07 December 2006

Recently, for the first time since college, I've been seeing a lot of movies alone, often in nearly empty matinees. It's a nice change of pace, and it makes me reflect on how movies can be shaped by the environment in which you see them. Obviously, there are certain movies that should only be seen with an audience. The Aristocrats, for example, is physically impossible to endure on DVD, without the safety and anonymity of a darkened theater, especially if you're watching it with anyone but a close friend. I'd also say that Borat should only be seen in a packed audience, preferably in Brooklyn. By contrast, The Fountain should only be seen in an empty auditorium. (One giggler in the room, and that whole beautiful, delicate, absurd movie would fall apart.)

Finally, Inland Empire, which I saw today, should only be seen alone, just so you aren't cornered into giving an opinion right after the credits roll. It's the weirdest movie that David Lynch has ever made, which means that it isn't the sort of thing you can figure out over a couple of cappuccinos. I'd be actively against any attempt to reduce it to a neat row of symbols. This isn't a puzzle, but a process, or a dream, an extended rhapsody on two sequences from Lynch's earlier films: Laura Dern's choked sobs near the end of Blue Velvet, and the last twenty minutes of Mulholland Drive, here transformed into an epic of nearly three hours. It's something of an endurance test, but it contains some of the most amazing stuff that Lynch has ever done. Like Blue Velvet, it evokes almost every emotion that you can feel at the movies. Just remember not to bring a date.

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