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Inland Empire Screening Party - Slow Start, Great Finish

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LAists Elise and Heath arrived at the screening party for David Lynch's Inland Empire last night with an hour and a half to spare, thinking that would be plenty of time to get a good seat. We had forgotten that David Lynch's fans put the cult in cult movie. There was a line stretching around the entire courtyard, with some people having arrived early in the day to stake their claim. It was not a press event, as we had thought, but an open call-out. And when Lynch calls, they come running. There was a full bar, which makes waiting in line a good deal easier. Unfortunately, there were no "free drinks" as we had been led to believe. The only thing free was Dewars, and you needed a special black VIP wristband. I asked an usher how you know whether or not you know you are on the VIP list. He asked me, "Did David Lynch call you and tell you that you are on the VIP list?"

Immediately after seeing Lost Highways in the theatre, I had had the distinct feeling that David Lynch was playing a practical joke on the audience; that maybe it was all just a big experiment to see how much we would put up with. As every single person living in LA already knows, it was really hot and muggy yesterday. Standing in line sweating, my conspiracy theory seemed more and more feasible. Maybe Lynch was standing somewhere, hidden behind a screen, watching us and taking notes.

The screening room filled up quickly, and a number of us were herded into an overflow room. We were in the very last seats in the very last row of that very last room. I would guess that there were approximately 100 people who did not make it into either screening. A movie screen was set up on a tripod in the front of the room. With the lack of ventilation and the cement ceiling with exposed pipes, it had the distinct feeling of watching home movies in your uncle's basement. Then there was one of those hilarious moments of total surrealism that made everything worthwhile.

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David Lynch was introduced onscreen and read a rambling, beautiful, and probably meaningful "thought" in his intense, slightly lisping monotone before launching into an amazing musical performance. He and his musical partner sat at a pair of keyboards and began playing low, drawn-out notes. You know how some keyboards have rhythm settings on them, like "Bossanova"? Theirs were set on "diggereedoo". The sonar-like vibrations were so low the fillings in my teeth rattled. The sound was literally painful. Many people covered their ears and fled the room. If you are wondering why the video is shaking, it is because I was laughing hysterically. The only thing that could have improved that performance was if I had been in the main room to see it live, where people had to keep straight faces.

When Grace Zabriskie, who is currently playing Lois Henrickson on HBO's Big Love, appeared onscreen giving the camera, long, baselessly meaningful looks and I realized that we could drink in the overflow room, the party really started. Since I was in the back corner, I could wander in and out to the courtyard bar without bothering anyone. Outside, Hacienda Prints was silkscreening free T-shirts to order, and there was a table selling David Lynch coffee along with the usual merch. Every time I wandered back into the movie, I felt like I had missed something really elemental to the plot, but I feel like that during every David Lynch movie anyways.

Afterwards, there was a Q&A stage set up. I was a little concerned I wouldn't even be able to get near the stage. But one of the things about a site hosting an unfamiliar event is that besides disorganization, there is also a certain laxness in security because they don't know what to watch for. So along with a few other photographers, I stepped backstage. I usually dress in black when I plan to be in a photo pit, so I am not distracting. But tonight in homage to Lynch I had worn the most insane print I could find. David Lynch could not resist staring at it, and I could tell he was thinking, "That woman is absolutely hideous and she has no idea at all. How fantastic." He whispered and cooed with a coterie of cheerleeder-ish girls, putting his arms around them and laughing. I asked one of the girls who they were, and she said, "We're the Valley Girls." When she saw my blank reaction, she said, "We're in the movie" with a slight undertone of "Duh." I asked excitedly, "Oh my God! Are you going to dance?" She reverted back to flirtatiousness, "If you're lucky."

Lynch responding to a question about the hour's worth of extras on the DVD:

The Q&A was short, but not disappointingly so, because everyone was pretty tired by this time. There were about five questions from the host, and about five more from the audience. Lynch's responses were good-natured and succinct. Then the Valley Girls came out and ended things with a bang.

When we were first discussing this movie, I had joked, "I can probably review it right now without knowing anything about it..."

Are they the same person? And what is the deal with the fish?

My review still stands, with just one small adjustment:

Are they the same person? And what is the deal with the bunnies?

To read Heath's slightly more indepth review, click here.

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All photos and videos taken by Elise Thompson for LAist

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