch has proven for 40 years or something that he can present us beautiful looking movies. now he tries a something weird and everyone complains like little schoolgirls because he clearly doesn't give a shit...whatever, it's just depressing when a film with a true punk rock attitude and willingness to break something or just be truly free is hammered like this when there is so much crap out there getting a pass or being endlessly discussed as if it had some merit like fucking avatar or something.   

Pubrick

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Re: INLAND EMPIRE
« Reply #339 on: April 26, 2010, 11:20:51 PM »
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without ever feeling overly pretentious

i have to disagree with you there.

but you know what i'll give it another go cos i'm scared of being called a little school girl. especially for having legitimate complaints about the unwatchability of a wankfest. it's like my biggest fear.
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Alexandro

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Re: INLAND EMPIRE
« Reply #340 on: April 27, 2010, 12:14:41 AM »
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and i'm drunk too.

wait...you mean is more scary that sounding like ron fucking howard?

Fernando

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Re: INLAND EMPIRE
« Reply #341 on: April 27, 2010, 10:54:01 AM »
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lol

ron fucking howard sounds kind of badass, maybe if you said little ronnie howards, now THAT is scarier than a little school girl.


good thing here is that you guys made me want to see this again, it's proudly placed on my shelf.

and like alexandro said, all flaws aside, laura's performance is worth to see it a few times.

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: INLAND EMPIRE
« Reply #342 on: April 20, 2012, 01:06:15 AM »
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Does anyone know if "Axxon" has a legitimate real-life meaning? My search skills fail me. There are apparently hundreds of companies with the name, plus a few bands and DJs. Surely the word must come from somewhere.

It is a name... rarely. But that's not a satisfactory answer.

Most importantly, Spanish speakers, please explain this:

http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axxón

Google translates "Axxón" as "Scientist," but only as a proper noun referring to that publication. How on earth could a word like "scientist" only be a proper noun?
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Fernando

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Re: INLAND EMPIRE
« Reply #343 on: April 20, 2012, 12:31:02 PM »
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Does anyone know if "Axxon" has a legitimate real-life meaning? My search skills fail me. There are apparently hundreds of companies with the name, plus a few bands and DJs. Surely the word must come from somewhere.

It is a name... rarely. But that's not a satisfactory answer.

Most importantly, Spanish speakers, please explain this:

http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Axxón

Google translates "Axxón" as "Scientist," but only as a proper noun referring to that publication. How on earth could a word like "scientist" only be a proper noun?

in that wiki page they dont talk about the meaning or where they got the name Axxón.

the article explains that it's an online magazine dedicated to literature, science fiction, fantasy and horror.

visited the site and there's an email of the guy running the site, I can ask him where they got the name and its meaning if you want.

Jeremy Blackman

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Re: INLAND EMPIRE
« Reply #344 on: April 20, 2012, 12:50:42 PM »
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visited the site and there's an email of the guy running the site, I can ask him where they got the name and its meaning if you want.

I would love you forever.
"Hunger is the purest sin"

 

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