Tuesday, January 23, 2007

iSchooler Stumbles Upon ALA & David Lynch's newest, "Inland Empire"

By Jack Baur, MLIS
Due to a number of factors (some obscure, some all too obvious), I have not been feeling particularly motivated of late. Homework, jobs, and society have rather disturbingly fallen by the wayside in favor of… well, idleness I suppose (and Stumble, which is my new favorite pointless web gimmick: http://www.stumbleupon.com/, check it out!).

I went into this last weekend with every intention of checking out the ALA Midwinter Conference (you may have heard of it) and kicking off this blog with some unique insights into its function, purpose, and the society around it, as well the library profession in general. Instead, I half-assedly went at the last minute, “borrowing” a recent alum’s badge (I’m not naming any names, and besides you’ll never catch us!) and spending maybe an hour wandering around the exhibit hall picking up free comic books (and a WorldCat book-bag that might just be the niftiest thing ever).

I’m actually kind of glad that I didn’t try to make a bigger commitment to ALA this time around. Being new to the iSchool and the profession, I still feel like I am trying to establish my bearings, and my impression of the conference was that it was simply too large, with too much happening for me to have been able to focus on anyone thing very effectively without getting a headache. So I skipped all the talks, happy hours, meet-and-greets, receptions, presentations, etc. I will say that seeing all the different vendors and spending some time with some of the new products and technology had its interesting aspects, but I couldn’t get past the fact that all those people were essentially there to shill. Gave me flashbacks to my days as a remanufactured ink cartridge salesman (it’s true, I’ll admit it) and I got a little creeped out.

All of this is to say that, as a second-term student here, I am definitely still trying to come to grips with the realities of the library world that I hope to inhabit and its less romantic sides. The combination of that and my general malaise (which is hitting too early in the term for my comfort) must be making for some very boring reading. So I’m gonna finish off with a couple paragraphs about David Lynch.

* * *

As many of you are hopefully aware, auteur filmmaker David Lynch blessed Seattle last week by coming to town for the Northwest premiere of his new film, Inland Empire. I personally could not attend every event, but he was on hand to give a talk on his relationship with Transcendental Meditation, a signing at Scarecrow video (which went remarkably smoothly and quickly, a testament to the great people they have working there) and to present two screenings of the film. I am grateful to Mr. Lynch for coming, for being so gracious and patient at the signing (shaking his hand and speaking briefly with him was, I’ll admit, a thrilling experience for me), and for being such a courageous and challenging filmmaker.

But what about Inland Empire itself? I heartily recommend that people go see it, with a few caveats.

Caveat the first: If you’ve never seen a David Lynch film, view some his earlier works first. Start with Blue Velvet, go a little deeper with Mulholland Drive or Lost Highway (my favorite), take in some Twin Peaks for levity (but don’t watch Fire Walk With Me before you see the rest of the series!) Inland Empire is self-referential to the point of seeming cannibalistic, and a familiarity with Lynch’s style and themes will aid enjoyment greatly.

Caveat the second: This film is long: three hours and it feels every minute of that length. It’s fractured: any recognition of conventional storytelling techniques vanishes in the first hour. And, like all of Lynch’s movies, it is willfully obscure and, occasionally, unbearably intense.

That said, this is a deeply emotional and powerful work. Laura Dern gives a stunning and complex performance. And, if you’re willing to pay attention, to dig, to give yourself over to Lynch’s dream-logic, there is plenty of fascinating commentary on identity, fame, and the function of Film as a medium (Film with a capitol F). Lynch praises the power of Film and the potential for humans as emotional beings to see themselves and their lives in the stories that Film can bring us (along with us, a battered Polish hooker watches the action of the movie on a television screen, weeping). At the same time Lynch rails against the destructive forces of fame and the Hollywood system as we watch Laura Dern (who starts the movie out playing an actress about to begin filming a movie) literally unravel. The psychic price that she pays for giving herself up as a vessel for the stories and characters that Film brings to us is a large one, and her identity splits, fractures, loops back on itself, and ultimately.

Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? Even if I wanted to tell you what the film is about I’m not sure that I could, and to try to explain the film with any sort of certainty would be an injustice. This is a film, like most of Lynch’s, that demands that you put analysis aside and simply experience it. In my opinion, if you have the constitution and the fortitude, it is well worth the effort.

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