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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the best movies ever made and I am not saying that because I am being fooled by the seemingly nonsensical presentation. Those who dislike the film because they don't understand the story often criticize those who are praising the film by saying that they are assuming its genius because they don't understand it. I don't view this movie as very allegorical. To me, it is a story with a beginning, middle and end. People become confused by the film because they expect it to have a deep, philosophical meaning that they are to interpret from the allegedly meaningless scenes. I feel they fail to realize that the crypticness comes from a chopped-up and rearranged plot combined with a very long and rather explanatory fantasy sequence and not from a chaos of visual allegory. Because of the limitation of length, I will try to keep this short and to the point and touch on the major concepts.
The general plot: Diane moves to L.A. after jitterbug contest to get into acting. At an audition, she meets Camilla with whom she falls in love. Diane becomes enraged with jealousy since Camilla sleeps with other men and women. Diane discovers the other man (the director) at a film shoot and discovers the other woman (a random blond) at the engagement party for Camilla and the director. Motivated by her rage and possessiveness, Diane hires a hit man to kill Camilla. After that is done, she is overcome by loneliness and slips into an unconscious fantasy world where she lives the life she wants to. Diane is then awakened. In her conscious state she is haunted by what she has done.
The significance of the fantasy: The film starts out, after the credits, with a 1st person p.o.v. shot depicting somebody collapsing onto a bed and slipping into unconsciousness. This is where Diane's fantasy starts. The accident is there as an excuse for her to "bring back" her dead girlfriend and justify the fantasy life. She depicts her girlfriend as meek and innocent because that is what she wished she was. In the meantime, she acts like everything is "like in the movies" because she has an escapist personality. She also, in a sense, kills herself off and assumes the identity of a waitress named Betty at a diner. The story revolving around the director is a direct result of her feeling that he was in someway victimized in reality just as she was and "convinces" herself that he was forced to choose Camilla. It was also an unconscious expression of the lack of control she felt during the party. Camilla Rhoades in the fantasy is actually the random blond from the engagement party. She hated her so much that she turned her into Camilla and made the ultimate antagonist. She then took the real Camilla and turned her into a perfect, submissive out-of-the-movies girlfriend and used Rita Hayworth as an inspiration. She also paints the hit man as a very clumsy and incapable person to further justify the survival of Camilla. Her fantasy world, unfortunately for her, was a search for Diane which ended up being herself and made the dreamworld die by taking her through a series of reminders of reality. The first reminder was Club Silencio which chanted that "there is no band" and the "instruments" you hear are not really there; this is a metaphor for the fantasy. She begins to shake violently because it shakes her perception of her surroundings. The other reminder is the blue box... Actually, the blue box is not the reminder itself (more of a Pandora's Box, really), but the blue key that opens the box. The blue key reminds her of the actual death of Camilla because it is what the hit man said would show up when it was done. Along with having love, this entire creation of hers is an escape from reality by living in the idealized Hollywood that she expected to be part of when she arrived.
This is a story showing the psychology of a very troubled woman who lost a dream. It is not series of random things specifically designed to disturb and it is not a cryptic philosophical message. It is an unfortunate chunk of the human condition that is presented beautifully.
However, ultimately this is all my opinion. I may be way off. Or it may not be intended to mean any one thing. There are many who disagree with me. Great! Afterall, why does it have to mean anything? Why can't it just be a statement in itself? What if coherent, sensible narratives are shackles for artistic expression? Peter Greenaway, for example, has spent many words eloquently supporting that idea by such statements as "I would argue that if you want to write narratives, be an author, be a novelist, don't be a film maker. Because I believe film making is so much more exciting in areas which aren't primarily to do with narrative." And where is the written rule 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. "I didn't understand it!" So...? "Mulholland Dr.," story or not, affects the viewers, harasses them, drags them, awes them, lulls them. The way it lends itself to interpretation is amazing. It never gets old. It never loses its luster. Its visuals are always effective and beautiful. It is cinematic perfection no matter what. Enjoy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There's a sign on The Lost Highway that says:
*MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*
(but you already knew that, didn't you?)
Since there's a great deal of people that apparently did not get the point of this movie, I'd like to contribute my interpretation of why the plot makes perfect sense. As others have pointed out, one single viewing of this movie is not sufficient. If you have the DVD of MD, you can "cheat" by looking at David Lynch's "Top 10 Hints to Unlocking MD" (but only upon second or third viewing, please.) ;)
First of all, Mulholland Drive is downright brilliant. A masterpiece. This is the kind of movie that refuse to leave your head. Not often are the comments on the DVDs very accurate, but Vogue's "It gets inside your head and stays there" really hit the mark.
David Lynch deserves praise for creating a movie that not only has a beautifully stylish look to it - cinematography-wise, has great acting (esp. Naomi Watts), a haunting soundtrack by Badalamenti, and a very dream-like quality to it -- but on top of it all it also manages to involve the viewer in such a way that few movies have before. (After all, when is the last time you saw a movie that just wouldn't leave your mind and that everyone felt compelled to talk and write about, regardless of whether they liked it or hated it?)
Allright, enough about all that, it's time to justify those statements.
Most people that have gone through some effort to try to piece the plot together will have come to the conclusion that the first half of the picture is an illusion/a dream sequence.
Of course, that's too bad for all those trying to make sense of the movie by expecting "traditional" methods in which the story is laid out in a timely, logic and linear manner for the viewer. But for those expecting that, I urge you to check the name of the director and come back again. ;)
MD is the story of the sad demise of Diane Selwyn, a wannabe-actor who is hopelessly in love with another actor, Camilla Rowles. Due to Diane's lack of talent, she is constantly struggling to advance her career, and feels she failed to deliver on her own and her parents' expectations. Upon realizing that Camilla will never be hers (C. becomes engaged with Adam Kesher, the director), she hires a hitman to get rid of her, and subsequently has to deal with the guilt that it produces.
The movie first starts off with what may seem as a strange opening for this kind of thriller; which is some 50s dance/jitterbug contest, in which we can see the main character Betty giving a great performance. We also see an elderly couple (which we will see twice more throughout the movie) together with her, and applauding her.
No, wait. This is what most people see the first time they view it. There's actually another very significant fact that is given before the credits - the camera moving into an object (although blurry) and the scene quickly fading out. If you look closely, the object is actually a pillow, revealing that what follows is a dream.
The main characters seen in the first half of the movie:
Betty: Diane Selwyn's imaginary self, used in the first half of the movie that constitutes the "dream-sequence" - a positive portrayal of a successful, aspiring young actor (the complete opposite of Diane). 'Betty' was chosen as the name as that is the real name of the waitress at Winkies. Notice that in the dream version, the waitresses' name is 'Diane'.
Rita: The fantasy version of Camilla Rhodes that, through Diane's dream, and with the help of an imaginary car-accident, is turned into an amnesiac. This makes her vulnerable and dependent on Diane's love. She is then conveniently placed in Betty/Diane's aunt's luxurious home which Betty has been allowed to stay in.
Coco: In real life, Adam's mother. In the dream part, the woman in charge of the apartment complex that Betty stays in. She's mainly a strong authority figure, as can be witnessed in both parts of the film.
Adam: The director. We know from the second half that he gets engaged with Camilla. His sole purpose for being in the first half of the movie is only to serve as a punching bag for Betty/Diane, since she develops such hatred towards him.
Aunt Ruth: Diane's real aunt, but instead of being out of town, she is actually dead. Diane inherited the money left by her aunt and used that to pay for Camilla's murder.
Mr. Roach: A typical Lynchian character. Not real; appears only in Diane's dream sequence. He's a mysterious, influential person that controls the chain of events in the dream from his wheelchair. He serves much of the same function as the backwards-talking dwarf (which he also plays) in Twin Peaks.
The hitman: The person that murders Camilla. This character is basically the same in both parts of the movie, although rendered in a slightly more goofy fashion in the dream sequence (more on that below).
Now, having established the various versions of the characters in the movie, we can begin to delve into the plot. Of course I will not go into every little detail (neither will I lay it out chronologically), but I will try to explain some of the important scenes, in relation to Lynch' "hint-sheet".
As I mentioned above, Camilla was re-produced as an amnesiac through her improbable survival of a car-accident in the first 10 minutes of the movie, which left her completely vulnerable. What I found very intriguing with MD, is that Lynch constantly gives hints on what is real and what isn't. I've already mentioned the camera moving into the pillow, but notice how there's two cars riding in each lane approaching the limo.
Only one of the cars actually hit the limo; what about the other? Even if they stayed clear of the accident themselves, wouldn't they try to help the others, or at least call for help? My theory is that, since this is a dream, the presence of the other car is just set aside, and forgotten about. Since, as Rogert Ebert so eloquently puts it "Like real dreams, it does not explain, does not complete its sequences, lingers over what it finds fascinating, dismisses unpromising plotlines."
Shortly after Rita crawls down from the crash site at Mulholland Dr., and makes her way down the hillside and sneaks into Aunt Ruth's apartment, Betty arrives and we see this creepy old couple driving away, staring ghoulishly at each other and grinning at themselves and the camera. This is the first indication that what we're seeing is a nightmare.
Although the old couple seem to be unfamiliar to Betty, I think they're actually her parents (since they were applauding her at the jitterbug contest). Perhaps she didn't know them all that well, and didn't really have as good a relationship with them as she wanted, so the couple is shown as very pleasant and helpful to her in the dream. They also represent her feelings of guilt from the murder, and Diane's sense of unfulfillment regarding her unachieved goals in her life.
A rather long and hilarious scene is the one involving the hitman. Diane apparently sees him as the major force behind the campaign trying to pressure the director to accept Camilla's part in the movie (from Adam's party in the second half of the movie), and he therefore occupies a major part of her dream. Because of her feelings of guilt and remorse towards the murder of Camilla, a part of her wants him to miss, so she turns him into a dumb criminal.
This scene, I think, is also Lynch's attempt at totally screwing his audience over, since they're given a false pretence in which to view the movie.
Gotta love that 'Something just bit me bad' line, though. :)
The next interesting scene is the one with the two persons at Twinkies, who are having a conversation about how one of them keep having this recurring nightmare involving a man which is seen by him through a wall outside of the diner that they're sitting in. After a little talk, they head outside and keep walking toward the corner of a fence, accompanied of course by excellent music matching the mood of the scene.
When reaching the corner, a bum-like character with a disfigured face appears out from behind the corner, scaring the living crap out of the man having the nightmare. This nightmare exists only in Diane's mind; she saw that guy in the diner when paying for the murder. So, in short, her obessions translate into that poor guy's nightmares. The bum also signifies Diane's evil side, as can be witnessed later in the movie.
The Cowboy constitutes (along with the dwarf) one of the strange characters that are always present in the Lynchian landscape -- Diane only saw him for a short while at Adam's party, but just like our own dreams can award insignificant persons that we hardly know a major part in our dreams, so can he be awarded an important part in her dream. We are also given further clues during his scenes that what we're seeing is not real (his sudden disappearance, etc.)
The Cowboy is also used as a tool to mock the Director, when he meets up with him at the odd location (the lights here give a clear indication that this is part of a dream). Also notice how he says that he will appear one more time if he (Adam) does good, or two more times if he does bad. Throughout the movie he appears two more times, indicating to Diane that she did bad. He is also the one to wake her up to reality (that scene is probably an illusion made to fit into her requirements of him appearing twice), and shortly thereafter she commits suicide.
The espresso-scene with the Castigliane brothers (where we can see Badalamenti, the composer, as Luigi) is probably a result of the fact that Diane was having an espresso just before Camilla and Adam made their announcement at Adam's party in the second half. It could at the same time also be a statement from Lynch.
During the scene in which they enter Diane's apartment, the body lying in the bed is Camilla, but notice how she's assumed Diane's sleeping position; Diane is seeing herself in her own dream, but the face is not hers, although it had the same wounds on the face as Diane would have after shooting herself. This scene is also filled with some genuine Lynchian creepiness. Since Diane did not know where (or when) the hitman would get to Camilla and finish her off, she just put her into her own home.
In real life, Diane's audition for the movie part was bad. In her dream, she delivers a perfect audition - leaving the whole crew ecstatic about her performance.
Also interesting is the fact that the money that in real-life was used to pay for Camilla's murder now appears in Rita/Camilla's purse. This is part of Diane's undoing of her terrible act by effectively being given the money back, as the murder now hasn't taken place.
When her neighbor arrives to get her piano-shaped ashtray, another hint is given; she takes the ashtray from her table and leaves, yet later when Camilla and Betty have their encounter on the couch, we see the ashtray appear again when the camera pans over the table, suggesting that Betty's encounter with the neighbor was a fantasy.
The catch phrase of the movie Adam is auditioning actresses for is "She is the girl"; which are the exact same words that Diane uses when giving the hitman Camilla's photo resume.
The blue box and the key represent the major turning point in the movie, and is where the true identities of the characters are revealed. There's much symbolism going on here; the box may represent Diane's future (it's empty), or it may be a sort of a Pandora's box (the hitman laughs when she asks him what the key will open). Either way, it is connected to the murder by means of the blue key (which is placed next to her after the murder has taken place). The box is also seen at the end of the movie in the hands of the disfigured bum.
Club Silencio is a neat little addition to further remind the viewer that what s/he is viewing is not real. It also signifies that Diane is about to wake up to her reality (her reality being a nightmare that she is unable to escape from, even in her dreams).
During the chilling scene at the end where the creepy old couple reappear, Diane is tormented in such a way that she sees suicide as the only way out in order to escape the screams and to avoid being haunted by her fears.
Anyway, that is my $0.02. Hope this could help people from bashing out at this movie and calling it 'the worst movie ever' or something to that effect, without realizing the plot.
As usual, Lynch is all about creating irrational fears, and he certainly achieves that with this picture as well.
10 out of 10.
"twin peaks" and "blue velvet" have always been two of my favourite
pieces of film-making, and even though past films by lynch have
been slightly disappointing for me they have always been worth
watching a number of times. to be pretentious, lynch can be like a
good wine - he must be savoured and mulled over. but in the end
you must make up your own mind about what you have seen, for
lynch never gives you the full answers.
many people will walk out of "mulholland drive" possibly wanting to throttle themselves over the mind-bending visual jigsaw puzzle that has just unfolded before them. but there is a twisted logic to this film, you just have to look for the clues. betty (naomi watts) arrives in hollywood, doe-eyed and in search of stardom. she then finds an amnesiac in her bathroom who has escaped from an attempted murder on mulholland drive. together they try to uncover the secrets behind the amnesiac's life. this all leads to a club called silencio, where a blue box will reveal all. and that is when the film throws everything out the window. people we thought we knew are entirely different people altogether... is it a dream? a reminiscence about life's previous escapades? you will either love this film or hate it. david lynch always draws such extreme reactions from his viewers. but as his universe itself is always about extremes, it is fitting that his films provoke such reactions.
It is best to look at this film thematically, rather than as a straight-forward narrative. and appreciate the fact that lynch is a film-maker who will still let you draw your own conclusions. he has had many imitators as of late, particularly in "vanilla sky", where a mind-bending film decides to give you all the answers in the last rushed five minutes, and you will probably forget about that film as soon as you walk out of the cinema. mulholland drive will haunt you.
After two brief scenes that at first seem unrelated to the rest of the
film, we see a dark-haired, obviously rich beauty in the back of a
limousine. Her driver stops at an odd location on Mulholland Drive,
which is a twisting, thickly wooded two-lane road full of mansions
overlooking Los Angeles. Just as her driver and another man in the
passenger seat turn around to kill her, two drag racing cars from the
opposite direction come crashing into the limo. Only the dark-haired
woman survives. She works her way down the ridge to Sunset Boulevard
and hides in a vacationing woman's apartment. Shortly after, Betty
(Naomi Watts), the vacationing woman's niece, shows up at the apartment
and runs into the dark haired woman, who now has amnesia. The bulk of
the first part of the film is Betty and the dark haired woman trying to
figure out who she is, why people were trying to kill her and why she
had thousands of dollars and a strange key in her purse. This is
interspersed with oddly surreal threads about Hollywood producers and
directors, with occasional forays into a land of hoodlums and
The above may sound a bit complicated and disjointed, but that's not the half of it. The film is constructed so that the meaning will always be open to interpretation. It's basically guaranteed that you will not understand this film and you will not have very much confidence arriving at your own interpretation the first time around. Even if you have a lot of experience with like-minded films--such as Memento (2000), Donnie Darko (2001), The I Inside (2003) and The Butterfly Effect (2004)--you may not understand it on a second viewing, either. The studio was aware of this to the extent that they had director David Lynch write "10 clues to unlocking this thriller" and they put it on the back of the chapter listing insert in the DVD. Lynch being of a particular disposition, these clues are almost as cryptic as the film itself. It doesn't help when trying to figure it out in the early stages that the structure is extremely complex. It takes a very long time to figure out what parts are supposed to be "real" and there is a complex nesting of flashbacks in some sections, with only contextual clues that they're flashbacks.
But is the film worth watching, or worth trying to figure out? That depends on your tastes, obviously. On a surface level, the film is certainly attractive if you are a fan of surrealism, although it will tend to seem a bit slow and overly disjointed to some viewers. But those qualities, and many other surrealist aspects of the film, are typical of Lynch. A prime Lynchian moment is the old couple in the beginning bizarrely smiling almost as if they're alien pod people trying to put on a front. If you're familiar with that style and like it, you'll find much to love here, although in many ways, Mulholland Drive is fairly understated for Lynch. It's also worth noting, for viewers who'll primarily be interested in it or who enjoy it just as much as other aspects, that Mulholland Drive has a quite steamy lesbian scene. It's not gratuitous, although I have no problems with gratuitousness, but is instead an important hinge in the film.
Like all of Lynch's films, it's easy to become enraptured in his unique approach to every aspect of filmic art and his attention to detail. Any serious student of film (including "armchair students"/"cinephiles") should study Mulholland Drive; many will love it. Lynch doesn't let anything pass unmanipulated. He includes brilliant color schemes (such as the plethora of reds and pinks) with important symbolism. He makes unusual use of sound, such as the ringing telephone carrying over into the section of score that follows it (when Betty first arrives at the airport). He directs his actors to deliver their lines in a plethora of bizarre ways, such as his characteristic odd pauses. He lets his odd and surprising sense of humor poke through, such as the name "Winkie's", and the "Hot Dogs--made for Pinks" sign that provides a clue to some of the color symbolism.
Lynch's attention to detail in production design provides important, subtle clues throughout the film to help one unlock the meaning. It's interesting to note that Lynch even apparently demands that the DVD programming be unusual--there are no chapters on the disc; you must either watch the film in real time or fast forward or rewind to get back to particular points.
If the surrealism and veiled meaning of the film are attractive to you, or if you're just fond of "puzzles", then Mulholland Drive is well worth watching for that aspect. There is a fairly accepted interpretation of the film, at least on a broad, generalized level. I won't recount the standard interpretation here--it is worth researching, but only after you've seen the film a couple times and have reached your own conclusions. Many articles and monographs have been written on the film and interpretations; there are even websites dedicated to it.
For my money, however, although I generally love Lynch and find many things about Mulholland Drive attractive, it is not quite a 10 for me, at least not yet (I have a feeling that my score could still rise on subsequent viewings). To me, though, the "twist" aspect of the film is done much better in other works such as The I Inside and The Butterfly Effect. Mulholland Drive is more attractive to me for its surface surrealistic touches, but the plot doesn't carry them as well as some of Lynch's other films.
Still, Mulholland Drive is certainly recommended for the right crowd. If you're serious about film and do not mind having to think about what you watch (as if those two would not necessarily coincide), you shouldn't miss this one.
Hitchcock would be proud of this movie. Even when nothing happens, it is
suspenseful. Director David Lynch overuses a few cheap thrill tricks here
and there, but he intersperses them with other cinematographic techniques
keep it from becoming obtuse.
Altogether surreal, this movie is like waking up and remembering most of a dream but not enough to make it sensible. I am still trying to figure it all out and will probably have to see it again to catch things I missed and which may help me understand it better. It is a very detailed plot that very slowly comes together, so you must be patient and pay attention. Get your bathroom trip out of the way before it starts. And yet, the plot is overshadowed by the theme, the mood, the character development, and the filming techniques.
The dual roles of the main actress, Naomi Watts, showcase her enormous talent. That is, when I could get my eyes off of her co-star. What an acting pair.
Lynch surprises throughout the movie with unusual camera angles, the length/timing of editing cuts, jumping back and forth between scenes. Combined with smart use of music and sounds, it all helps to build suspense in our minds, doubtless a major objective of the director. Well, he kept me on the edge of my seat, even had me talking to the actors to be careful here, and not be so naive there. You know, the kind of stuff you want to smack your kids for doing at the movies.
Originally filmed in 1999 as a TV pilot, "Mulholland Dr." was rejected.
The next year, David Lynch received money to film new scenes to make
the movie suitable to be shown in theaters. He did so - and created one
of the greatest, most bizarre and nightmarish films ever made.
The film really doesn't have main characters, but if there were main characters, they would be Betty (Naomi Watts) and Rita (Laura Elena Harring). Betty is a perky blonde who's staying in her aunt's apartment while she auditions for parts in movies. She finds Rita in her aunt's apartment and decides to help her. You see, Rita's lost her memory. She has no clue who she is. She takes her name, Rita, from a "Gilda" poster in the bathroom. So the two set out to discover who Rita really is.
David Lynch has been known for making some weird movies, but this film is the definition of weird. It's bizarre, nightmarish, and absolute indescribable. It's like a dream captured on film. By the 100-minute point, the film has become extremely confusing - but if you've been watching closely, it will make perfect sense. Having watched the movie and then read an article on the Internet pointing out things in the film, I now understand the movie completely.
The acting is very good. Watts is terrific. Justin Theroux is very good as a Hollywood director facing problems with the local mob. The music is excellent. Angelo Badalamenti delivers one of his finest scores. And the directing - hah! David Lynch is as masterful a filmmaker as ever there was.
Is this your type of film? Well, that depends. You should probably view more of Lynch's work before watching this movie. You'll need to be patient with the film, and probably watch it a second time to pick up the many clues Lynch has left throughout the movie. For Lynch fans, this is a dream come true.
"Mulholland Dr." is a masterpiece. It's brilliant, enigmatic, and masterfully filmed. I love it.
The case history of 'Mulholland Dr.' is known: What should had been
another excursion (after 'Twin Peaks') into the rivaled field of
TV-series ended up abruptly after completing the pilot. It was too
risky and twisted for the producers to venture an investment. Lynch
used all the filmed and cut material and started new shootings to
finish a completely new feature film. The result: One of the most
impressive cinema experiences of this decade which can be ranked among
the best works of David Lynch. His earlier movies 'Eraserhead', 'Blue
Velvet' or 'Wild at Heart' kept aloof in an irritating way which
hustled the viewer into the role of a voyeur, but never involved him as
part of the plot happening such as here.
'Mulholland Dr.' is a puzzle where pieces are missing, others obviously were taken from 'Eraserhead' and 'Lost Highway', but it never seemed to be unfinished work. In the internet I came across with a lot of instructions and essays to explain this film. I am aware now that it loses its magic when you try to decipher it completely. All those detailed solution explanations are not only waste but also the questionable attempt to offer an answer where no such thing is completely required. Imagine this scenario: A little child is dissecting his teddy bear to find out where the secret and the specific of that bear lies. Is it because it wants to destroy his toy? Does the secret lie in the teddy bear or actually in the heart of the child? Transferring this to 'Mulholland Dr.' it means innocence is one of the most important conditions to watch and appreciate it.
David Lynch succeeds not only to picture the surface of human behavior life but also to grapple with everything beneath that. Human desires, dreams, obsessions and fears - all that what remains unspoken; emotions that are often repressed. 'Mulholland Dr.' has the intensity calling for a cast that completely takes issue with the substance. Actresses and actors who are ready to follow the visions of the director selflessly.Laura Elena Harring, Naomi Watts, Justin Theroux solve their task in such an impressing way that you wouldn't want or couldn't imagine another cast. While their acting at the beginning seems to be a little superimposed you soon will realize that this stereo typing is set in with a purpose to manipulate the viewer and to baffle him as soon as the red thread of the film is visible.
When you claim the criterion of a well made film in being able to lose yourself and dive into what you see on screen than Lynch succeeded in making a masterpiece. A modern masterpiece that manifest David Lynch's status as one of the most important, creative and courageous directors of the present. Like every film maker who go beyond the limits he is confronted with criticism and ignorance. This will fade as soon as you find the individual key to Lynch's world of films. 'Mulholland Dr.' is more than just a sleeper it is a must see for everyone who loves ambitious cinema. And besides, the film is a pay-off with Hollywood, in form and content, which in that distinctness was hardly dared before.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Spoiler Alert - although this is a plot almost as impossible to spoil
as it is to completely explain.
'Mulholland Drive' is by far the most successful expression of David Lynch's cinematographic style and vision since the first season of his 'Twin Peaks' TV series. As Lynch enthusiasts know, his is a style and vision uniquely blended from film noir, horror movies, surrealism, and parapsychology with a healthy dose of postmodern self-consciousness and black humor thrown in for good measure. All these elements are richly at work in 'Mulholland Drive,' making for a riveting, hair-raising, and highly satisfying film experience especially if one does not become overly obsessed with trying to make all the plot pieces fit into a logical, mystery-unraveling whole.
The film features wonderful performances by Naomi Watts and Laura Harring in the lead roles of young women whose lives intersect in various ways amid a Hollywood setting that is itself an hallucinated blend of contemporary reality, retro '50s nostalgia, and satirical self-aggrandizement. Their seemingly random initial meeting occurs after the film's opening scene, in which Harring's character escapes an attempt on her life thanks to a fortuitous, not to mention horrific, automobile accident. Staggering down the hillside from Mulholland Drive to Sunset Boulevard (the two most archetypal of Hollywood thoroughfares), she finds her way to the very apartment that Betty (Naomi Watts) is about to sublet from her 'Aunt Ruth,' a purportedly successful actress who is off to Canada to begin a new movie. As we later learn, Betty had herself arrived from Deep River, Ontario, shortly after winning a jitterbug contest.
A highly energetic and stylized flashback to the contest forms one of two pre-credit prologue sequences that frame Betty's descent from the clichéd would-be-starlet's bright-eyed innocence to the debauched madness of spurned lover and going nowhere bit-part actress. Unable to remember her own name, the Harring character adopts the name 'Rita' from a movie poster for the film noir classic 'Gilda' that adorns Aunt Ruth's apartment. (Actually, it turns out Aunt Ruth has long since deceased and whose apartment we're really in is a good question to be resolved in future viewings.) Anyway, Betty determines to help Rita find out what happened and to discover the source of the rolls of cash and a mysterious blue key that the women find in Rita's purse. The two women begin to piece together clues that would seem to lead to Rita's true identity. They also, by the way, become lovers, at one point radiating such an incendiary chemistry that I cannot recall its equal in mainstream treatments of Lesbian lover affairs (if a Lynch movie can ever be designated 'mainstream').
At the local Winkies restaurant (a recurring location fraught with dream-like significance behind its grubby realistic facade), Rita's attention is caught by a waitress's name-tag reading 'Diane.' This leads her to a recollection of someone named 'Diane Selwyn,' whose apartment the two women soon visit and, at Betty's insistence, break into. I won't reveal what they find within, but suffice it to say the scene is rendered with vintage Lynchian creepiness. Subsequently, Rita wakes in night sweats speaking Spanish and hurrying Betty to an all-night magic show/theater called 'Silencio,' where the arts of illusion and lip/instrumental- syncing are practiced with manic intensity and where the Blue- Haired Lady, as she is noted in the end credits, reigns as the presiding Muse. Framed by the blue-lit, red-curtained Silencio Theatre, the blue-haired lady occupies the last shot in the film, perhaps a symbol for the controlling artistic imagination rather like Steven's "man with the blue guitar" as filtered through bad- drug surrealism.
During the Silencio sequence, and as Rebekah Del Rio cameo lip-syncs her own powerful Spanish rendition of Roy Orbison's 'Crying'), a shattering epiphany occurs when Betty opens her own purse to discover a blue box with a keyhole that obviously matches the key in Rita's purse. Even if we do not delve too deeply into the Freudian sexual symbolism of purses, the moment is a singularly Hitchcockian one in that the matching of the key and box leads to a complete inversion of what we thought we knew and into a whole new set of character relationships and meanings. Not the least of these reversals is the discovery that Betty is the sought-for Diane Selwyn and the spurned lover of Camilla Rhodes (i.e. Rita). Camilla in turn is a Latin femme fatale movie star to whom Diane is indebted for the few minor roles she has managed to secure and, more significantly, to whom she is emotionally subjugated.
After these and other discoveries in the last third of the film, the problem of accounting for the first two thirds of the movie is not so straightforwardly resolved as in 'Vertigo.' While bits and pieces of imagery and dialog suggest that much, if not all, of the earlier material is projected and displaced from the fevered subconscious of Diane herself, other bits and pieces suggest the perhaps supernatural intervention of a cast of characters drawing direct inspiration from 'Twin Peaks,' including Michael J. Anderson reprising his unearthly dwarfish powers and a Bob- variant who hangs out behind Winkies and is the ultimate repository for the blue box and its id-like associations.
However one fits the pieces together, though, the whole of 'Mulholland Drive' is much greater and more mysterious than the sum of its parts. Lynch takes us on a wonderfully inventive, provocative, and pleasurably disturbing mind trip. What's more, the film's cinematography is stunning, the soundtrack filled with evocative atmospherics, the acting superb, and the directing /editing masterful. This may well have been the unacknowledged Best Picture of 2001 among major American releases.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Like most, I rented this after I heard the universal praise. And despite
COUNTLESS bizarre, unexplainable moments along the way, I was very
interested and entertained through 100 minutes of the film. Then the two
women went to the "performance" late at night. The rest of movie (which is
another 40 minutes by the way) is even WEIRDER than the first part AND
completely contradict and dump on what I had already seen. Then the movie
Baffled, I wandered over to my computer to see if I could buy a clue as to what just happened. Nothing made sense, and I'm a pretty clever guy. None of these other user comments made sense, even when they say "SPOILERS." I still have no idea what they're saying. Someone's dream? Not real? Then what's the point of a 2 hour 30 minute movie if it's "not real?" Or is it real? I'm forced to make a choice. Either:
[a] The movie is a work of genius on a MENSA level and I'm simply too stupid to understand it.
[b] The movie is weird for weird's sake and just doesn't make sense. Everyone who loves it is trying to save face and pretend like they "get" it.
I choose [b]. Screw you guys, I'm going home...
"Mulholland Dr." is something else. It is a film that will make you question your own sanity in many ways. Naomi Watts is the young, starry-eyed Canadian that wants to make it big in Hollywood. She is naive and thinks that dreams can come true if you want them bad enough. Watts discovers a very beautiful woman with amnesia (Laura Harring in a sizzling performance) in her aunt's house in L.A. and she becomes determined to help Harring out. Harring is mysterious and her near-fatal car crash occurred on the dark and winding Mulholland Dr. Throughout several oddball and very dark scenes take place. A young director (Justin Theroux) learns that Hollywood is run by strange underworld figures that are quiet, but ruthless. Another strange side-story is the mysterious man behind the diner that is seen in another character's dreams. An inept assassin also runs around causing unwanted trouble for himself and others. Then of course there are cameos by Robert Forster and Billy Ray Cyrus. The film twists into darkness as it progresses as Watts' and Harring's relationship turns sexual. A fine line between reality and fantasy is skewered and it comes down to a strange Pandora's box that holds the true secrets to "Mulholland Dr.". Oscar-nominated director David Lynch also shows that not all you see and hear is real, even though one's mind might think so. The film seems artificial at times, showing Hollywood as a nice place where dreams can come true. But then the dreams are turned into vivid nightmares of what could possibly be the true reality. David Lynch somehow makes this whole thing work and he makes it work beautifully in this reviewer's opinion. The film is a trumped-up version of "The Twilight Zone" and it adds many techniques that made Alfred Hitchcock the true master of suspense. Many wonder what this film is truly about. I am not sure. I am not sure Lynch even knows, but I am going to give it a shot. "Mulholland Dr." is the dark side of the human condition. It is a film that shows how easy one can lose one's soul if bad elements are let in. There are figures that seem somewhat supernatural to me in this movie. It seems that many of the characters are "messengers" that are all after one thing: Naomi Watts' soul. Watts lets the elements in and in the end she cannot overcome them. What she thinks she wants seems attractive on the outside, but there are cobras on the inside that will be too strong to fight off. In short, "Mulholland Dr." is a brilliant piece of film-making and it is brilliant due to its unique aspects and the fact that it is what one thinks it is. There is no right or wrong answer and it is a film that makes you think. "Mulholland Dr." is a complicated puzzle for the minds of cinema fanatics. 5 stars out of 5.
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