Much can be said about David Lynch but I think the mistake most people make is to think that he is trying to create a coherent and straight forward narrative structure. He is working on a subconscious level in his mind. The idea comes before the reason behind the idea. In many ways this is how art should be created because any other way will feel forced and pretentious.
David Lynch is not just trying to f*k with you. Its not meaningless and its not pretentious. If you've ever seen his interviews he is one of the most humble and soft spoken directors I've ever seen. Justin Theroux did a Q & A after my screening of Inland Empire and he described working with lynch as light hearted and fun. The complete opposite of what its like to watch some of his films which are often dark, terrifying, and disturbing.
Inland Empire is a sister film to Mulholland Dr. As my wife put it, "Watching Mulholland Dr. helped me to understand Inland Empire." They are two sides of the same coin. Lynch still seems to want to take a stab at the evils of Hollywood. His concern for the well being of actors is strong but this time instead of a new comer (Naomi Watts) he deals with one older actresses come back role and like Mulholland Dr. their are the evil producers behind the scenes and even the added possibility of a cursed set.
I am a huge Lynch fan. I don't find his films hard to understand. I am not a very intellectual person but Lynch's themes are so simple. The visuals are to be enjoyed on their own terms especially when they seem not to fit with the rest of the film. A lot of lynch's trademarks return, the dual personalities, time folding in on itself, gratuitous nudity, and another tragic murder mystery.
While this film does feel like a retread of Mulholland Dr. it also stands on its own especially since it contains a much more upbeat ending and perhaps four layers of storytelling,good luck figuring out which is which. He also continues to experiment with sound and even sings the vocals to a song in the film.
I got exactly what I wanted from Inland Empire. The downside to this is that Lynch is sort of repeating himself and I hope that doesn't mean he's out of ideas or perhaps Mulholland Dr. did not yet exercise his disdain for the studio system. The film is part murder mystery and part lucid dream. It has dream logic and has a lot of fun with some of its bizarre dialog and incredible visuals. This film also has much in common with Eraserhead in that he's completely free to explore his ideas. No one is telling him to shorten the film, cut out scenes, or that it doesn't make sense. Its uncompromising and truly art without boundaries.
My only other criticism is that the digital video is just ugly at times. When the shot is static the amount of detail in the picture can be incredible but when its hand held and moving around its grainy and looks pretty terrible. I miss the polished look of his older films but I guess that is going to be another thing that sets this movie apart from the others. I highly recommend this film to the Lynch enthusiast and to no one else. If you aren't in on the joke then I cannot imagine you leaving the theater happy after three hours of pure, free from concentrate, unpasteurized lynch. I went to see this with my wife and my best friend needless to say only I loved it. Take that as you will.