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382 of 399 people found the following review helpful
on April 28, 2003
Format: DVD
I won't bother to add to the already monolithic body of glowing reviews of this film; I think it is a masterful work, equivalent to and perhaps surpassing "Blue Velvet" in artistic merit. I am writing mostly because many of those who claim that they hated the film because it "doesn't make sense," or loved it even though it is "open to interpretation" may not have taken heed of the clues David Lynch included in the DVD sleeve. They clearly reveal the logic of the film to those who take the requisite time to think them through. My review is essentially one giant "spoiler," so if you haven't seen the film, take heed.

The film most certainly does "make sense" and follows a completely rational and logistically valid plot structure. The film begins with a stylized jitterbug contest behind the opening credits, showing Naomi Watt's character (Diane Selwyn) winning a trip to LA from her native Canada to tryout for a Hollywood production. We then see the suggestion of a sleeping figure (Diane again) in red sheets prior to the start of her dream, which opens with the hypnotic figure of a limosine traveling down a dark road, containing Diane's idealization of her real-life paramour, Camilla Rhodes. In reality, Camilla is Diane's former lesbian lover, who betrayed her by stealing the coveted role in the film Diane unsuccessfully tried out for, and spurned her affections for the director of the film. Diane is so jealous and infuriated that she hires a hitman to kill Camilla; when the two meet to discuss the deal, the hitman says he will leave a blue key on her coffee table to signify that Camilla has been successfully dispatched. The film's dream sequence begins after Diane has received the key, and Diane's fantasies of a happier outcome are manifest in what we see.

In her dream, she is her idealized self, free of insecurities, more innocent and charismatic--nailing her tryout for the film, but explaining "Camilla's" victory by the influence of the mafia ("Camilla" in the dream is replaced by a woman whom the real-life Camilla tauntingly kisses at a party to infuriate Diane). Other characters who represent real-life counterparts also resurface in the dream, in various roles: "Coco," played by Ann Miller, is actually the film director's mother, the man terrified of the ghoul behind Winkie's is an accomplice of Diane's hired hitman, and the mafiosos played by Dan Hedaya and Angelo Badalamenti were other attendees of the humiliating party where Camilla taunts Diane with news of her engagement to the director. In the dream, Diane refashions her hitman as a bungling idiot who botches Camilla's murder, subsequently leaving Camilla helpless with amnesia for who she is or where she came from so that "Betty," Diane's counterpart in the dream, can become her heroine, and have a utopian, romantic love affair with her.

Throughout the dream, omens occur that suggest the truth behind Diane's fantasy; the forboding man behind Winkie's, Lee Grant's wacko Cassandra-character with her warnings of trouble, the Cowboy, and the MC at the late-night Cabaret who insists that all is not as it seems. The blue key becomes expressionistically rendered in the dream, and opens the proverbial Pandora's Box, at which time Diane mysteriously disappears from her own dream, leaving Camilla alone to open the box--and then Lynch imposes a couple of his haunting frame shifts, here done with lighting effects, before the Cowboy enters Diane's bedroom, telling her "it's time to wake up, pretty girl."

Now we see Diane's reality when she awakens, and evidence of her crushing guilt (notice her initial relief when she hallucinates that Camilla has returned from the dead, and her subsequent breakdown when she realizes the truth). Eventually, the gravity of what she has done overwhelms her when she realizes that the police want her for questioning, and the old couple from her dream, whom I presume represent her conscience, are released by the demon behind Winkie's (that is, she loses her sanity). Her demons chase her to her bedroom, where she hysterically grabs a gun from her nightstand, and takes her own life.

Check out Lynch's clues--there's much more to them than what I've included here. He's a master--I don't think he produces a frame of film without agonizing over it for weeks, and I highly doubt someone who produced something as lovingly detailed as this film let any inconsistencies or gaffes slip past him. What a movie this is--I'll never forget it.
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708 of 754 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2002
Format: DVD
Don't listen to anyone who tells you that this movie is impossible to understand. That's not true. Difficult, yes...especially on first viewing, but there is method to David Lynch's madness and there is an explanation to be found for those willing to look.

Mulholland Drive is a brilliantly structured film even though the structure is unconventional. Basically the first two hours play out as the dream of a very troubled young woman by the name of Diane Selwyn. In the final 30 minutes we are taken into Diane's reality. Mullholland Drive is a very disturbing portrait of the inner world of a woman about to commit suicide and we learn about her life and what led her to murder and suicide through the dream imagery of the first two hours.

What confuses many people the first time they see Mulholland Drive is that David Lynch doesn't use the normal cinematic techniques to tip his audience off that they are watching a dream segment. In fact, the dream plays out in fairly conventional linear fashion while it is the reality portion of the film that plays out in non-linear form, jumping back and forth in time and introducing psychotic hallucinations as well. This further blurs the line between reality and fantasy in this film.

Contrary to popular belief Mulholland Drive is actually very intricately plotted, although the narrative is not readily apparent on the first viewing. The dream portion is a mirror image of reality and it displays a reversed reflection of Diane's real world. A few examples: In the dream Rita exits the limousine and walks downhill; in reality Diane exits the limousine and walks uphill. In the dream Aunt Ruth is alive; in reality Aunt Ruth is dead. In the dream Adam Kesher's world is spinning out of control and he is losing everything; in reality Adam Kesher's world is very much in control and he has everything. In the dream the hitman is incompetent; in reality he turns out to be all too competent. In the dream Camilla is alive and Diane is dead; in reality Diane is alive and Camilla is dead.

Betty is, of course, the idealized dream version of Diane. She's a prettier, more wholesome, and more talented version of Diane. However, Diane is not Betty in her dream as most people automatically assume...she's Rita.

Mulholland Drive is a challenging and haunting film that I believe will only rise in stature as the years go by. David Lynch spoonfeeds nothing to his audience but challenges them to explore the nightmarish inner world of Diane Selwyn for themselves and reach their own interpretations and conclusions. There are great rewards for those willing to do so.

Nov. 1, 2007 Edit:

I just watched Mulholland Drive again after a few years and I was kind of surprised to see this old review of mine written years ago at the top here. I do think my understanding and appreciation of the film has deepened over the years and, although I still believe most of what I originally wrote is correct, I'd probably modify it a bit, especially the part about Diane being Rita in her dream. I now believe that Betty and Rita both represented different parts of Diane: Betty was her idealized, innocent side while Rita was the darker, more seductive side that she believed would help advance her career in Hollywood. One of the saddest parts of the movie, in my opinion, is my belief that the very likeable and attractive Betty was the person that Diane could have been if not for her tragic childhood and the series of destructive choices she made in her life.

For those who've read and commented on my original review and are interested, here's a somewhat revised version that represents my current interpretation of the film.

Mulholland Drive is a rather chilling look into the psyche of a deeply disturbed and suicidal woman named Diane Selwyn who is guilt stricken over her involvement in the murder of her estranged lover. The entire movie takes place in her apartment over the course of a few hours on the day she commits suicide.

The first two hours is a dream Diane has during a heavy, drug-induced sleep that attempts to rewrite a happier, idealized version of herself and her life from the time she arrives in Hollywood, but gradually grows darker over time and eventually collapses back into her reality. The final part of the movie is her reality which is told through a series of flashbacks, memories, and psychotic hallucinations. First-time viewers often don't realize they're watching a dream since Lynch doesn't use the usual cinematic techniques (other than a brief first-person descent into a pillow at the beginning) to signal a dream sequence and this part of the film is told in fairly conventional linear sequence, while it's the reality part of the film that jumps around in non-linear fashion.

The dream portion is kind of a dark, twisted version of Dorothy's dream from the Wizard of Oz where she casts people she knows from her real life into various roles in her dream. But since her subconscious is the producer, writer, and director of the dream these people are just actors on her stage and everything is really about Diane and her life even if she doesn't appear to be represented in a scene. For example, there's no reason to believe that a wealthy film director like Adam Kesher would check into a fleabag hotel like the Park Hotel when he thought he still had access to all his money nor would he know the hotel manager by name. Diane, however, who had lived on the fringes of the Hollywood dream, might well be familiar with this kind of seedy hotel and its manager.

Once you realize that everything you're seeing in the first two hours springs from Diane's subconscious mind it's possible to take the clues and symbolism that Lynch plants in the dream and construct a remarkably deep and complex examination of Diane's life which also peels back the layers on a psyche that's been irreparably damaged by sexual molestation by her grandfather, prostitution, and a destructive relationship with an actress named Camilla Rhodes which ultimately leads to murder and suicide.

Mulholland Drive is not only David Lynch's masterpiece, it's one of the most chilling movies I've ever seen.
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111 of 117 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2002
Format: DVD
This movie was not intended to be shown in one sitting. Originally conceived as a television drama (much like Twin Peaks), it only became a film when it was not picked up for a television market. David Lynch then re-imagined what he had already created and worked to fashion a film, seeking foreign producers and a distributor that trusted him. While this short history of the genesis of the film does not explain its intricacies, perhaps it will help to soothe the frustrations of someone watching the film for the first time. Can you imagine trying to piece together the entire history of the X-Files in one 3 hour sitting? It would be difficult at best.
In my opinion, one big clue to the movie is in the opening shot (not the beginning credits, but the first "film" frame). It is of a pillow and a sheet...that quickly dissolves into a rather nostalgic ride down Mulholland Drive (the road that runs behind the famous HOLLYWOOD sign). The movie does not return the viewer to that shot ... of the pillow again until Diane wakes up nearly 5/8's of the way through the film. It can be assumed that this whole portion of the film has been one long dream, a dream that gives us a great deal of insight into the personal desires and fantasies of Diane. The rest of the film is a mish-mash of (in my opinion) drug-induced daydreams and paranoia, seen through the beer-bottle goggles of Diane. She over-emphasizes the importance of things she is suspicious of, and sees things that are not really there--ultimately leading to her making some bad decisions that she cannot deal with.
Several characters appear in both worlds (the dream, and the warped/drug altered reality of the end). These characters, we assume, have had some kind of impact on Diane's life. Her fantasy/inner vision of the characters is seen in her dream, the somewhat-subjective reality of them revealed only in the latter part of the film. There are really only two characters that are enigmas: the person behind the diner, and the cowboy. In my opinion, the person behind the diner represents a drug dealer (making things happen) whom Diane buys from (who controls Pandora's box). The cowboy, to me, represents the simple, logical, American person that Diane hopes is out there, striving to right the wrongs of LA.
The dream sequence is Diane's subconscious exploring her feelings for the people and places in her life, and rewriting her experiences in a version she likes better (she is an amazing actress, who is only deterred from certain stardom because of a conspiracy, and who loves someone that would love her fully too, if only she really knew who she was). When she wakes up, she must then come to terms with her life, and muddle through the confusing haze of people and relationships in her life within LA culture...confusing matters incredibly with her drug/fantasy/day dream visions.
The movie is a masterpiece of writing, direction, cinematography, and ultimately conviction to telling an unconventional story...Lynch, Herring, Watts and others never waver in their commitment to the story...even when it gets scary, erotic, or convoluted. The result is an incredibly entertaining and though-provoking experience that will leave you wanting to see it again and talk to others about it. The casting is largely from television actors and recognizable faces (no doubt attributed to the fact that the film was originally going to be a television series), revealing and introducing some amazingly talented actors and actresses (Naomi Watts--clearly stretching beyond the matronly parts she has previously played, Laura Elena Harring, Justin Theroux, and Dan Hedaya in the most obvious occurrences).
The DVD is an interesting example of the mind of David Lynch. It was his express directive that there be no chapter breaks in the movie. It was also his express directive to disallow additional information beyond a cast list and the trailer. His reasoning is that the additional material detracts from the experience of the film. And in this case, he is right. The additional material would allow the viewer to remove him or herself from the film, reminding them that it all was make-believe and without meaning. In his own way, by starving the viewer of these extra tidbits, Lynch has created even more of an enigma for viewers to question well into the future.
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53 of 55 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon March 10, 2004
Format: DVD
DO NOT read this review if you want to figure out the puzzle of Mulholland Drive on your own. You have been warned.
For those who are tired of being puzzled by it, here is the explanation.
One of the first shots of the movie -- right after the jitterbug credits -- is of a head falling to a pillow. Everything that follows after that -- until the cowboy says "It's time to wake up" is Diane's dream.
Here is what is real: Diane Selwyn(Naomi Watts)is a struggling actress. She became friends with Camilla Rhodes, a much more successful actress. The two became loves, then Camilla broke it off. Camilla gets together with Adam, her director, and at a dinner party the two announce their engagement (or perhaps they announce their pregnancy. It's ambiguous but doesn't really matter.) Diane is falling apart after breaking up with Camilla, and the announcement pushes her over the edge. She hires a hit man to take out Camilla. And then she falls asleep. And the dream begins.
Everything in the dream is some element of Diane's life rearranged so that she is the desirable one, the one in power and control. Betty -- Diane's dream-ego -- is innocent but clever, resourceful, and talented. The cowboy represents Diane's subsconscious; he is ultimately in control of everything. At one point he says, "a man's attitude goes some ways toward how a man's life will be." Definitely true of a dream sequence: one's attitude determines the reality of the dream. Diane's relationship with Camilla is rewritten so that Camilla is needy and Diane can help her. Diane's hatred of Adam is represented by her dreams' desire to strip him of power: the cowboy forces him to cast the lead role his way, while at the same time, he is oddly attracted to Betty. The director who once told Diane she wasn't any good instead tells Betty she is amazing -- but at the same time, Betty turns him down, going instead with the casting director who will take her bigger, better places.
The strange blue box is a subconscious representation of Diane's guilt over killing Camilla. Remember that the hit man used a blue key as the sign that the hit had taken place.
Teatro Silencio is both a signal from the director to the viewer and from Diane's subconscious to her conscious mind: what appears real is actually fake.
The scary man behind Winkie's is the truthteller, and everyone is afraid of him. He holds the blue box that is Diane's guilt, and from it runs her innocence -- symbolized by the nice people Betty meets on the plane to LA. Her former life.

Diane wakes up when her subconscious (the Cowboy) tells her to. Her neighbor comes over to collect the last of her stuff. She sees the blue key on the table which means the hit has taken place. But she is cracking; she also thinks she sees Camilla. As she continues to crack, she is terrorized by the spectors of her lost innocence (the old people) until she kills herself.
See? It all makes sense.
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2006
Format: DVD
I know others have explained or tried to explain this movie, but I think we need an explanation review every page. We owe it to this movie.

Here be spoilers:

-The first 3/4 of the movie is a dream.

-The last 1/4 of the movie is the REAL story told in flashbacks.
The real story is this...

-A girl from Canada named Diane moves to L.A. to become an actress after winning a jitterbug contest.(Beats me how jitterbugging can lead to a desire to act.) You see people jitterbugging at the beginning of the movie, then you see Diane winning the contest and posing with the judges/grandparents/elders of the town etc.

-In L.A. she meets another actress named Camilla Rhodes, who beats her out for a movie. Camilla is more popular and more talented.

-Diane falls in love with Camilla, and Camilla in turn gets Diane small parts in her films.

-Camilla eventually dumps Diane for a director named Adam who she is going to marry.

-Diane is so angry and hurt, she hires a hitman to kill Camilla.

-After Diane learns Camilla is dead, she goes into a drug-induced sleep where she dreams the first 3/4 of the film. In her dream she is the talented, loveable one who has to rescue her helpless lover, and where the man who stole the love of her life is financially ruined and stripped of his power by mobsters. Everyone in the dream are people Diane has seen in real life in the days leading up to the hit and her dream.

-After Diane wakes up, she is so shaken with remorse and guilt, she kills herself.

Symbols?

-The monster man behind Winkie's signifies Diane being haunted.

-The old couple are the judges/grandparents from the jitterbug contest and represent her past.

-The blue box and blue key represent the switch from fantasy back to reality.

Hence, the monster letting the couple out of the blue box at the end is the REALITY of her PAST, HAUNTING her, therefore, driving her to suicide.

I didn't need to look this explanation up on the Net. Just watching it a couple of times and actually thinking is what clued me in.

This is my favorite or second favorite movie. I fell in love with Naomi Watts after this. No other film she has done lives up to this one, not even 21 Grams or The Ring. It's sexy, suspenseful, and the film has a beating, quirky heart. It's a legitimate love story.

This movie is surrealistic, just like Follywood, I mean Hollywood. It's supposed to be real, but doesn't quite get there. Just like a dream.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Mulholland Drive can best be classified as a mystery. The ending of the movie, which forces the viewer to abandon the idea that the plot is a traditional mystery story, allows one to realize that the mystery runs still deeper--that we must look beneath the surface of events instead of taking them at face value. It is simply a great mystery film. The scenes, as well, are routinely well done--never superfluous. Two men uncover a nightmarish secret behind Winkies in a suspensful scene; the director Adam Kesher meets up with a mysterious man named simply "The Cowboy", who delivers chilling dialogue. On top of that, the film is filled with humor. The mobster with a hatred for bad espresso is particularly hilarious. And only David Lynch could make a gruesome triple homicide by an inept hitman so funny. The acting is also very good. Naomi Watts' performance is wonderful.

Part of the joy of watching this movie is figuring out what happened. The thrill of finally piecing together all the characters and events, and finally understanding how they all fit together, is one of the main things that makes Mulholland Drive so enjoyable to watch over and over. It is the type of movie that needs to be seen more than once to be appreciated, along the lines of movies like Memento.

With that said, I must warn the reader that I will be giving away vital clues and interpretations of the movie in the following review. Do not read further if you have not seen the movie. See the movie, come up with your own conclusions, and then read the reviews, looking for stuff you missed. That is truly the best way to watch the film, and to spoil the interpretation is to spoil the main draw of the movie.

Now, what happens in Mulholland Drive is that Diane Selwyn is having a dream prior to killing herself. In reality, she has had a short affair with Camilla, and she becomes embittered when Camilla gets a high profile role in Adam Kesher's movie and subsequently falls in love with him. She feels inadequate as an actress, and the viewer can sense her anguish as she watches Camilla and Adam announce their upcoming marriage. Angry and depressed, Diane hires a hitman to kill Camilla. He kills her, and Diane suddenly feels overwhelmed with guilt. She eventually commits suicide after waking from a dream in which she had attempted to hide her guilt and her flaws, only to have the dream collapse in a realization that it is in fact a dream, a misrepresentation, and that the reality is all-too terrible.

All these events, which are the reality, occur in short flashes of scenes at the end of the movie. The sustained narrative at the beginning is actually Diane's dream. The dream is Diane's attempt to rationalize her inadequacies and flaws, to forget her mistakes, and which ultimately gives voice to her regret and guilt.

Diane becomes Betty. Camilla becomes "Rita". And in the dream Camilla and Diane are reunited as Betty and Rita.

Everything is different in the dream. The hitman never manages to assassinate Rita (Camilla). Rita falls in love with Betty, even needs her, unlike in reality. Adam Kesher, a brash, young director who stole Camilla away in reality, becomes subject to all kinds of tortures--the mob casts his movie for him, his wife cheats on him with the pool boy, and he loses all his money. Betty, an idealized version of Diane, is naturally a great actress. In reality, Diane can only get secondary roles. A further rationalization of her acting flaws is given in the idea that the mob controls the movie production--the selection of the actress is not based on talent, but a threat of violence.

The whole idea of acting is also foreshadowing the fact that everything is a dream...nothing is real. The whole beginning narrative is only an act, a dream; it is not reality.

Now, David Lynch doesn't spell out this interpretation in big, bold letters. The viewer has to figure out that the main narrative is a dream on his or her own. But there is much foreshadowing. Following the opening scene depicting the jitterbug contest, we see the camera switch over to the first person perspective of someone breathing heavily and lying down to bed. The word "dream" is mentioned constantly throughout the film. Betty is living in the "city of dreams". The two men in Winkie's are brought there by a "dream" of something terrible there. The irony, of course, is that the men are the "dream" and the "reality" was the nightmare. Diane hires the hitman at Winkies. When the man finds a terrible, nightmarish homeless man behind the building, he is coming face to face with reality--with Diane's inner guilt. The most obvious clue that all was a dream, however, is the fact that Diane is shown waking up after the opening of the blue box.

The scene at club Silencio is also full of symbolism and foreshadowing. All is an illusion there. Everyone is acting, lip-synching to a recording. It is here that Betty finds the box that Rita's key can unlock--the box that, when opened, reveals the truth and unravels the dream. The spectacle they witness at the club, of the woman collapsing whilst her voice continues singing its terrible song, causes the dream to lose its consistency...the dreamer begins to realize that it is indeed a dream, an illusion.

Rita is obviously supposed to represent Camilla. But as the dream progresses, Rita more and more comes to represent Diane. Rita symbolizes Diane's inability to know herself...she has amnesia, has no idea who she really is--just as Betty has no idea who she really is, that she is just an act, a fake misrepresentation of Diane. When Betty and Rita fall in love, it at first represents Diane's wish to have Camilla love her...but eventually it symbolizes Diane's wish to love herself, to forgive herself for what she has done, to accept her flaws and inadequacies. This is why, as the movie progresses, Rita dons a blonde wig, like Diane and Betty. This is why, at the opening of the box, it is Rita who opens it, while Betty disappears. Betty is no longer needed; she is seen to be a false representation...the dreamer is too close to realizing the dream isn't reality, that all is illusion. It is Rita who doesn't know who she is, just as it is Diane who doesn't realize she is not actually Betty. And then the box opens, and all is clear. Rita is Diane...Betty is merely an idealized figment of the imagination.

All of the scenes only add to these themes. They are either manifestations of Diane's need to idealize herself, to explain her inadequacies--or they are manifestations of Diane's inner turmoil, her guilt and her fears.

We have all desired to rationalize our faults, to see ourselves as good, to forgive our own mistakes. Diane's emotions are universal, and the depiction of her descent into suicide, of her regret and her fears, magnified extraordinarily once the viewer figures out all the subtle aspects of the dream, is absolutely heart-rending.

Mulholland Drive is a great film, and I'd recommend it to anyone willing to sit and think about a film, to tackle an unconventional mystery whose solution is wonderfully satisfying.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2008
Format: DVD
David Lynch movies are usually love it or hate it affairs. Some think they are overindulgent ego trips, or pretentious, overly symbolic mishmoshes that need the cinematic equivalent of a Rosetta stone to decipher. Others, look on them as works of inscrutable genius. Lynch's range is actually quite remarkable. The 2 most normal and prosaic (in terms of plot structure) films he directed, THE ELEPHANT MAN and THE STRAIGHT STORY, exist at one edge of the Lynchian universe. At the other you have ERASERHEAD, WILD AT HEART, LOST HIGHWAY, and INLAND EMPIRE. David Lynch can be as coherent and sober as any other mainstream director, or he can be as wildly experimental and innovative as the most obscure artist. Elements of his style can be found in some of Spanish surrealist master Luis Bunuel's early films as well as the work of experimentalist Maya Deren. Although Lynch has asserted that he never consciously imitated anyone else, his admiration for movies like THE WIZARD OF OZ, SUNSET BOULEVARD, and REAR WINDOW, as well as the works of Kubrick, Fellini, and Bergman is well known, and themes and techniques from these are present in many of his own films. The 2 Lynch movies that fall somewhere close to center between the 2 creative poles, that blend artistic sensibility and originality with commercial accessibility, are BLUE VELVET and MULHOLLAND DR. They are mysterious puzzles, but also simply great movies that can be enjoyed on many levels, and like most Lynch films, better appreciated with repeated viewings.

MULHOLLAND DR. was the best film of 2001. It was the most daring, the most beautifully filmed, the bravest, and the most unsettling movie of that year. It had the grotesque elements Lynch is famous for. It had the sardonic humor typically present in his work. It also had from Naomi Watts, the best performance given by an actress that year. It's understandable, that people just scratch their heads and wonder what this movie was all about, but if they can separate the dream elements from the real, they will be on the right track. This is my interpretation so if you haven't seen the film yet and want to form your own opinions, skip the next 2 sections of this review.

Diane Selwyn was a small town Canadian girl who after winning a dance contest got the fame bug. After an aunt who worked in Hollywood died and left her money, Diane moved to Hollywood to try and make it as an actress. At an audition for "the Sylvia North Story" she met another more talented and glamorous actress named Camilla Rhodes who got the lead part. They became lesbian lovers. Diane took their relationship a lot more seriously than Camilla, who used sex more as a tool to advance her career. Camilla became a big star and kept getting small parts for Diane in her movies, but although wanting to remain friends, she tried to discourage the affair, especially after hooking up with a hot shot director (Adam Kesher). She invites Diane to a fateful dinner party at the director's house in the hills off of Mulholland Drive. At this party Diane relates her life up to this point. She sees characters at the party that will later populate a fateful dream. For example as she raises a cup of coffee to her lips she sees a character who in her dream will become a member of the mob who tries drinking an espresso and spits it out. She meets Kesher's mother who will become Coco Lenoix in her dream. She sees a cowboy that will become a controlling figure in the dream. It is also here that she sees Camilla kiss another actress (Camilla Rhodes in her dream) and hears the director make an important announcement regarding himself and Camilla. We don't actually hear the words of their impending marriage, because filmed from Diane's perspective the news has an impact on her much like the car crash we see at the beginning of the film. Diane knows that the lifeline to all her Hollywood dreams and aspirations has been severed, and she herself snaps. She meets a guy at Winkie's diner (Joe in her dream), gives him money and a photo of Camilla, saying "this is the girl" and is told to expect a blue key when the deed is done. After receiving the key, with the knowledge that her lover and benefactor is dead, Diane's paranoia is exacerbated by real guilt and her life quickly unravels. She hides away in her flat and has a dream. The first clue we are given in fact that most of the film deals with dream reality rather than temporal reality is in the title itself, MULHOLLAND DR., not MULHOLLAND DRIVE. We enter Diane's dreamworld at the beginning of the film (when the credits appear) and pretty much stay there for the first 2 hours. In the dream she is named Betty and Camilla is Rita (who took that name from a poster of Rita Hayworth). Rita becomes a victim of amnesia after a car crash on Mulholland Drive. The crash actually saved Rita from being shot by an unknown hitman. Everything in Diane's dream has relevance to her waking life, but some people inhabit different roles. Much of the material of the dream comes from reality but is refashioned by the subconscious and fueled by desires and emotions. In the dream state time, space, and identity exist in a state of flux. Diane can become Adam Kesher, who loses control of his life, has to hole up out of sight while sinister forces are looking for him, and has to be reminded by an angel figure "the cowboy" to adjust his attitude and go with the flow, something Diane in real life couldn't do. Diane's dream is part wish fulfillment and part retribution. In her dream Diane (Betty) is everything Camilla (Rita) was in life..talented, beautiful, in control, and on the way to stardom. She even catches the eye of the director Kesher on the set of "The Sylvia North Story". Conversely, in the dream Camilla (Rita) is the one who needs help from Betty to find her identity and avoid being caught and destroyed by sinister forces. Rita recalls the name Diane Selwyn, a person who may know her true identity. Betty and Rita track her down to a low rent apartment complex, but there they discover Diane Selwyn dead on her bed, a rotting corpse. The facial features of the corpse are distorted from decomposition so the dreamer Diane (Betty) is unaware she is witnessing both the result of her act of revenge (Camilla's body) and her own morbid future. Rita then decides to change her appearance by wearing a blond wig. There is an identity transposition in this dream, reminiscent of the one in Bergman's great film PERSONA..even a shot of Betty and Rita in bed after making love, where their 2 faces seem to merge into one. In real life, Diane not only depended on Camilla, she vicariously wanted to live her life, to be Camilla. So,in her dream Diane saves Camilla from death and makes her into this perfect lover and soulmate, everything she wished for in real life. In a reversal of roles she even has Camilla try to become Diane by donning the wig. The dream starts very well for Diane (Betty) but an eerily fateful early morning excursion with Rita to a place called Club Silencio clues them into the fact that it's all been an illusion, with the cold reality of death looming on the horizon. Diane's mind had directed a wonderful alternate reality, but the dream ends and she wakes up to a nightmare..the nightmare of her real life. The final half hour of the movie is Diane's last day in the temporal world, but even here time and reality are in flux as flashbacks and hallucinations predominate. Unlike her dream world, here her delusions are all bad, depressing, menacing, and fueled by an hallucinatory paranoia that ends in suicide.

Because a lot of what we see or hear in a Lynch film is a result of feeling and intuition rather than calculation, they are open to various interpretations. Lynch himself has often stated that he doesn't consciously understand everything he creates, but trusts in the emotional truth of it. As a human being he draws from a well of feeling accessible to all of us, so although we are not privy to the specific intentions of it's creator, his movies resonate with us on emotional as well as intellectual levels. They function as cinematic Rorschach tests for the viewer. We see what we want to see, and if it deeply affects us one way or the other, it has served it's purpose. The observer is emotionally connected , but part of the fun is playing detective and unraveling mysteries just as many of the leading characters do. Why did Diane become unhinged? What do the monster (bum) behind Winkies, the blue box, and the blue haired lady in the box above the stage at Club Silencio, represent? I have my own interpretations and there are many more floating around the web. There are subtle clues throughout the film that point to Diane having been a victim of sexual abuse by her grandfather as a child. This could partially explain her getting romantically involved with a woman instead of a man, having low self esteem, and violently lashing out when she feels abused and betrayed. I see the bum (monster) as Diane's self image after having Camilla killed. The image is one of horror and shame, an image she can't live with. It lurks behind Winkie's because that is where the hitman left the blue key after killing Camilla. It is where the demon inhabited her, where she became a monster. In other Lynch projects like TWIN PEAKS, the notion of an evil presence that can inhabit our bodies is very real. Lynch actually had a woman play the "monster". The man at Winkie's in her dream (Dan) who has this "awful feeling" and eventually dies at the sight of it is someone Diane actually saw in Winkie's at the time she paid off the hitman to kill Camilla. She sees him staring at her right after she acts on her demonic impulse to commit murder. This evil presence, call it the devil if you wish, is cunning. It can fool us into thinking it has our best interests at heart, send us an outwardly friendly but inwardly sinister old couple (who based on the jitterbug sequence before the opening credits are modeled after Diane's grandparents) to encourage us as we start our journey, and later release them as demons to hysterically mock us, and terrorize our fragile minds into committing the ultimate and final escape. Blue is the color of supernatural mystery for Lynch, and the blue haired lady is a symbol of cosmic truth, the supernatural, impersonal Reality that oversees the illusion and delusion of both the dream theater and the temporal world. She is always there, the mysterious truth above and beyond our mundane worldly consciousness. Everything in this film is presented from the subjective conscious and subconscious of Diane, but the blue haired woman is even present as an impersonal witness to the truth in her dream. After Diane shoots herself some wisps of smoke rise above her body appearing like a soul or spirit escaping from it's earthly prison, and we see a few fleeting images of both women who now inhabit the eternal realm of spirit. For Lynch, a believer in reincarnation from the Vedic Hindu tradition, their stay in the spirit realm will be temporary as they must pay their karmic debts in another lifetime. The last shot in the film is of the Club Silencio stage, and the blue haired lady high up in her box whispering "silencio"..the silence that remains after the illusory show called life, and the movie, ends. Life, like the movies, ultimately fools us into believing that what is illusory, is real. As for the blue box, I see it as a device to effect transitions between states of consciousness..from the dream state to the temporal world..and from the temporal world to the spiritual realm that exists after death and beyond time and space. Not everything in MULHOLLAND DR. has an easy explanation, but not everything in our lives and dreams can be easily explained either. As humans we are not designed intellectually to understand TRUTH in it's purest form. To Lynch, art is a gateway to Truth, and the illusory world of film can clue us into universal truths which are hidden to us in life (which is itself a grand illusion). Lynch blurs the lines that differentiate dreams from reality, or separate individual personalities. To Lynch, we are not masters of our fate and captains of our soul, but subject to inner forces beyond our cognition, some sinister and some beneficial. The Truth encompasses both good and bad, darkness and light. The struggle between both is an ongoing process within our psyches. Diane wasn't a bad girl. She was a good girl who fell prey to dark forces which all of us are subject to under the right conditions. At the end of this remarkable film we are left in a state of wonder tinged with feelings of deep sorrow and pity.

The inner reality certainly has a lot more to say than the outer, but MULHOLLAND DR. does touch on some matters everyone can comprehend. It has some important things to say about the film business and the nature of fame and celebrity, and it has important things to say about things we all can relate to, such as love, jealousy, guilt, and ambition..but these things aren't spelled out for you. They are more opaque than transparent. MULHOLLAND DR. is a visually stunning and aurally beautiful film. Lynch frequently uses sounds, colors, and objects as clues; a symbolic shorthand to describe emotionally significant elements of the story. Blue keys and boxes, red lampshades and curtains, telephones, flashing lights, the sound of the wind, and the buzzing of electrical currents, all have portentious meaning. Music is another important element that reinforces thematic structures. In BLUE VELVET, Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" was used that way, and in MULHOLLAND DR., Roy Orbison's "Crying" (Llorando), beautifully and emotionally sung in Spanish by Rebekah Del Rio, effectively sets the right tone. Ms. Del Rio is presented as La Llorana de Los Angeles. The legend of La Llorana gives a clue as to why the Orbison song is chosen and why it affects Diane's dream personas (Betty and Rita) so vividly. The heart wrenching lyrics speak of rejected love, loss and despair, and La Llorana exemplifies the devastation resulting from it, the horrible outcome Diane's subconscious tries unsuccessfully to bury in her dream. There are interesting soundtracks in many Lynch films, and they complement the strong visuals. I just can't imagine a Lynch film now without a brooding Badalamenti score. There are always interesting and amusing elements in Lynch movies that comment on his own personal experiences and illustrate his strange sense of humor. It is easy to imagine that Adam Kesher's meeting with the Castigliane brothers (where control of his film project was taken away), and Betty's audition process must have been reflections of real incidents in Lynch's career in Hollywood. MULHOLLAND DR. is a hybrid of Surrealism and Expressionism. In Surrealism, dream logic replaces reality, and in Expressionism, emotional response through internal conflict, supplant rational motive and pragmatic action. David Lynch is an artist first and a filmmaker second. Here, he has made a movie about a dream, about shattered dreams, and about the dream factory called Hollywood..an original and beautiful, but sad and fearful rumination on life and death in the City of Angels.

If you just want to sit back and be entertained for a couple of hours, I don't think you will enjoy this film, but if you want to be puzzled, astonished, and shocked out of complacency, as well as amused and entertained, watch MULHOLLAND DR. once, or twice, or even better, half a dozen times..and while you're at it, do the same for the other Lynch masterpieces currently available.
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76 of 86 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2002
Format: DVD
Be prepared; if you don't like having to think about a movie, Mulholland Drive isn't for you. It is unlikely that everything would click for a viewer the first time that they watch the movie anyway...although viewing Lost Highway might be a suitable primer.
In many ways, Lynch seems to have issued the same challenge to viewers in Mulholland Drive as he did in Lost Highway, a bending of timelines and juxtapositioning of identities. It's as if the director is saying, through Mulholland Drive, "Perhaps I didn't make myself clear to you the first time." For some reason (I don't know -- is it really the lesbian scenes?) the second attempt has been more popular. I find both movies compelling, unsettling, and entertaining.
That's the review. Here's an explanation.
The knee-jerk response of many reviewers has been that Diane dreams of being Betty, but wakes up to the cold reality of being Diane, and ultimately kills herself. That would make the movie run from Point A to Point B, which is what movies usually do.
But the dead Diane appears in Betty's world, and that was my first problem with this tidy explanation. Also, if you think the movie is purely linear, then Diane is psychic, because she dreams of Coco (the landlady) before she ever meets her in reality (the director's mom). Ultimately, Betty's world is no more of a dream than Diane's is; it depends on point of view, like a Mobius Loop. The reason one side is accepted as real is because of where the Mobius Loop is cut: right after Diane "sleeps" (dies). Splice the movie ends together, and you can't tell the "dream" side from the "reality" side. Much of this Mobius Loop is made of cycles:
* Betty begets the blue box; the box, once opened, begets Diane and the old couple; the old couple drive Diane to suicide but beget Betty; ad infinitum.
* Betty becomes Diane, and Diane becomes Betty -- not just the actresses, but the waitresses, too.
* Rita (Laura Elena Herring) of Betty's world coexists with Camilla (Melissa George). In Diane's world, Camilla (Laura Elena Herring), whispers to, and kisses a woman (Melissa George), at the party near the film's end. Maybe that woman should be called Rita. After all, everything else switches.
* Camilla (Laura Elena Herring), despite surviving an attempt by the limo driver to kill her, is effectively "eliminated." She has to be replaced. She is replaced by...Camilla (Melissa George). When Betty becomes Diane, Camilla (M.G.) becomes Camilla (L.E.H.). And so on.
* Diane falls into the red pillow; Rita falls into the blue box. The Red World is Betty's/Diane's dream come true and Rita's/Camilla's nightmare; the Blue World is Betty's/Diane's nightmare and Rita's/Camilla's dream come true.
* Betty's apartment (Aunt Ruth's) is red and yellow; Diane's is blue and green. Many other warm/cool color motifs correspond.
* The red singer "dies" on-stage, and is effectively silenced, as the Red World reaches its twilight, and the blue box is discovered. The blue-hair in the balcony cries "Silencio" at the film's end, when the Blue World reaches its twilight: Diane's blue-smoke demise, but also Camilla's demise as well, as she will soon lose her limo ride, her movie role, and her memory.
Most importantly, the Silencio theater is a metaphor: What appears real -- a trumpet solo, a singer singing -- is false. In effect, Lynch drops the biggest hint: If you are looking for the reality in this movie, you won't find it.
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54 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2001
A stunning, truly mind-blowing return to form for the Maestro of Dark Dreams.

A brunette in a black dress wanders away from a violent car crash. A wind lifts. She slowly descends the brush-covered hills, looking down on the lights of Tinseltown, shining below her like jewel box abandoned in a midnight desert.
An apple cheeked blonde in a red, rhinestone-encrusted sweater leaves the doors of L.A.X. and smiles at the wide-open city of her starry-eyed dreams.
The convergence of these two Hollywood archetypes (Rita Hayworth and June Allyson?) leads to a mystery that can never be solved; a mystery that leads us through the dark, inhumane underbelly of El Lay. Hollywood boardrooms with polished-wood tables and polished, deadly smiles. Bungalows dark and fetid as tombs. A lonely, colorless diner behind which a nightmare monster waits. And a midnight cabaret, The Club Silencio, where there is no band but you hear a band and a sad, tartish woman sings a Spanish language version of Roy Orbison's "Crying." She faints dead in the middle of the song. And her heartbreaking, ghostly voice goes on as she is dragged from the stage.
This may well be one of the cinema's greatest and most strikingly original ruminations of the destructive, soul-devouring beast that is Hollywood since Billy Wilder's "Sunset Boulevard," (which Lynch has often cited as one of his favorites.) Which is the real story? Is "Rita" really a lost amnesiac without a name? Or is she a heartless, overripe movie-star/monster named Camilla? Is Betty really Betty? Or is she Diane Selway, teetering on the edge of insanity as she crouches on the sofa in her nightmare apartment, wild-eyed, unwashed and heartbroken, waiting for the last light to die?
The dream ends. The dream begins. Identities change and fly back in the space of a celluloid frame. Plots and subplots and mysteries left hanging turn back on themselves and create new and infinitely more horrifying stories. And more mysteries sprout new and energized, ready to crawl under the door and chase us screaming endlessly into the night.
This is a film of terror and dread, of absurdist comedy and social criticism. It is made from nightmares. It is filmed through a great, inscrutable darkness lit only on occasion by a hazy, lemony sun that seeps through the smoggy palm-trees, and moves sadly across the cracked, overgrown courtyards of the lost.
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55 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2002
Okay, so here's my take, which required a second viewing to "get." You'll notice as the film begins we see a blurry image of a pillow. This is Diane's pov before falling asleep to dream. What follows, beginning with the botched hit, is Diane's dream post ordering the hit on her ex-girlfriend. In her dream, the ex-girlfriend is exactly what she was not at the end of their relationship: controllable. Camilla, as "Rita" is literally in "Betty's" fingertips. This "dream" also allows Diane to experience the acting success she probably never experienced in real life (i.e. stunning audition) and, more importantly, the ability to live in a movie (the whole dream reality is like a flim noir, and Betty gets a total kick out of it.) Also, Diane hates the man who stole Camilla from her, the film director, so in her dream she gives him one hell of a bad day. She also fears that the hit has been carried out and in her dream, the hitman she hired is depicted as a completely inept guy. Then Diane wakes up and we experience the key moments in her relationship with Camilla that led to her ordering the hit. (initial break-up, discovering her with director, final straw the party where Camilla totally blows Diane off)and, once she discovers the key, a sign that the hit has happened, she kills herself.
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