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David Lynch puzzle premieres at Venice

By AFP, ls, September 6, 2006

VENICE - Enigmatic US director David Lynch presented his first movie in five years Wednesday at the Venice Film Festival, where the 60-year-old will become the youngest recipient of a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement later this week.

Five years after his 2001 movie, "Mulholland Drive", Lynch returns to taunting his audience with a diabolical three-hour puzzle entitled "INLAND EMPIRE".

Lynch's dark tale is a movie within a movie in which he takes us through the nightmarish labyrinth of the inner life of a Hollywood actress, played by Laura Dern, who co-produced the film.

"It's supposed to make perfect sense," Lynch said with a mischievous smile during a news conference in Venice to present his movie.

Shot in Los Angeles and Poland, the film switches back and forth between reality and fantasy, between the real-life actress and her character, and is stuffed with nightmarish images, jarring noise and dark predictions.

Lynch is aware the film's viewers will have to work, and doled out advice to fans when pressed by journalists on how to interpret this jigsaw puzzle without instructions.

"Every film is like going into a new world, going into the unknown. But you should be not afraid of using your intuition, and feel and think your way through," said the director.

"Cinema is such a beautiful language. Cinema is the thing that deals with things beyond words, and it's so beautiful. So to go with cinema is like going with music, your intellect travels along with it, it's so fantastic. Go in and have an experience in a different world."

Lynch, a breaker of cinematic rules, makes demands on the viewer with constant switchbacks and jarring imagery, and admits he often did not know where to go next in the shaping of the film, shot out of sequence.

"The cut to next can be so surprising and that's just the miracle of cinema -- how we go from one place to another and the possibilities of those places to go to are kinda infinite. How we can see ourselves and find ourselves in there is kinda what gets me going."

Justin Theroux, who plays the lover of the Dern character in the movie, said he always thought of a David Lynch movie "as buying a new jazz record. The best way is to let the film wash over you. Sit back and go on that ride."

Dern, who previously worked with Lynch in "Wild at Heart", puts in a powerful performance. "My experience on this film was very moving to say the least.

Working on and off over two and a half years, the actors had to work without an overall script.

"Each day a different direction, each day a new idea," said Dern.

"All of us, like you, were experiencing David's vision for the first time because there wasn't a laid-out linear script or plan from the outset. The film rolled over us and our experience of it was very like yours."

Jeremy Irons, Justin Theroux and Harry Dean Stanton also star in the movie, which features the voice of Naomi Watts.

Dern herself will see the movie for the first time at the world premiere Wednesday night.

"The truth is I didn't know who I was playing and I still don't know who I play, and I look forward to seeing the film tonight to know more."

Lynch, who will receive his Golden Lion on Saturday, writes and performs one of the songs on the soundtrack.

"I'm really honoured to get this award. It's strange. Just yesterday, I was 19 and now I'm getting this award today," he told a packed news conference.

The director, who shot to international fame 15 years ago with the hit TV series "Twin Peaks", said he still could not understand the series' worldwide appeal.

"I don't understand. There was no real logical reason why it was a success all around the world. It just turned out to be that way. I have zero desire to go back into TV."

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© Mike Hartmann