Tag Archives: chaos

Inland Empire – Review

11 Aug

Recreating nightmares and mental decay is not an easy task, but David Lynch has always stepped up to the challenge. EraserheadLost Highway, and Mulholland Drive all have the same nightmarish feeling, as if you might fall asleep later that night and have a dream that plays out exactly like these movies. Of all of Lynch’s films, I feel like Inland Empire encompasses his career perfectly and really makes you feel like you are part of a nightmare. That being said, this isn’t his best film, but it certainly can be said that this might be the strangest movie I have ever seen.

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Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) is an actor whose time in the spotlight has ended, so when she lands a roll that might restart her career, she is ecstatic. The film is called On High in Blue Tomorrows and is being directed by Kingsley Stewart (Jeremy Irons) and her costar is Devon Burke (Justin Theroux), a man with quite a conspicuous sex life. As she gets deeper and deeper into her character, and her relationship with her costar seems to be getting closer, Nikki starts losing track of what is happening first, now, and later. Soon she can’t even begin to tell her life from the character’s leading to a complete psychological breakdown.

I’ve been putting off this review for a little while because the thought of reviewing a David Lynch movie and really giving it justice is a little intimidating. Much like his other movies, Inland Empire has many different interpretations and themes to explore, and everyone’s view of the whole can be very different. The first time through, it may seem like this movie makes absolutely no sense, but in the days to come and you think about it more, or even watch it again, things in the movie start to piece together and an idea will begin to form. Like Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive, I found Inland Empire to be quite frustrating.

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All interpretation aside, I have to say that I have a newfound respect for Laura Dern as an actor. Her performance demands a lot, from screaming and crying to manic laughing and then to calmness, maybe all in one scene. I can imagine that David Lynch is not the easiest director to work with, being in his own head and all, and even Dern has said that she isn’t entirely sure what the movie is about. Justin Theroux has said the same thing. Imagine acting on a movie where you really don’t know what it is about. That’s a tricky thing to do but they both pull it off very well and pull you into the “story,” despite how difficult it is.

This is where the review might get a little spoiler-ish because I want to talk about things in the film. You have been warned. Ok. In my opinion, Inland Empire is the story of a woman who is struggling to find a character that she is unable to tap into. Much like in Black Swan, she gets so obsessed with finding the character, that she sees herself becoming the character. At first it starts with scenes where we don’t know it’s the movie within a movie until the end of the scene to the point where nothing is really decipherable. This leads to the nightmarish world of Nikki’s mind. There’s still a lot that I’m not sure about, like the woman watching the television and the rabbit sit-com that we keep seeing. This just means the I’m going to have to watch it again.

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I can’t really say if Inland Empire is good or bad. It’s sort of one of those movies that redefines your definition of a good or bad movie. I will say that Inland Empire is art, through and through, but saying it’s entertaining wouldn’t be doing it justice. This is a terribly uncomfortable experience that you can’t help but staying focused on it, no matter how difficult it is. Fans of David Lynch will love his deepest, darkest trip into the fractured human mind, but anyone looking for a narrative that makes perfect sense will find no happiness with Inland Empire.

Ran – Review

5 Aug

Akira Kurosawa is a cinema god. I say that without any hesitation. Seven SamuraiYojimbo, and Drunken Angel are just a few of his outstanding films that make up his filmography. Many consider his last masterpiece to be his last historic epic, Ran. Set during the 1600s and based partially on William Shakespeare’s King Lear and legends of the daimyō Mori Motonari, Ran is a spectacle to look at and also stands strong as a powerful and deep family drama.

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Hidetora Ichimonji (Tatsuya Nakadai) is an old, powerful warlord who used excessive violence and brutality to achieve his position. At age 70, he decides to step down and give all of his power and castles to his three sons: Taro (Akira Terao), Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu), and Saburo (Daisuke Ryû). Saburo declines the offer and warns his father of the mistake he is making, but is banished by Hidetora. Saburo’s prediction come true, however, and the two remaining sons betray Hidetora and fight for power over the entire kingdom which drives Hidetora to insanity. While all of this is happening, Lady Kaede (Mieko Harada), whose family was slaughtered by Hidetora, is quietly pulling strings to ensure the collapse of the Ichimonji clan.

As you can see from this summary, the story and characters are very reminiscent of a Shakespearean tragedy. There is much family turmoil and violence, which results in a much larger scale of bloodshed. That’s really what this movie is about, in my opinion: the personal and the chaotic. This family is so powerful, and their warriors so loyal, that they will march into battle and kill who they have to in order for the person they serve under can achieve whatever selfish gain they desire. This begs the question: How far should loyalty really go? This is answered by some characters in this movie who let their moral compass really guide them in the right direction.

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Color is a very important part of Ran, and definitely gives the film the look of some sort of moving Expressionist painting. Interestingly enough, Kurowsawa spent two years storyboarding exactly how he wanted scenes to look. By storyboarding, I mean that he painted scenes, complete with vibrant colors, just so he could get the look of the film exactly right. Amongst other huge problems that he faced during the shooting of the movie, one being the death of his wife, he was also losing his eye sight and had to have people frame the shots based exactly on what he had painted. Anything to get the film done the way he needed it to be done.

The acting in this movie is just as interesting as the visuals. Tatsuya Nakadai is brilliant as Hidetora. Absolutely brilliant. His facial expressions and exceptional physical acting really sells the decline of his mental health over the course of the film. The other actor who really stands out to me is Meiko Harada and her performance as Lady Kaede. While you can’t call her a “villain”, per se, she does act as the main antagonist to the Ichimonji clan. She is beautiful, yet the lack of eye brows makes her look odd. Underneath this odd beauty is a thunderstorm of restless determination that really breaks through in certain scenes. She is a blast to watch.

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Ran is an iconic masterpiece of Kurosawa’s that has proved that he is a master, especially at the age he made the film (well into his 70s). Death of loved ones and poor eyesight were not going to stop him from getting his vision made, and thank your lucky stars it did. This is not only visually beautiful, but soulfully, even though it shows the heinous side of humanity, their thrust for power, and the chaos that comes with it. To anyone who doesn’t mind a lengthy movie, owe it to yourself not to miss Ran.