Can today really be here? December 15, 2006 is the Los Angeles release date for David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE, the Movie Day I've most anticipated all year. Strike that - this is the day I've waited for all year. And there have been a lot of big Movie Days this year. BUT!: Our greatest living film artist, my personal-all-time-favorite director, our Mr. Lynch actually favors us with a film relatively often, but it is always an event. A momentous event. There is only one chance to see a new Lynch film for the first time; that first viewing is rarely the most interesting or satisfying, but it is the most tingly, because it is the freshest, and only unprepared viewing. Like a first date, it is the excitement of full-immersion into a new world of possibility. With Lynch, I avoid spoilers like the black plague; as far as I'm concerned, Mr. Lynch will be having his way with my brain in a few hours, with no image, plot point, color or sound anticipated. So I'm pretty antsy. In lieu of a focused entry, which would be impossible, today I present a look at a feeling a few rare films have given me which is rarely talked about. I read about helpless hysterical laughter. And abject terror. Physical, gut-level sickness. Even obsessive, unrequited movie-star love. This is something... else?
When I saw Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love in 2002, it produced in me stress symptoms similar to a low-grade panic attack. From the clank/pump/wheeze of Jon Brion's woozy score, to the dialogue consisting entirely of unfinished sentences, to the haphazard arrangement of absurdist touches, indiscriminately harrowing or whimsical; the elements all butt against each other, do not fit, and made me feel like I was hyperventilating for 95 minutes. The scary, ecstatic feeling is comparable to the free-fall of a bungee jump or the prolonged head rush as a romance begins. This isn't to say I liked Punch-Drunk Love at first. As I stumbled out of the theater, I felt unhappy and wrung out, jittery and unable to speak coherently about the film. Total temporary disconnect, folks.
The first time I saw Jacques Rivette's Paris nous appartient [Paris Belongs to Us; 1960], was some European film class screening with a late start, and the meandering weirdo epic surely ended in the early hours of morning. I plopped down in a seat at that ill-attended, supposedly-mandatory screening, and as the stoned paranoia of bottomless political conspiracy unspooled, consuming every character, engulfing everything in their world, Something Bad happened. You can say this film is about a conspiracy gripping postwar Europe. A conspiracy so expansive and dispersedly structured that the more lit student Anne Goupil investigates her friend Juan's suicide, the further she gets from the heart of truth, until it includes everyone, everything, every building, every street, every object in every home. We often talk about being "absorbed" or "engrossed" by a film but Paris nous appartient leaks off the screen. It implicates your personal space. After Paris nous appartient has crawled over your body, you belong to Paris, and for days, weeks after, every time I see it, I cannot shake that feeling that I am part of this web, ever-expanding, ever more vague and confusing.
Yikes. I gotta split. More later.