Did You See This?

Perpetual Evolution

Laura Dern in David Lynch’s Inland Empire (2006)

A newly remastered version of David Lynch’s Inland Empire (2006) opens today at IFC Center in New York and the Laemmle Royal in Los Angeles before heading out across the country on a summerlong tour. At 4Columns, Nathan Lee calls Inland Empire “a coherent enigma, a mesmerizing discombobulation that consistently signposts its premises, the rules of its game, and the nature of the unanswerable questions upon which the movie is predicated. Cryptic to the max, Inland Empire is devoted to pondering an infinitely rich mystery: What is cinema?”

Lynch shot Inland Empire on a Sony PD-150, a consumer-grade camera at the time, and as Cole Kronman points out at Hyperallergic, the new remaster “was accomplished via a process so bizarre it could have only come from Lynch: the original footage was first downscaled to standard definition to discard ‘false detail,’ then converted to 4K using an AI upscaling algorithm. Rather than attempt to recreate the film’s original appearance 1:1, Lynch has seemingly embraced the idea of the film being a continually evolving composition, one that doggedly resists categorization, interpretation, and polish.”

In her book on Inland Empire, Melissa Anderson gives as much authorial credit to Laura Dern, who stars as an actress cast in a cursed film, as to Lynch. Nathan Lee observes that, over the course of the film’s three hours, “one eventually comes to view Inland Empire not as a maze to exit, a puzzle to solve, an ouroboros to gawk at, but rather as both a generalized treatise on the enigma of acting and a very specific, exquisitely perverse mash note to one of Lynch’s most formidable collaborators.”

Anderson’s book is the third in a series of Decadent Editions from Fireflies Press. In the fourth, Tale of Cinema, Dennis Lim—the director of programming at Film at Lincoln Center and the author of the 2015 book David Lynch: The Man from Another Place—will explore the oeuvre of Hong Sangsoo via his 2005 film. FLC’s two-part Hong retrospective of double features opens today, and on May 3, Lim will take questions from contributors to Film Comment. Copies of Tale of Cinema will be available to attendees before Fireflies releases it in August.

Here’s a sampling of what else has been going on this week:

  • Another Fireflies title, Memoria, chronicles the making of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest film, which the Los Angeles TimesJustin Chang calls “a declaration of faith in a medium that hasn’t lost its power to astonish.” For the Notebook, Lukasz Mankowski talks with sound designer Akritchalerm Kalayanamitr—he often goes by Rit—who has been working with the Thai director since Tropical Malady (2004), a film that, as Mankowski points out, has fifty audio tracks. Memoria has seven hundred. “Apichatpong himself has always been a great sound designer,” says Rit. “Sound, timing, feeling, instinct; we both rely on all of that. That’s because we use ambience to tell the story. It’s more important than music.”

  • Pier Paolo Pasolini’s trip to Beirut in 1974 has Raed Rafei picturing a new world in e-flux Journal. “What if we imagined Beirut as the heart of a queer revolution where anti-imperialist ideals and sexual freedoms are tightly interlinked?” he asks. “What would happen if we imagined, further, that this was an all-encompassing revolution for ‘the wretched of the earth’—one that sought a definitive break with Western, capitalist, heteropatriarchal ideologies and drew inspiration from premodern spiritual wisdoms? Pasolini, a colossal figure at the nexus of queer sexuality and radical leftist politics, could help us reconfigure the past along these lines and envision alternate futures.” On a related note, in La furia umana, artists Cathy Lee Crane and John Di Stefano discuss a possible collaboration on a project inspired by Pasolini.

  • Should “the art of lying” be taught in schools? The new issue of Caligari features a modest proposal from Billy Wilder, written in 1927, when he was a newspaperman in Berlin. Filmmaker and restorationist Ross Lipman, whose The Case of the Vanishing Gods (2021) will screen in Los Angeles on Thursday, presents a guide to coping with the challenges to experiencing cinema to the fullest—especially at home. Other highlights from the new issue include Patrick Keating’s video essay on cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa’s work with Emilio Fernández and Luis Buñuel, and interviews with artist Rosa Barba and Hungarian director László Nemes (Son of Saul).

  • The Girl and the Spider (2021), Ramon and Silvan Zürcher’s well-received follow-up to The Strange Little Cat (2013), opens in New York today. In his piece on “this precisionist study in entropy and dissolution,” in the new Artforum, James Quandt notes that in both Cat and Spider, “every look, gesture, and object is invested with meaning and incorporated into a visual aesthetic as tautly choreographed as a quadrille.” The “mismatches and mysteries” in the sound design “occasionally recall the aural enigmas of Robert Bresson, at other times those of Lucrecia Martel.” But for Quandt, this “highly stylized aesthetic lays its own traps, and the chary Zürchers are surprisingly capable of miscalculation.”

  • When Trouble, Gus Van Sant’s musical about Andy Warhol, premiered in Antwerp last fall, Nina de Vroome and Gerard-Jan Claes spoke with the director for Sabzian, which is presenting Paranoid Park (2007) tonight at De Cinema. Gerry (2002) launched a period of formal experimentation for Van Sant that carried on through Elephant (2003), Last Days (2005), and Paranoid Park. Working without a screenplay, Matt Damon and Casey Affleck, playing two lost guys wandering a desert, improvised Gerry from beginning to end. “It started like a John Cassavetes film, because I thought there was going to be a lot of dialogue, but it ended more like Béla Tarr or Chantal Akerman,” says Van Sant—who, by the way, will direct Naomi Watts (Mulholland Dr.) in all eight episodes of the second season of Ryan Murphy’s Feud.

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