The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child.
After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.
A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak. Behind his monstrous facade, there is revealed a person of intelligence and sensitivity.
A blonde actress is preparing for her biggest role yet, but when she finds herself falling for her co-star, she realizes that her life is beginning to mimic the fictional film that they're shooting. Adding to her confusion is the revelation that the current film is a remake of a doomed Polish production, 47, which was never finished due to an unspeakable tragedy. Written by
I saw this during a period of extreme emotional stress, probably the best possible mode. It was also surrounded by my listening to "Big Fish," Lynch's book, read by himself. The contrast is astonishing: Lynch's banal aphorisms in the book with rich, multilayered cinematic literacy in the film. Yet another lesson in relative articulation and the notion that an artist often is the worst authority on himself.
Let's have no mistake: this film is important. I place it on my list as one of the two films of 2006 that you must see.
There's a lot to say about this. I think I'll let others comment on Dern's attunements, and the general notion of the story having to do with guilt and sexual desire.
I'll comment only on two aspects which struck me. The first was how Polish this movie is. Its Polish within the story of course: a good half of the action involves Poles. The plot device is a Polish curse that somehow bends time and causality. And there are some Polish locations as well.
But the thing is shot using Kieslowski's mannerisms. Its a peculiar style that to my knowledge no one else has used. It focuses on two motions: that of the environment as space which governs and changes. And that of the characters in motion, but situated in the spaces. With Kieslowski, he literally splits these in the writer's mind by having his writing partner handle the noir bits, the controlling fate, and he handling the independently sprouting human seeds within. Lynch handles both sides by imposing schizophrenia.
But its Polish in other ways too. The actor as Golem. The environment as interleaved worlds, each creating the others by being. Its a Kabbalistic concept. Both are characteristically Polish, usually associated with Polish Jews, but more deeply Polish. You can see how Lynch understands this because he quotes "The Saragossa Manuscript," a Polish film about interweaving of kabbalistic worlds and the causal confusion that it brings.
The second thing is how he exploits this merger of folded narrative -- where actors write new worlds; layered emanations where worlds spawn others -- not parallel but linked in generative fate; geometric cosmology in which each act creates symmetries we encounter elsewhere.
He does all this by elaborating on the symmetries of cause. Ordinarily something causes something else, never backwards. Here it IS backwards, forwards, sideways -- all the eight dimensions that an advanced student of the Maharishi knows... causal symmetries that have a geometry that doesn't quite merge with the geometry of causality. Oddly, the story does make sense if you simply relax the causality a bit -- its much more accessible than the "Twin Peaks" meander.
I guess I should say that this is after the manner of the structure of "Finnegans Wake." Its not as elaborate of course. It didn't take 17 years and the deliberate intent of conflating all metaphors. But it is placed in a dream logic, a softening of the walls and hinges of what we make up as the logic of real life. Its Joycean through and through and not -- as some would say -- "surreal" as if anything not real is bent reality.
I know of a few filmmakers who can work with these notions: Medem, Greenaway, Madden, Ruiz. This is the most delicate and focused I've seen in a long, long while. You really must spend time with it. You must.
Here's a serious piece of advice though. See Lynch's "Rabbits" episodes first, separately, ideally a week or so ahead. Take them in as a standalone piece, a remarkable piece of film. Some of it is in this film, excerpted, extended, reshot and literally entered by all the Dern characters. But you'd be better having that anchor before starting this tempestvoyage.
Ted's Evaluation -- 4 of 3: Every cineliterate person should experience this.
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