Sunday, June 24, 2012

#678. Mulholland Dr. (2001)

Directed By: David Lynch

Starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux

Tag line: "A woman in search of stardom. A woman in search of herself - in the city of dreams. A key to a mystery - lies somewhere on Mulholland Drive"

Trivia: Chosen by France's Les Cahiers du cinéma as the best picture of the decade

Many of Mulholland Dr.’s detractors - and even some of its fans - have been frustrated over the years by the film’s seemingly incoherent story. Characters prance in and out of the picture with little explanation, and entire sequences will have you scratching your head in a vain attempt to make sense of it all. 

Yet if you can abandon all preconceptions of what a movie should be, and instead soak in what this motion picture has to offer, Mulholland Dr. will leave you mesmerized.

Originally intended as a pilot for a new David Lynch television series (a la Twin Peaks), Mulholland Dr. takes us to the dream-like world of Hollywood, where illusion exists with no tangible reality to support it.  A woman with amnesia (Laura Harring) is convinced her life is in danger, but has no idea who is after her, or why. She meets a fresh, young newcomer to Tinsel Town named Betty (Naomi Watts), a bubbly innocent who wants to be an actress. Betty tries to help this confused woman (who thinks her name might be Rita) unravel the mystery of her identity. 

Throw in a tempestuous director (Justin Theroux) whose next picture is being manipulated by the mob, and a local restaurant with a monster living in its back alley, and you have a film noir the likes of which only David Lynch could have conceived.

Mulholland Dr. will grab you with it’s spellbinding pace, and the persistent, deliberate tempo of each scene. Deep-flowing tension and explosive emotions run just beneath the surface in the segment where the director is ordered by two crime bosses (Dan Hedeya and Angelo Badalamenti) to cast a specific actress in his next movie, which the director flat-out refuses to do. 

Melancholy bleeds from the screen when Betty and “Rita” make a late-night trip to the Club Silencio, where they originally hoped to find some clues, but instead witness a mystifying all-Spanish rendition of Roy Orbison’s hit song, Crying

There’s nothing about either of these two sequences that would lead us to believe they belong in the same movie; neither appears to have any relevance to the other. Yet it’s the mood of each one, their calculated tone that drives not only these scenes, but every sequence in Mulholland Dr.

Director Lynch has assured us there are clues, placed conspicuously throughout the film, to help us figure it all out, and I’m inclined to believe him. Discovering what they are, however, simply isn’t a priority. If I never uncover the answers, I will still return to Mulholland Dr. For me, it’s better than a work of cinematic art; it’s dozens of works, played out dozens of times over. 

Make no mistake: your trip along Mulholland Dr. will not be an easy one. Yet if you’re prepared to allow your mind to wander to a place where anything can happen, where logic takes a back seat and leaves the driving to pure, hypnotic style, you’ll find Mulholland Dr. an unbelievably satisfying journey.

Mulholland Dr. is indeed a puzzle, but unlike most puzzles, this one looks just as good lying in pieces on the floor.


Anthony Lee Collins said...

I agree completely. There may be clues, and there may not be, but that's not the point. I have my explanation of how it all fits together, but that's not the point either. A masterpiece.

And I have to mention that if, as he says, David Lynch cast Naomi Watts based on seeing her photograph, he lucked out and then some. What a performance (all three of them :-) ).

DVD Infatuation said...

Anthony: I would be perfectly fine if I NEVER figure out what's going on. I'd still love this movie!

And yes, Lynch definitely lucked out. Watts' performance was both gutsy and impressive.

Thanks for the comment!

Anonymous said...

Nice write-up. I need to give this one another watch because even though I didn't love it the first time around, I still feel like I was bit too distracted to fully gather it all in. What I do remember is probably one of the best jump-scares of all-time.

DVD Infatuation said...

@dtmmr: Definitely check it out again. It's a movie that you do have to pay attention to (and has a very effective jump scare!)

Thanks for the comment, and the kind words

Tommy Ross said...

"indeed a puzzle, but unlike most puzzles, this one looks just as good lying in pieces on the floor" - nicely put!!! Not that it really matters but I'm kinda in that camp that thinks everything before she wakes up in her apartment (the first 3/4 roughly of the movie)is all a dream.

James Robert Smith said...

Mulholland Drive is one of his movies where I actually do pretty much understand what Lynch was getting at. I also understand most of what went on in Blue Velvet. Some of his other films, though, require keys that exist only in Lynch's own brain and to which the rest of humanity are not privy.

Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me, Inland Empire, Lost Highway--these are movies that make absolutely no sense to me, while sometimes offering some entertaining sequences. Bits of Inland Empire seem to be a retelling of the same story in Mulholland Drive. I can grok those bits. But the rest of Empire? Retread of Lost Highway, I think, but that one remains a total mystery to me.