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The Sony-brand telephone that Betty and Rita use to call Diane Selwyn has separate buttons for 'on' and 'off' functions. However, Betty presses the 'on' button to turn the phone off following the call. See more »
Mulholland Drive ( David Lynch, 2001), one of the most ambiguous films to be unleashed upon contemporary audiences, dare one say "abstract" even. In an era where simplicity is preferred over mystery and intrigue, the average audience member may find such a film angering in all respects. It resembles the classic noir genre, in so much that the infamous street Sunset Boulevard even appears in the movie as an ominous homage to the Billy Wilder film of the same name. Like that 1950 film, this movie's themes and tone is dark, but nowhere near as formulaic, per say. Classic film noir still relied on a certain pattern of events and character niches; the femme fatale, the unsuspecting victim most often our male protagonist and of course the incorruptible detective figure. This narrative method follows the invisible style, making it generally easy to understand. Mulholland Drive breaks many of these rules without a second glance, clarity being at the very bottom of its intentions if at all. Director David Lynch sets this in motion in a number of ways.
The music by Angelo Badalamenti electronic yet menacing, and creates a mood of a near horror-film like aura.
One of the most startling traits of Mulholland Drive is its complete disregard for the traditional Hollywood narrative style. Clarity, it ignores in throughout the movie, as new characters and plot lines are constantly introduced, some not followed up on till much later. The unity is leaves one even more bewilderment. Over an hour into the movie one still has no real idea how all these characters are connected, and certain events and objects even mean. The characters themselves are left to the willful imagination of the audience, as the story progresses it giving off the feeling of a mystery combined with pressing psychological puzzles. The goals of the many characters are very obscure, and the threatening world around them is even more mysterious. As for the style of the story telling, many of the house hold techniques are used: such as the foreshadowing when the ominous stranger, Louise Bonner, warns Naomi Watts of impending "danger". Closure is practically rhetorical in the film and in the same sense as Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001) most is left to the viewers to discern.
In the same fashion as Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950), one of the focal points of the film appears to be the decadence of Hollywood. The overhead shots of the city are accompanied by surreal, nightmare like music. The top brass of the industry appear inhuman, pompous and over all intimidating. Note the low angle shot of the apparent executive Mr. Roque. We rarely seem, and when we do no other figure is allowed to be in his presence apparently. The portrayal of Hollywood has many homages to the way it was portrayed by Wilder; with the apartments being dirty looking with their drab browns and dirty to look everything. In the daylight scenes, where it can be hard to use low-key lighting without delving into the extreme-gloomy Tim Burton trademark, the cinematographer Peter Deming uses this filthy look to the setting to establish the dark mood. Another particularly hard-hitting aspect would be the loss of innocence. As Naomi Watts rehearses her role with "Rita" (Laura Harring), she delivers the dialogue in an overly-loud cliché manner, but in the rehearsal with the studio heads, she becomes a whole another person it seems. The medium shot of the first rehearsal is replaced in the second one with a sensuous medium close-up, and the excellence of her acting there is fueled by pure unrestrained sexuality. Compared to her naïve depiction up until this scene, one would struggle to connect the two scenes.
This is just a small taste of the complex mystery world Lynch sets up in his cryptic film. Lighting, setting and the way the characters act still are saying something, but the way the plot moves makes it a struggling endeavor to understand. In all its zaniness, one important theme to grasp is the freedom of artistic tactics in film making. From the dawn of Hollywood to this day the general consensus is that everything must be immediately understandable with only one possible interpretation. There is no such rule because the clarity of the movie is unrelated to the art of it. The way the film is edited, credit to Mary Sweeney, plays an undeniable role in the film's perplexing beauty and terror to an extent.
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