' ' Cinema Romantico: Mulholland Drive

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Mulholland Drive

David Lynch movies have never been my favorite rides at the amusement park. Oh, I've tried. Lord knows, I've tried. "Wild At Heart". "Blue Velvet". "Lost Highway". All these viewings were filled with bewildered head scratching, baffled eye squinting, and such. The British film critic Paul Taylor has said Lynch's films are "to be experienced rather than explained." Fair enough. I experienced them. I didn't enjoy the experience. Thus, I had not experienced his "Mulholland Drive" (2001). But then it turned up on a bounty of decade end best of lists. My colleague Castor of Anamolous Material named it his #1 film of the 00's. On the flip side, I could not forget my friend Daryl's memorable email the morning after he first saw "Mulholland Drive" which took the form of an open letter to Mr. Lynch and contained many memorable phrases, including: "Once the movie was over, my wife and I broke down the timeline, re-shuffling the movie into its correct order so we could analyze your brilliance. When we were done, there was one missing piece I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then I realized what it was. I couldn’t figure out at exactly what moment you made the worst movie in history." I Netflixed it anyway.

So early on we find a movie director named Adam (Justin Theroux) at a meeting where a couple of very strange men - one who is an espresso hound, one who is Dan Hedaya - have turned up to advise Adam and his producers that a particular woman will be cast in Adam's latest film. Adam is not pleased. Then the espresso hound is brought his beverage of choice by a portly waiter. Then the espresso hound asks for a napkin. The portly waiter brings it to him. At this point the portly waiter, standing in this room with a director who is mad that he has been told who he will be casting in his own movie and with Dan Hedaya staring down Adam and with this very strange espresso hound, assumes a look that is best described as Terrified Confusion. Thus, he quickly pivots and gets the hell outta there. This illustrates how I often feel watching David Lynch movies. Terrified Confusion. What in the world is going on here? And while often I want to make like the portly waiter and flee the room, I end up staying, sometimes for better, usually for worse. "Mulholland Drive", I think, was for the better.

Okay, brace yourself, here goes: a beautiful woman (Laura Elena Harring) is in the back of a limo traversing the road giving the film its title high above glittering L.A. when the driver stops, points a gun at her and orders her out. Except just as she steps out a couple cars of wild, unruly teenagers smash into the limo and send it flying. This beautiful woman somehow survives, albeit slightly injured and now with amnesia, and wanders away from the wreck and down into L.A. and takes refuge in a home where its owner just happens to be leaving for an apparent trip of some sort.

This is the same home where lovely Betty (Naomi Watts) will be staying, as it belongs to her aunt, as she attempts to make it as an actress in Tinseltown - already with an audition lined up. But when she finds this beautiful woman in the house - this beautiful woman who assumes the name Rita on account of a nearby Rita Hayworth poster - Betty, displaying a seriously plucky attitude, will determine to assist Rita in figuring out who she is and, of course, why her purse is packed full with stacks of cold, hard cash.

And all of that is only about 18,000 feet up Everest.

See, this is sort of a perfect film for a viewer like me, so far as I detest, as I've mentioned before, playing the Guess Ahead Game when watching a movie. I much prefer to immerse myself in the moment. Oh, you could play the Guess Ahead Game watching "Mulholland Drive." Play away. Be my guest. It's not going to get you anywhere. The questions that have been poured over for the last nine years in reference to this film I do not think could ever be definitively answered. (My colleague Castor has gone stunningly in depth on this topic.) It's a fantasy that makes an about-face into reality. Or is it the other way around? Or is it all reality? Or is it all fantasy? Or is it something else? But what the heck else could it be? What is so wonderful about "Mulholland Drive" is that does not appear to have any interest in truly answering these questions.

I hated "Shutter Island" because it was nothing more than an elaborately designed puzzle assembled specifically to SHOCK the audience. Every scene prior to the reveal of this one gigantic puzzle piece exists solely to both hide the "twist" and make it "apparent" on repeat viewings. It's not a story. It's a science experiment. I suppose in theory "Mulholland Drive" has a gigantic reveal in the third act but I do not believe, not even for a second, that this was David Lynch's prevaling concern.

What I watched was a movie in which you could get fully lost (like a dream - hmmmmm....), a filmmaker in complete command of his craft, staging scenes that - regardless of how they fit into whatever happens at the end - are put together so meticulously and with such assuredness they are breathtaking to behold. A hit gone amazingly, and hilariously, awry. A jilted husband taking out his frustration on the wife's precious jewels. The most eerie magic show any man, woman or child has ever seen. (If there are any questions with this movie it should be why are there only, like, 14 people at this magic show if they can perform magic like that?) A moonlit rendezvous with a dude named The Cowboy ("How do I meet this cowboy? Ride on out to the range?"). A movie audition implementing Linda Scott's celestial pop tune "I've Told Ev'ry Little Star" (which is made even more riveting by the fact Lauren Reed is the one lip-synching to it).

Do I really want to waste my time considering David Lynch's "point" or what he was trying to "say" or what is fantasy and what is reality when there is such sinister, sweltering splendor filling every inch of the frame? It goes all the way back to that Paul Taylor quote - how Lynch's movies are "to be experienced rather than explained."

You want explanations? You want to know why all of the sudden Betty has morphed into Diane Selwyn and why Rita has been made over into Camilla Rhodes? You want to decipher the deeper meaning of the blue key? You want to know more about this freaky monster apparently lurking behind Winkies Diner? You want to know who in the name of Roy Rogers was the Cowboy? To simultaneously borrow a word from the movie itself and quote Juno Macguff: "Silencio, old man!" Enough with the questions! The Loch Ness Monster will always be better served by idiot scientists refraining from getting in the water and trying to prove for or against and weren't the polar bears on "Lost" a whole lot cooler when you had no idea why they were there?

Forget about trying to put that puzzle together and just let the various pieces lay scattered about on the coffee table. Look at them. Aren't they beautiful?


Castor said...

Very-well written review. Glad you didn't hate it :) Even though this movie is David Lynch's most straightforward film, it is probably impervious to complete and definite analysis. It may even be possible that Lynch himself doesn't really know the meaning of it all...

Wretched Genius said...

Sorry, but I'm still in the really small camp of people who hated Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive, yet loved Lost Highway and Wild at Heart (the former because it makes perfect sense once you figure out what is going on, and the latter because it's batshit insane and is basically Lynch's "just for fun" movie).

Danny King said...

I share a lot of similar thoughts with you on "Mulholland Drive," although I have not seen any other of Lynch's films yet. I rewatched "Mulholland" for a second time recently, and while my problems with the story remain, I found it to be incredibly watchable. It is undoubtedly an immersive experience, and I would have no problem going back and watching it again. But I have a feeling my issues with the story will never fade away.

My Other Brother Daryl said...

At immediate conclusion of this movie, I went back to college in an attempt to grasp the subtle nuances of quantum physics, hoping to harness the awesome power of time travel. After completing construction of a mechanized time/space-shattering conveyance vehicle (a time machine, if you will), I planned to go back in time and kill the infant version of myself, to prevent any chance of ever seeing this film. Whether because time travel is impossible or because I keep dropping out of school, I have yet to accomplish this task, but I always keep hoping. Wait, is that the point of this movie? To never stop striving for time-travel-based suicide? Holy crap, I think I get it now. No wonder Billy Ray Cyrus was there.

Nick Prigge said...

I'm pretty sure if David Lynch himself looked at these four comments he would smile, nod and say, "Yup. That's exactly what I was going for."

Wretched Genius said...

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My Other Brother Daryl said...

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