Jim Ridley, you have described the experience of encountering the facade - the seemingly impenetrable, bewildering, frantic, hostile, paranoid exterior surface of INLAND EMPIRE. At that superficial level the film certainly is a maddeningly hallucinogenic, incoherent assault on every notion and precept of good film making. But, should you manage to stumble upon the modestly concealed entry point into the inner, real film you will be greeted by an extraordinarily logical, lucid, breathtakingly elegant cinematic experience. The trick, or rather the key to gaining entry is to properly position your mind, to realign your sensibilities, as though in a meditative state - an open and inviting state with your natural critical, defensive, discriminatory faculties set aside. There's a series of oddly compelling but seemingly irrational scenes at the very beginning of the film which it turns out are actually coded instructions from David of how exactly to achieve this altered, receptive state of mind. There's one conversation in particular with the curious foreign "neighbor" whose bizarre words about time and space and good and evil effectively act as a mechanism - like a mantra or a prayer - by which to orient your awareness, your consciousness. If you grasp what the odd lady is instructing you to do with your mental attitude the film suddenly, miraculously opens up - explosively - into a startlingly coherent expression of pure intuition. You don't quite understand all the intimidating, horrific, terrifying action as much as you deeply intuit the sublime truth which it is imparting. The astounding, dumbfounding depth of comprehension, the remarkably visceral intensity of the experience cannot be overstated. It's absolutely the most impressive and magical and satisfying cinematic experience of my adult life. Not since being taken to a revival showing of 2001: A Space Odyssey as a young teen has a film so completely, utterly overwhelmed me.
Viewers who haven't made the discovery of the camouflaged "entrance" have been deprived of a truly revelatory cinematic experience which transcends nearly every other art inspired moment of clarity I've ever experienced, including that amazing time that standing before Leonardo's "Mona Lisa" in the Louvre I was instantly engulfed in a stunningly brilliant, radiating arc of enlightenment; I had emotionally, mentally, spiritually merged with the painting and with the artist's formidably impressive intellect. I had grocked what DaVinci was communicating.
Until you grock INLAND EMPIRE you really haven't seen it, you just haven't experienced it. There's a gloriously civilized, masterfully orchestrated, sublimely humane cinematic experience contained within all that paranoid madness which INLAND EMPIRE so coyly, so smugly, so sarcastically wears exactly like a pompous cliche artists beret.