Mulholland Dr. (2001) (R)
David Lynch is not one of my favorite directors and just in fairness, if you say that he is one of yours, I will file you away into the "super-film-snob/pretentious-hipster" category in my brain. Why this strong of a reaction? Well, because his films serve no larger narrative purpose. "Blue Velvet" is just about being creepy and the horrors of suburbia, "Eraserhead" makes absolutely no sense and just seems like the tortured moments of a mind gone out of control and "Mulholland Dr." is less about the narrative tricks and stunts that the movie can pull of—in time jumps and shifting characters—and more about the emotions conveyed.
So Lynch is like Malick...well, I disagree. Malick tends to actually have a narrative, the breathy voice-over and beautiful cinematography add to his emotions but there is always a narrative that pays off, even in "The Tree of Life". Lynch on the other hand injects noir into "Mulholland Dr." and makes a mystery, one that will never be unlocked though your brain tries its hardest to.
And even though that's unfair and that, in interviews, Lynch himself seems more interested in the concept of the stories a road might have than what his movie is actually about, I found myself not caring about the payoff. Because the movie does payoff, and it latches onto your mind like a tick. Not a pleasant analogy but one that is very apt, it festers in your brain, not letting go, like much of the movie.
Lynch's surrealism lends its hand to the film which began as a spin-off of "Twin Peaks", destined for the small screen but when production cut it off and it shifted hands, it became one of the more critically famous movies of the 21st century.
And the question becomes: why?
Well, hell if I know.
Because that's the feeling you get when you're watching it, no doubt (as I was) noting the differences in how Naomi Watts presents herself. How she goes from a sunshine/happiness version of the good girl gone west to catch her dream, into something far more odious as Lynch's madness takes over. He could be a horror director, because everything eventually unwinds and the viewer is left literally with pieces, attempting to piece them together. Can you think of anything more cruel than being denied understanding to something so fascinating?
Yet it's a hell of a ride.
The movie opens to a car crash, a beautiful woman (Laura Elena Harring) stumbles out of the wreckage and teeters towards the city underneath her. She seems terrified and finds that her memory has disappeared. Then she bumps into Betty (Watts) who is staying at her aunt's place and pursuing her dreams of becoming and actress. Those dreams may become a little sidetracked as the movie plows, steadily and very controlled, towards a conclusion no one can predict because, let's face it, exactly what the hell happens in the movie?
Maybe I shouldn't try to summarize the plot, because that seems like an exercise in futility. The film is dark, haunting, even hypnotic the way it takes you, with our lead heroines, to a place of mental exhaustion trying to linearly and logically explain everything.
The problem is that "Mulholland Dr.", even as the unfulfilling and complex mess that it is, could work better as a TV series, or a longer movie. There are certain story lines that are brought up and discarded only to be briefly mentioned at the end when it seems like time is running short and an ending must be forced.
With all that, like, you should definitely watch this movie. If only to understand what the fuss is about. I'm sure there are many great college essays waiting to be written on it, or maybe they already have been.
Posted by Micah Jones