2006 Directed by David Lynch
"Sometimes as we watched them, she'd clutch my arm or my hand, forgetting she was my employer, just becoming a fan, excited about that actress up there on the screen. I guess I don't have to tell you who the star was. They were always her pictures . . ."
-Joe Gillis, Sunset Boulevard
There's a very useful quote in the INLAND EMPIRE Wikipedia entry from David Lynch about his movie; "We are like the spider. We weave our life and then move along in it. We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream. This is true for the entire universe."
This movie is about the nature of dreams and stories, how they're an integral force in the mind's framework, and how they can free us and ensnare us.
Yesterday I read "SCENE IN THE MUSEUM (1896)", a new vignette by Caitlin R. Kiernan featured in the latest Sirenia Digest. It's a story very obviously based on Caitlin's experiences in Second Life, an online role-playing alternate universe simulator that Caitlin does not like to refer to as a game. She takes her alter ego seriously enough that she keeps a blog for the character. The vignette prominently features a character named Mary, a prostitute, and based on, I suspect, a real person--someone I've myself cast as a prostitute in Boschen and Nesuko (why do we keep portraying our friends as whores, Caitlin?).
The prostitute wears a red taffeta dress, and I was intrigued to find a prostitute with a red taffeta dress at the beginning of INLAND EMPIRE.
She's watching a television show called Rabbits, a sort of deconstructionist sitcom originally featured as a stand alone film on David Lynch's web site. But now the rabbits have become the barest versions of the dream characters that haunt INLAND EMPIRE in various incarnations.
From the unfinished Polish film 47 to its remake, On High in Blue To-morrows starring Laura Dern's character, Nikki Grace, there is a story haunted by itself, and in turn haunts those involved. It resulted in the murder of the two leads in 47.
Like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, Nikki Grace is an aging actress living in an enormous house decorated in a decadent, Victorian style. And also like Norma Desmond, Nikki's trying to break back into the business, and she seems to have succeeded when prominent director Kingsley Stewart (Jeremy Irons) casts her in On High in Blue To-morrows.
The story is of jealousy, murder, lust and desperation. There is a woman who works as a prostitute, unbeknownst to her jealous husband. She becomes pregnant and she tells the husband about it without knowing that her husband is sterile.
Sue is having an affair with Billy. A talk show host, played by Dern's mother, Diane Ladd (seen playing Dern's mother in Lynch's Wild at Heart--a movie that plays an integral role in Caitlin's The Five of Cups), attempts to cause a stir by suggesting a possible affair between Nikki and the actor playing Billy, Devon Berk (Justin Theroux).
Sue's friends are the prostitutes she works alongside in the streets. These girls act as a fey Greek chorus, existing in 1920s Poland and on the streets of Hollywood, exhibiting lust, vanity, and occasionally a tantalisingly odd concern for their ill-fated friend. They perform a dance routine at one point in the film to "The Loco-Motion" after one of the prostitutes proudly displays her breasts to the others. Like many of David Lynch's exercises in comedy, the humour on the surface is funny, but one senses it's a thin veneer for a deeply disturbing truth.
The actress who originally played the character Nikki's inhabiting was noticeably younger than Nikki, and when Sue has a moment of foreboding at the sight of her husband's white shirt covered with ketchup, she has a vision directly out of Sunset Boulevard;
Julia Ormond plays Billy's jealous wife, destined to murder Sue with a screwdriver because she's been cursed by the Phantom, the assassin from the original Polish film.
The bloody journey of Nikki through these dreams is seen eventually to gain freedom for certain dreamers. It's a good movie.
Bonus Sunset Boulevard/Queen Kelly icon;