Lynch: Or, Everything You Wanted to Know About Inland Empire but Were Afraid to Ask

After staggering out of Inland Empire like a mole groping toward sunlight, you could be forgiven for thinking that there should be a start-up kit for learning how to make a David Lynch movie. Fritzing overhead lights—check. Sound of candles being blown out, amped through a Marshall stack—check. Industrial decay, inexplicable dance sequence, mix-and-match identities—check, check, check. The lesson of the new documentary Lynch—well, one lesson, along with the sound advice not to perforate a bloated cow with a pickax—is that producing a fugue-state apocalypse ripped bleeding from the subconscious isn't as easy as it sounds. Filmed over the two years spanning the inception and making of Inland Empire, Lynch carries a mysterious director's credit ("blackANDwhite") and apes its subject's style so thoroughly that it could pass for the world's longest director's-signature American Express ad. Chronologically vague and associative, the film intersperses fly-on-the-wall footage of Lynch brooding, joking, and tending his Web site with the minutiae of the director shaping his unclear vision—from personally distressing a set to coaching Laura Dern on how best to fake a knifing on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Famously clammed-up about the symbolic or even—God forbid—political order of his conservative phantasmagorias, Lynch does no unpacking of his work here. Instead (and maybe more telling), there's just the evidence of his Warhol-like work ethic as he shepherds his crew, busies himself with tools, and stakes out a mine shaft into his imagination. (Note: A program of Lynch's short films runs Saturday and Sunday; see for details.)

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