David Lynch I 2001 I USA
Dreams. Illusions. Hopes. Fantasy. Hallucinations. Reality. The subconscious. These are the subject matters which constitute Mulholland Dr., a film that will leave you both shaken and astounded. Perhaps ambiguous would be the perfect word to describe it, because Mulholland Dr. is one of those films that makes you go "What the hell did I just watch?" while at the same time asking many questions without feeling the need to answer some of them, thus letting the viewer find out for himself.
After I finished watching the film, not only was I totally blown away; I was very confused, too. However, there's no denying that Lynch, master of the surreal and the bizarre, has crafted a seductive masterwork that is as intriguing as it is impressive, as bewildering as it is extraordinary. No wonder he was nominated for a Best Director Academy Award.
The film begins with a mysterious dark-haired woman (Laura Elena Harring) who emerges from an accident with a purse full of cash and a head full of amnesia. Meanwhile, Betty Elms (Naomi Watts), a wide-eyed girl from Deep River, Ontario, has just landed in Los Angeles with dreams of movie super stardom. When Betty finds the nameless beauty in her aunt's apartment, she is deeply intrigued by the situation and offers to help her. This sends the two women on a bizarre search for the truth through the macabre, sun-soaked streets of the City of Angels, where the mob, a young film director (Justin Theroux), a studio executive with a tiny head, and an enigmatic figure named the Cowboy all float into the picture, then out again, until there is no longer any distinction between what is dream and what is reality.
Mulholland Dr. is arguably Lynchs finest and one of his richest films. Rich in the sense of the many ingredients that are thrown into the mix, because the film doesn't belong to any specific genre in particular; rather, it contains a bit of everything. It's a psycho sexual thriller, a drama, a mystery, a romance, a black comedy, and a Hollywood allegory - but mostly, although at first glance it may not seem so, it's a horror, and a very effective one at that. The picture delivers a tense, spine-chilling atmosphere, filled with an overwhelming sense of dread and a potent presence of unworldly evil. It's full of weird characters (what were you expecting from a Lynch film?), and off-beat situations. It's this nightmarish and ever-menacing tone that Lynch provides to the film which makes it so distinguishingly sinister. Throughout the film you're constantly uneasy because you're aware that something is sooner or later going to occur, but you don't know what or exactly when. Or perhaps it's only because there's an endless sense of expectedness which makes it so discomforting. Angelo Badalamenti's wonderful score is one of the principal elements that takes this into being as it proves to be one of the most important components of the film. Also, the cinematography is outstanding; making inventive use of the steady cam and point-of-view shots and abundant with dozens of extreme close-ups and flashy edits, it helps the film in further developing the feel to it.
Regarding the acting, the two leads are very good. Naomi Watts is simply remarkable and even more so as her own character changes and alters as the film goes. She's sexy, vulnerable, strong; this is some very impressive stuff indeed. And Laura Elena Harring is equally good, although she sometimes seems to be more concentrated on her chest than on her own acting. But that's not a problem, because she certainly is an excellent actress. Theroux is also a stand out as the young Hollywood director, and so are the other characters who (apparently) don't have much to do with the film. The tramp, the mean movie executives, the two men at Winkies; all add up to Lynch's disturbing story.
It isn't until youre introduced to all the characters that you suddenly realise that you don't know what's going on. One does not quite comprehend where the film is leading us or who the characters really are, because, given that this is a typical Lynch film, not everything has to make sense. But really, nothing does. It doesn't matter whether you're paying attention to the picture or not; even if youre wholly focused, like I was (or thought I was), the film will end and you will be left with a mental donut the size of a jet engine. Some might think the entire thing is pure mumbo-jumbo nonsense that even the most intelligent individual with an IQ of 472 wouldn't be able to decipher, but, of course, they'd be wrong. The film needs to be viewed multiple times in order to really understand it and get some concrete ideas and conclusions. Many viewers will surely be frustrated at the (seeming) lack of cohesion and explanation and be frustrated at the amount of work that needs to be done to watch this film.
There are clues all over the place, but still, the story is perplexing (and very) but deliberately so. It dares to do things no other picture has ever done, it tests us to the limit, it laughs at us, it mocks us because of our misunderstanding or rather, our not understanding. One can feel Lynch behind the camera, a broad and malicious smile upon his face, contemplating his audience, observing their interminable confusion - it's almost palpable. Because, let's face it, though the story is baffling, Lynch really knows what he's doing. With confidence, lots of passion for the material, and making use of everything at his disposal Lynch confuses us with a confusing story yet also manages to tell it in the most haunting way. And isn't that what cinema was made for; to scare us, to make us sad, to excite us, to disturb us, to puzzle us?
Mulholland Dr. is one of the most unusual films I have ever come to witness. Im telling you, you've never seen anything like it. It's electrifying, bewitching, sublime, a dreamscape of mesmerising proportions. What makes it so special is that you can think or talk about it, see it innumerable times, analyse it to the point of exhaustion. But, at the end, youll always be wondering, you'll always have that empty spot in your mind. You'll never stop asking yourself, "What the fuck?" And if that's precisely what Lynch intended for, there's no getting around it; he has succeeded.