Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.
Oh, my poor, naïve brain. Here I thought I’d go through life with Southland Tales being the weirdest, most unexplainable film I’d ever seen. No, leave it to David Lynch to concoct something more convoluted, more twisted in upon itself. Mulholland Drive is possibly a fever dream, possibly an endless loop of repeating time, and possibly both. Okay, I’m overstating my confusion a bit, but Mulholland Drive is not an easy thing to work through.
I don’t know where to begin in terms of synopsis of this film, which is precisely why I compared it with Southland Tales. Rather than going chronologically, it’s probably a better idea to do this in terms of story line. Hell, the film isn’t chronological, so I may as well not be. There are a lot of things going on here, and rarely is anything what it seems.
A woman (Laura Harring) is being driven in a limousine. It stops suddenly and she is threatened. It appears that her drivers are going to kill her, but a group of joyriding teens comes over the hill and smashes into the limo. It appears that everyone but the woman is killed. She wanders away with minor injuries, eventually finding her way into an apartment.
Meanwhile, Betty (Naomi Watts) arrives in Hollywood. She is planning on living in her aunt’s apartment and hopes to start a film career. As it turns out, the unnamed woman from the start of the film has made it into Betty’s aunt’s place. They determine that the woman is an amnesiac. She has no identification in her purse. Instead, she has a massive amount of money and a blue key. They slowly start to look for clues to put her identity together. The woman starts calling herself “Rita” based on a poster of Gilda. Rita recalls the name Diane Selwyn, and the two go to this new woman’s apartment, but find her several days dead on her bed.
A film director named Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) is planning his new film. He is being pressured to accept an unknown actress named Camilla Rhodes. He doesn’t want to and balks. He soon discovers not only that all of his funding and money have been cut off, he also finds his wife in bed with the pool guy. Eventually, he decides to cast Camilla, and everything seems to be back on track.
Finally, an incompetent hitman (Mark Pellegrino) kills a man for a black address book. His incompetence forces him to kill a couple of other people as well.
And then, Rita and Betty go to a club called Silencio and everything changes. Everything. Identities, roles, personalities, and just about everything else. Of course, it’s here where the real meat of the story happens, where any meaning or purpose for this film can be gleaned. And of course, it’s the part of the film that I’m not going to go into a lot of detail on. Mulholland Drive is a film that I think really needs to be experienced rather than read about. I’m not even going to put it under a spoiler tag. No, if you haven’t seen it, you probably should.
I’m very much put in mind of two of Polanski’s “Apartment Trilogy” films--Repulsion and The Tenant, especially the latter. Like that film, Mulholland Drive has an element of cyclical time, or time curved in on itself. Even the nature of the changing identities of the people in the drama reflect this earlier Polanski film, as does the slowly dawning, slowly revealed horror of the situation. Lynch has cited Polanski as an influence, and I’d cite this film as definitive proof.
Beyond the obtuse nature of the film, Mulholland Drive has many of the hallmarks of Lynch’s other works. This is especially true in the nature of the acting, which is frequently wooden in the extreme. And yet it’s a wooden style of acting that is somehow different from the norm. It’s an obvious woodenness, an intentional thing, or at least to me it often comes across as intentional.
Lynch’s films, and I admit I haven’t seen them all, often have a strange undercurrent of some otherness to them. It’s not specifically evil in the classic sense of the word. Instead, it’s more a sense of violation of the norm, an impression that something fundamental has shifted in a very unnatural way. The dream-like reality (or the very real dream world, if you prefer) of Mulholland Drive contains that throughout. Even if the most obvious reading of the film is the true one, there is still this sense of time folded over on itself, and necessary events playing out multiple times because of necessity.
I’m sure I only half understand it. But Lynch is a fascinating director, if only because his incomprehensibility is just so damnably interesting.
Why to watch Mulholland Drive: Because it’s David Lynch.
Why not to watch: It might be incomprehensible. Or not.