By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
David Lynch is building a lamp. Well, for now it’s just a couple of metal rods and a tangle of wires, which seems only fitting, given how Lynch’s movies can seem just as amorphous at first glance, only taking their final shape in the dark recesses of our consciousness in the hours and days after we first see them. I’ve come to Lynch’s sprawling, multibuilding compound in the Hollywood Hills, just a stone’s throw from Mulholland Drive, to talk about — or, rather, around — his latest film, Inland Empire (which opened and was reviewed last week), a three-hour nightmare odyssey into the fragmented mind of a Hollywood actress played by Lynch’s longtime muse, Laura Dern (Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart).
We’re sitting in Lynch’s painting studio, while an assistant builds canvases in an adjacent workshop — an appropriate setting, considering that Lynch made Inland Empirein much the same way a painter might work on a canvas, bit by bit, over a period of four years. The movie began life as a series of shorts produced for Lynch’s davidlynch.comWeb site, where paying subscribers can also order products from Lynch’s nascent organic-coffee business and see the pompadoured director give a daily weather report. Now, Lynch is self-distributing his latest movie in theaters across the country and mounting an unconventional Oscar campaign that has found him camped out on Sunset Boulevard with a live cow and a banner that reads “Without cheese, there wouldn’t have been an Inland Empire.” This is not, I note, the Hollywood norm. “That’s real unfortunate,” he replies with utter Midwestern sincerity as he offers me a David Lynch Signature Cup cappuccino.
Lynch, who once summed up Blue Velvetas “a mystery of love and darkness,” brings a similar economy to the official Inland Empiresynopsis that appears in the movie’s press notes: “A story of a mystery . . . a mystery inside worlds within worlds . . . unfolding around a woman . . . a woman in love and in trouble.” (Lynch’s own bio, directly underneath, reads simply: “Eagle Scout Missoula Montana.”) But, as I soon discover, Lynch loves to talk: about the movie industry; about his continuing interest in transcendental meditation; and, most of all, about ideas — how they come to him, where he gets them from and pretty much anything else you want to know except what they mean. Ask that and Lynch will just smile back at you with his gentlemanly smile, exhaling a plume of smoke from the cigarette he holds ever so elegantly between his fingers.
L.A. WEEKLY:When you first started working onInland Empire, did you envision it as a feature film?
DAVID LYNCH: No, but that’s not so unusual. I always say that I love ideas. Let’s say you’re going along and you get an idea, and this particular idea thrills your soul and you fall in love with this idea, but it’s just a fragment. Sometimes, it’s even less than a scene, but let’s say that it’s a scene. So, you get an idea for a scene and you write it out. Normally, you just write it out and you save that idea. But it’s a weird thing, because once you get one idea, if you focus on it, it can draw in other ideas that will marry to it, and the thing expands, and maybe a story comes out of that. That usually happens in the scriptwriting process. So, you work out a lot of things in a script before you ever start shooting — that’s the normal way. In this case, I’d get an idea and I’d shoot it. Then I’d get another idea, write it and shoot that. And I didn’t see how these particular scenes were relating at all. Then, later, I’d get an idea, and I’d see that this idea was unifying these different things. And that was a thrilling thing, to see a story emerging. But that same process would happen in script before, and it would still be thrilling — very thrilling.
So, it was more direct in a way.
It was a little more direct, and in the beginning I never had the idea that it was going to be a feature. But then, I had an idea that it could be. I still didn’t know for sure, and that was when I met with Frederic Sichler from [French financing and sales company] Studio Canal, and I said, “Frederic, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m shooting on DV. Are you in?” And he said, “Yes.” [The cappuccino arrives.]
You’ve been lucky that way, to have had several patrons like that over the course of your career.
I’ve been so lucky, really lucky. And go figure, you know, because since it’s called the film business, the bottom line for a lot of people is money. Whereas, in painting, everybody loves affluence, prosperity and what money can do, but it’s not the reason you paint. And it really isn’t the reason you make films.