“Oh! I can’t believe it!” are the first lines in David Lynch’s psychological neo-noir masterpiece, and what an accurate summation of my feelings for the rest of the film. Originally conceived as a television series, “Mulholland Drive” is a dreamy, cerebral art-house-esque flick that struck it big with critics and movie buffs in 2001. This surrealist’s dream movie is almost incomprehensible, and as things unravel and reveal themselves in the movie, there is only less to understand if you’re a casual movie goer. You could argue that essentially there is no plot, and I understand where that argument comes from, but I disagree with that statement. The film paints itself as merely a simple story, but in that story there is in fact an intricate, multilayered plot. It is required, however, to delve deep within this movie’s complex structure to find this plot.
On the surface the film is the tale of an amnesiac, played by Laura Harring, who arrives in her state of amnesia from a car accident, and the perky Hollywood hopeful Betty, played by Naomi Watts in a breakthrough performance. Watts is incredible and is able to play a very polarized character, with Harring being a great support that can be both innocent and menacing. Together, the two try to discover the identity of Harring and are pulled into a psychotic illusion involving a blue box, a director named Adam Kesher (played by Justin Theroux), and a mysterious night club named Silencio. It may seem somewhat complicated and convoluted just reading about it, but Lynch is able to create an appearance of subtlety and nuance that when watching it, the movie seems rather undeveloped and many things can be seriously overlooked and unfairly judged. But trust me, it is complicated.
David Lynch has never revealed the true meaning of “Mulholland Drive”, and I hope he keeps it that way. I have my ideas on what it all means and what it’s about, but that wouldn’t be fun to say, now would it, kiddos? I’ll just say that what appear to be unrelated vignettes are not that at all; the surrealist, hallucinatory nature and offenses against narrative order of the film can just make it hard to see its coherence. It’s a liberating movie in terms of the aforementioned narrative order, if that makes sense. In fact, it’s liberating from sense in general; you don’t just watch it and understand it, it has to be experienced and felt in order to form an opinion of it.
With this movie, Lynch was also able to prove that he is a master director. Lynch, much like cinema God Alfred Hitchcock, is able to create suspense out of thin air, whether it be through his experimentations with sound, or his uncomfortable handheld shots. With “Mulholland Drive”, David Lynch, again much like Hitchcock, is the puppeteer, and we are his puppets, reacting to everything he wants us to react to, exactly how he wants us to react. And boy, I have never been so happy to be used like that in my entire life! Maybe one reason some people don’t like this movie is because they don’t feel in control. Lynch may create the illusion that the viewer is in control, but that’s a fallacy, he is always one step ahead of us.
David Lynch’s knowledge of the mind never ceases to amaze me, and he exercises his ability with grace in “Mulholland Drive”. Whatever one thinks of the movie (“pretentious” as Colby would most likely say and “genius” as I would put it) does not matter. Lynch accomplished what he set out to do, and it is no surprise to me that he has only attempted one more feature length project beyond this (2006’s “Inland Empire”), and while “Inland Empire” was a good movie, it will never live up to what Lynch accomplished in the fateful year of 2001. If you have yet to see it, do it; “Will ya do that for me?” Signing off, I’m Matt Hamilton, and I hate books (and mainstream cinema.)
Tags: We Hate Books