Mulholland Dr. (2001)

Mulholland Drive will appeal to aficionados of David Lynch, but for those who merely like his movies – or, worse, haven’t seen any of them (Elephant Man, Eraserhead, Dune, Lost Highway), it’ll be a thoroughly incomprehensible mess. I suspect it’s not, really, but figuring it out calls for mental powers the like of which I’ll never have. The movie does more than merely blur the line between reality and fantasy, it obliterates it.

For about two thirds of the film, everything sort of makes some kind of sense. It’s weird enough, sure, but it seems to follow some logic. Then Something happens, and the movie goes off the rails. Intentionally, I’m sure – it’s the kind of movie for which clues are very, very subtle, and it’s entirely up to the viewer to piece them together. Even so, different viewers will come up with different explanations for the events in Mulholland Drive.

The basic gist is this: Betty Elms (Naomi Watts), fresh off the plane from Canada, arrives in Hollywood to make her fortune as an actress, along with approximately 40,000 other ingenues each year (taken from the Great Book of Stats I’ve Made Up). She has it a little easier than most novices, though, in that she gets to stay in the nice apartment of her aunt, an actress who’s conveniently out of town and has permitted Betty to stay. Ah, but Betty quickly discovers that she’s not alone – there’s a naked woman in her shower, and it turns out she’s an amnesiac. The woman takes the name of Rita from a nearby movie poster, and Betty decides to help her find out who she is while keeping nosy neighbors out of the loop.

Now, the viewer knows that Rita was in a car accident on the titular road in the opening scene of the movie. She was being driven in a limo, and the driver pulled the car over and pulled a gun on her. Before he can shoot, though, two drag racing cars careen around the turn, and one smashes into Rita’s car, killing everyone except her. She subsequently wanders into Los Angeles itself and hides out at Betty’s aunt’s place.

As with most Lynch movies, though, nothing is what it seems. All Rita has in her purse is a mysterious, oddly shaped blue key – and stacks of money. When she and Betty visit a diner, Rita thinks she recognizes the waitress’s first name – Diane – and maybe even flashes on a full name, Diane Selwyn. Could Rita be Diane? The ladies figure out Selwyn’s phone number and call it, but they get a recording. Then they visit it, but when they find the woman’s apartment, they find Selwyn had switched with someone – and at THAT apartment, they find a dead body.

But that’s not where it gets weird. In the middle of the night, Rita wakes up with the word Silencio on her lips, and she brings Betty to a strange club with the same name. In what’s been described as the most moving sequence in the film, the women watch an interesting performance – first an emcee tells them that “There is no band” and that all is just a tape, and then a singer belts out a Spanish version of Rob Orbison’s “Crying,” which apparently has quite an effect on Rita (who cries) and Betty (who shakes). After the performance, Rita discovers she has a small blue box, and back at the apartment she opens it. And that’s about when the movie goes completely nutso.

What does it all mean? I do not know. Who are all of these people? I do not know. I don’t know much about this movie, and I just saw the thing. I fear it’s entirely beyond my comprehension, but I did find a good analysis of it here; it’s a fairly in-depth analysis, although naturally it doesn’t answer everything.

I like mysteries. I like having to figure things out, but I don’t particular enjoy movies that have a zillion possibilities, depending on how the viewer wishes to interpret things. Or, if that’s how the movie’s going to be, I kind of wish the clues made some sort of sense. Otherwise, it’s just a cacophony of white noise – nothing makes sense, so nothing is there.

I have to give this a fairly low score, but truthfully, if you’re a Lynch fan you should bump it up a star.



5 Responses to “Mulholland Dr. (2001)”

  1. Chris Says:

    I’m curious to see how you’d review Blue Velvet….

    I was going to reserve my personal belief until I heard from you, but I know that my opinion wouldn’t sway how you view the movie. I’m a huge David Lynch fan, everything he’s made, including Mulholland Dr. However, I absolutely couldn’t stand Blue Velvet, which ostensibly is his biggest masterpiece.

    Like I said, I’m curious how you saw it (or would see it?).

  2. frothy Says:

    Well, I liked it. But I can definitely see why people wouldn’t care for it at all. David Lynch’s movies are tough to love anyway, and BV was so nasty in spirit I can see how it might turn off people.

    I’ve never been a superfan of his stuff; it’s not that I don’t like his movies, I just don’t love ’em. I think they’re a little over my head.

  3. Chris Says:

    Yeah. I by no means try to feign understanding, but I see his films in the same vein I see some songs (Bob Dylan most notably): I appreciate the art but it’s really up to you to make your own interpretation. I suppose one could spend a great deal of time figuring out exactly what they mean, but it’s almost more fun gathering a group of people and talking about what you think it means. Gives you a sense of aptitude, I suppose, though in reality you’re probably way off. However, in everything but BV there seemed to be at least one theme that was stressed, and BV reminded me of Magnolia or Waking Life: pointless pretentiousness.

    I don’t see Waking Life listed, I would highly discourage seeing it if you haven’t already :).

    Also, I meant to write this last night but forgot: I don’t disagree with all of your stuff, I don’t know how my comments come across. I actually agree with most, but in the epic sized blog you have all I’ve felt compelled to respond to as of yet have been the few I disagree with your ratings or thoughts on, but trust me, I’m not here to try to bash you and your taste. Merely interact with another fan of cinema.


  4. frothy Says:

    Wasn’t a fan of Magnolia, but Waking Life is in my Netflix queue. Of course, it’s currently waaayy down there..

    Oh, don’t worry about bashing anything – I’m just pleased someone’s replying. Thanks again!

  5. chrisv Says:

    If you found this incomprehensible, you might want to pass on Inland Empire. Actually it makes Mulholland look nice and linear. I’m still trying to absorb it, but at times Empire was brilliant. And as with all the best Lynch stuff there are at least one or two scenes that I’ll probably have nightmares about (the finale of Twin Peaks still freaks me out).

    Agree with the comment on Blue Velvet: hated it.

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