In Summer 2023, the Criterion Collection brings out their long-awaited Blu-ray of INLAND EMPIRE, after a theatrical release of the 4K restoration. The details of that restoration may be as convoluted and rabbit-holey as what you’ll see in the movie. Having seen the film in original theatrical release, then on DVD (the Absurda/Rhino 2 disc edition), and now the Criterion Blu-ray: in my opinion, the Criterion release looks very good indeed for a project that originated on prosumer mini-DV. Doubtless there are those with home theaters equipped with the latest tech who will scream otherwise, but for the most part, getting into minor jihads over what constitutes “proper restoration” is a game of fools. What counts is how this looks and sounds on your setup. Even if you don’t have the latest 4/8/16K TV with 5.1/Atmos sound, this is a great presentation, especially if you don’t have a previous releases of the film.

The two Blu-ray set presents the feature on the first disc, with no chapter stops. The second disc contains supplements. From the Absurda release, it ports over “More Things That Happened,” “Lynch 2” and the “Ballerina” short.

A new (2022) conversation with Laura Dern and talks about working with . Dern gets into specifics about Empire‘s genesis, and fans of “Twin Peaks: The Return” will find a valuable nugget in the midst of the conversation.

“Lynch (one)” is a feature-length precursor to “Lynch 2” (which mainly focused on Empire’s production), made by an anonymous director/crew member working the pseudonym “blackANDwhite.” It’s a snapshot of Lynch working, doing his daily weather report, and constructing and sharing stories, presented in truly murky video quality.

There’s also an extra feature of Lynch reading excerpts from the “Room To Dream” book pertaining to EMPIRE.

Finally, there’s the trailer—for the 4K restoration, not the trailer for the film’s original theatrical run.

“More Things That Happened” is a feature-length (75 min.) presentation of outtakes/deleted scenes, much like those seen on previous releases of Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. It’s interesting, although not quite as illuminating as Peaks’ “The Missing Pieces” turned out to be. “More Things” is  fragmentary—fittingly, since EMPIRE‘s script was written on the fly. Some scenes are simply variations on things already established, such as Dern’s Sue character puttering around the house with her husband, scenes of the valley girls, and a couple of monologues to some sort of policeman. There are several longer scenes: one in Poland with a character referred to as the “Lost Girl”; something with “the Phantom,” who offers to sell a watch during conversation with sinister overtones; Dern as Nikki in Poland, entering a hotel room to see herself lying on the floor. In one, we see Dern on the phone with Devon () and a disembodied voice speaking to her in Polish. Static interrupts the line and the scene cuts to the “Rabbits”; one of them states, “There is something here.” Another scene is a conversation with Dern as Nikki and a friend (Nastassja Kinski, who only appears at the end sequence in the final film).
Again, it’s a very good presentation/package. But if you have that Absurda/Rhino DVD release, you might want to hold on to it, as it has features that didn’t make it to the Criterion discs: “Stories,” a 42-minute featurette of Lynch talking on a microphone (a set-up similar to “Eraserhead Stories“), sometimes speaking on subjects relating to the film (“Rabbits,” the Polish segments) and sometimes not (a bit about watching movies on phones was fan-edited into an iPhone commercial parody). “Quinoa”, a 20-minute short, has Lynch cooking the title grain and telling stories (including a mention of “frog-moths” ten years previous to “Twin Peaks: The Return”). There are also three theatrical release trailers and an image gallery that lasts for seven minutes. The Absurda DVD has chapter stops in the movie and an Easter Egg of a 2 minute Dern monologue that is not part of “More Things That Happened.”
Watching INLAND EMPIRE today, it seems to show Lynch getting back to basics—returning his method of working during his Eraserhead days using the tools available at that time, but applying what he has learned since, without the concerns of a studio influencing the production process and final product.

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