on January 28, 2004
I must admit that I didn't really understand this movie the first time I saw it. I am sure I still miss some nuances after many viewings. It was still quite enjoyable on a visual level that first time with very vivid colors and great cinematography. However, once you understand the basic storyline, those previously difficult details start falling into place, and you start feeling like a much smarter person for getting it. At least I did.
Okay, if you're interested, here is the basic storyline. If you notice at the beginning of the movie, Naomi Watts falls asleep and you get a visual of a pillow blurring as she falls into it. From that point in the movie to the point at which the cowboy comes into her room to wake her up, it is a dream. Here's the reality. Naomi Watts is Diane Selwyn, a former dance champion who wanted to make it big as an actress. Her aunt had left her some money when she died, so Diane headed to Hollywood. But she didn't do very well. For example, she wanted to win the lead in a movie called The Sylvia North Story, but the director didn't think much of her audition. Another woman, Camilla Rhodes (Laura Elena Harring) got the part instead. This is how they met, Diane and Camilla. And as Camilla progressed as an actress and Diane ended up doing bit parts in Camilla's movies, they had a sexual relationship. The relationship didn't mean to Camilla, though, what it meant to Diane. Camilla eventually dumped her for the director of one of her movies, Adam (Justin Theroux), announcing it at the party shown near the end of the movie. Diane couldn't deal with it, and she hired a hitman to kill Camilla. When she realized Camilla was dead (the hitman left the blue key for her), she couldn't live with what she had done and what she had become. She was depressed and hallucinating and shot herself in her bedroom.
Now here's the dream. Diane's dream is everything she wanted to happen in reality. She creates it from reality, adding characters that passed marginally through her life (such as the cowboy at the party who becomes a figure to menace the director) and reworking events that actually happened (such as the limousine ride, no longer her way to the party but the way in which Camilla comes to depend on her). In her dream, she is not Diane but Betty, the name of a waitress who served her once. Camilla has amnesia brought on by a car crash, after which she finds her way to Betty's amazing apartment. Camilla calls herself Rita after seeing a Rita Hayworth poster in Betty's apartment. In the dream, Betty and Rita are together. The director is cuckolded in a hilarious scene and harrassed by the aforementioned cowboy. Betty is an incredibly good actress. The hitman is a bumbling idiot. All is well with the world. That is, all is well until reality starts creeping in. The director seems to recognize Betty, though in her dream world, he doesn't know her. Betty and Rita discover the dead body of Diane Selwyn, a name which seems unsettlingly familiar. A couple of men in a diner discuss an evil presence which lives behind the place, actually a homeless man who possesses a blue box. (I think that the evil presence/homeless guy is the manifestation of Diane's inner turmoil at what she has done in reality. She has locked it up in this sort of Pandora's box.) At a performance at Club Silencio at which the emcee announces that everything is an illusion, Betty freaks out, because in reality, all of this is an illusion. She finds a key in her purse which is blue like the one the hitman had in reality. When Rita opens the Pandora's box with the key, Betty is gone, the illusion is gone, and the cowboy appears to wake Diane up.
A couple of comments about this DVD--the American version is really not that hot. You get the movie which runs straight through without chapters (i.e. you can't stop the DVD and skip back to whatever part you were on). The only special features are some production notes and the trailer. I got a region 0 Korean version online which has more features and most importantly has chapter stops. Because I needed those to review those parts which just didn't want to jell in my mind.
on April 17, 2002
i've found that something interesting has happened over the course of repeat viewings of this film (4 times since i bought the DVD last week). all of the artifice, the mystery, the amorphous tie-ins of murky sub-plots and confounding imagery that initially clouded my brain has given way to a single raw emotion that i'm left with as the end credits roll: sadness.
i wouldn't characterize myself as a particularly emotional person, but the last time i watched "mulholland drive" in its entirety (just last night, it so happens), i was left in tears. i really feel that this film is not just some elaborate con game that lynch is playing on his audience, as some of my fellow, rather embittered reviewers have claimed. it's not some smug, showy, empty Display with a capital "D" in the vein of "the usual suspects."
for me, at least, the real resonance of this film rests in the character arc of diane selwyn. the australian actress naomi watts is nothing less than startling in her portrayal of one young woman's devastating transformation at the hands of the hollywood "dream factory." it's a real testament to naomi's formidable talent that many of the people that i've seen this film with were not quick to recognize her in the latter section of the film. they thought that she had become a different person. and, indeed, she had.
the true beauty, the true power of this film, for me, lies in the mental juxtaposition of two images: one is of a disheveled diane selwyn standing in the kitchen of her dim apartment, clad in an old, dirty night gown, holding a brown coffee cup, her body shaking before the hallucinatory image of the lover she thought she had lost forever; the other is one that lynch closes the film with -- diane and camilla together, beaming with happiness, basking in the hollywood glow of moviestardom. this latter image fades away and we are brought back to the club silencio, in which the blue-haired madam of truth, reality, and an almost cruel justice declares that all is again silent.
on March 26, 2002
Mulholland Drive is truly the scenic auditory seduction the reviewers who liked the film liked it for. However, I see several Lynch obsessions here, and I'm intrigued by the fact that he can't let go of them. The most important is the notion I discovered first in Twin Peaks: the notion that we all carry within us alternative Mr. Hyde persona, a double. The German word doppelganger (meaning "double"), as I recall, occurs among the twilight verbal oozings in the Red Room. Agent Cooper's doppelganger appears at the very end of the last episode of Twin Peaks, which brings the whole meandering story back to the beginning, but 180 degrees reversed, like a moebius strip. Bob, I suppose, is Laura Palmer's father's double, who finds himself killing both double versions of Laura, the seductress and the naive cousin from Montana. The double motif is explicit in Lost Highway, where the young car mechanic's double is the older (Bill Pullman), cynical and suspicious saxophonist and murderer. In Mulholland Drive the "real" story is given in the latter part of the film, where "Betty" turns out to be the initiator of "Rita's" attempted murder, a mystery she is also trying to solve: the criminal and the detective are the same person (Oedipus Rex all over again). Naomi Watt's most affecting performance came at the end, where we can almost feel viscerally her bitterness, anger, and envy at missing both the movie part and and the movie's director. Like every envier, she both loves and hates the object (Camilla Rhodes/Rita) of her envy. Make love to her/kill her: Laura Palmer and her father redoubled. Both Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive are about revenge, where the revenger is self-doomed to oscillate between victim and victimizer. Don't tell me Lynch doesn't keep a gimlet eye on America's current gender scene.
Finally, there's Lynch's obsession with 1950s culture, something it has become axiomatic to refer to as his version of a distant, impossibly innocent lost eden. The movie that's being cast is one that's going to take place in that period, complete with 1950's bubble-gum pop. As an oldster who lived through WWII, I noticed something that may have escaped others: in the scene where the director shows the actor how to neck with Rita in the car. In the lower left-hand corner of the car's windshield is a square decal, a white letter "A" on a black background. That was the rationing license issued for every car during WWII, limiting the amount of gas that could be bought during a given month. "A" was the lowest priority--"C" as I recall was the highest.
In spite of the doubters who cite "unnecessary" salacious elements and those who condemn Lynch for being pretentious and nonsensical, Mulholland Dr., mostly the protracted dream of an aspiring actress, is a very moralistic movie, scouring the depravity of Hollywood in a film that is absorbing, consuming, and powerful, dealing with themes of success, ambition, and megalomania on the scale of Citizen Kane. An aspiring actress, scorned by her lover and scorned by Hollywood, commits a hideous crime and then, regretting her actions, has a drug-deranged fantasy-nightmare that attempts to recollect all the pieces of her life. We see her futile attempt to dream about all her longings and Lynch sucks us into this aspiring woman's world. Much of the film's power is the contrast between the false innocence of middle-America juxtaposed with the seedy corruption of Hollywood. Both elements feed off the other and are in a way each other's Shadow, in the Jungian sense. About a hundred minutes into the movie you see what Lynch is up to in terms of the the parallel worlds of Diane, the real actress, and Betty, her dream-induced alter-ego, and what you end up with is a variation of the Citizen Kane theme, someone hellishly isolated in her personal ambition and regrets. There is a scene in "Club Silencio" where we see real weeping and mourning and this is indicative of the tone for Lynch's real compassion and anguish for what he sees as the depravity of Hollywood, which is, more than a city, a sensibility that informs and shapes the attitudes of the entire planet. Lynch should be praised for combining so much heart, imagination, and wit in this movie. Mulholland Dr. is a film about the nihilism that results from blind ambition, but its moralistic stance never descends into nihilism. Each scene is a very engaging story of its own so that even those who don't understand the full story-line of Mulholland Dr. will never be bored by this very beautiful and often disturbing movie.
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.
on April 14, 2002
I think I have figured out what is going on in this movie, probably because I got lucky. On my first viewing I had no
clue what the hell was going on. The movie haunted me for days. I decided for my second viewing I would start watching the movie upon the opening of the mysterious blue box. The following scene is Betty sleeping in bed. The cowboy comes in and says, time to wake up pretty girl, giving away the clue that the first part of the movie is all a dream. Other clues are the two girls at club silencio, where the theme at the club is what you see is not what you get. Everything that transpires there is a test of our perception. Much like what we are watching is too a test of our preception, an illusion. Another clue is at Betty's first acting audition. Before she starts her lines the director says, don't make it real until it's real. This movie clearly becomes real once the box is opened. Don't try to look too deep into this movie because you will end up with a brain aneurysm. Whether I am right or not this is truly a hypnotic movie watching experience with some classic scenes. Even at 2.5hrs in running time, you can never get enough Lynch.
on May 5, 2002
The only biographical data on David Lynch, if you look him up in the Cast and Crew section of this DVD, is "Eagle Scout". This cryptic bio is relevant precisely because of its terse irony and apparent irrelevance.
The film itself is (on the surface, at least) about another Eagle Scout-type -- a chirpy, aw-shucks young Canadian woman who comes to Hollywood with stars in her eyes -- only to find a dingy underbelly of ... studio executives, scary homeless people, and seedy lowlifes. The girl (whose very name is suspect), beautifully played by Naomi Watts, floats in the rippling California sunshine like Lynch's Jungian Anima in a lucid fever-dream. Everything seems just a little too scrubbed-clean and cheerful. The happier the first parts of the film got, the greater the dread that developed in the pit of my stomach.
True to form, Lynch pulls the rug out in a bravura third-act that calls everything that has come before it into question. This goes beyond some funky narrative sleight-of-hand trick (as pulled by such recent films as The Sixth Sense and The Usual Suspects); it forces us to confront the sad, desperate acts of self-deception necessary for a young actress to survive mentally, once she has become ... used by the Hollywood Beast.
There are many plot strands that seem, at first, to go nowhere. There is the amnesiac actress (the amazing Laura Elana Harring) who was saved from an apparent mob hit by a fortuitous car accident. The mystery of her identity and circumstance is the springboard for most of the film. Then there is the disillusioned film director Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) - apparently a caricature of Lynch himself - who is forced by mob-types to cast a certain actress in the lead part of his film. There is a bumbling hit-man whose body-count rises alarmingly because of his darkly hilarious ineptitude. Oh, and we mustn't forget the young man who is haunted by dreams of a hideous man-beast behind a local chain-diner's dumpster.
After seeing this film four times, I am convinced that every piece does, indeed, fit -- although less according to logic than the rules of dreams, where pieces of metaphor, memory, and emotion come together in seemingly readable, yet elusive patterns.
Don't be put off by claims that Mulholland Drive makes no sense - the plot DOES make sense, but more in the manner of a painting or symphony, rather than a stereo manual.
The DVD is skimpy on extras and has no chapter stops (per Lynch's desires, as I understand), but the picture and sound quality are quite good.
With Mulholland Drive, David Lynch has succeeded in demolishing the structure of typical narrative films while still maintaining a potentially comprehensible narrative. He has also created a modest hit and was nominated for an Academy Award.
Not bad for an Eagle Scout.
on September 25, 2001
The young and beautiful but naive Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) leaves her home in Ontario for Hollywood and immediately finds herself mixed up with a mysterious amnesiac woman who calls herself Rita (Laura Harring). Betty has come to tinseltown hoping to become an actress, and, while trying to help Rita recover her identity, Betty crosses paths with film director Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux). Slowly a bizarre love triangle unfolds between the three characters, and Betty finds herself in an inescapable nightmare that may just be of her own making.
After his surprisingly successful experiment with sentimental American heartland drama in "The Straight Story," director David Lynch returns with panache to the psycho-surreal territory he has claimed as his own. "Mulholland Drive" creates a new neighborhood in Lynchville bordered closely by "Fire Walk With Me" and "Lost Highway," and echoes of those two films are heard throughout "Mulholland Drive." Here are eerie archetypal messengers, an illusionist, mysterious puzzles and keys, an inexplicable corpse, malignant evil, and the most terrifying of dreams.
Lynch's cast is, as usual, excellently suited to the strange goings-on. The three leads give subtly nuanced performances and are surrounded at all times by a number of excellent supporting actors. Dan Hedaya and Robert Forster have very small parts, as do Michael J. "Twin Peaks" Anderson, Ann Miller (a veteran of old Hollywood), and Lynch's longtime musical collaborator Angelo Badalamenti--but all of them add a wonderful spice to their scenes. Richard Green as the Magician and Layfayette Montgomery as the Cowboy both create defining and unforgettable Lynch characters.
Two other spectacular features of the film bear mentioning. First is the soundtrack, which does a great deal to enhance the film's mood, from Badalamenti's typically brooding numbers and supporting tunes by Lynch and John Neff to the heartrending performance of Roy Orbison's "Crying" sung in Spanish, a capella, by Rebekah Del Rio. Second is the delicious non-linear plot, evoking inevitable associations with "Lost Highway." Anyone who had trouble with "Lost Highway," however, should not stay away from "Mulholland Drive." While one cannot promise that "Mulholland Drive" will be easier to swallow, comparing the two films will certainly do much to illuminate the exquisite madness of Lynch's method.
on August 26, 2005
Taken conventionally, the first 2/3rd of Mulholland Drive tells a compelling (albeit fractured) tale of murder, sex, amnesia, Hollywood corruption, and mistaken identity. Then the last 1/3 flips over on itself...Characters change, and the plot seemingly exists in an alternate universe. The one complaint (I'm not even sure it can be considered a legitimate flaw) is that the true power of Mulholland Drive (which is only partially the compelling murder-mystery stuff) won't make any sense until you know the twist, becasue the twist informs everything that came before it, and logically and emotionally ties everything together. Because of this, the film MUST be seen at least twice...
So what is the surprise? Everything in the first 2/3rds is a dream. Before that sounds lame, I can honestly say that Muholland Drive is unlike any other film I've ever seen. Why? Because it uses dreams to explore a character by inhabiting their psyche completely, telling a story from the inside out. Everything you see in the first 2/3rds exists within the unconscious of Diane Selwyn (Naomi Watts). Thus every little weird turn of event, every erotic encounter, every nightarmish scenario sheds light on who she is, her aspirations, and her fears. The 3rd of the film shows reality as it actually exists and thus correlates the associations Diane's dreaming brain makes with the reality of her miserable, tormented existence. Even the illogical moments of the film make sense within the logic that it was dreamt and associated with something in Diane's actual life.
That is where the beauty and power of the film lies. We see inside a character so completely. It's an almost frighteningly intimate filmgoing experience at times, especially as Diane is repeatedly humiliated in the third act. And the adventurous joy of the first act is imbued with a tender sense of melancholy as it is a doomed fantasy of a happiness that can never exist. Lynch's template can take him anywhere, and thus he goes everywhere. Mulholland Drive is a meditation on dreams, on the Hollywood machine that chews and spits out wanna-be starlets, and a profoundly jealous and disturbed personality.
As for the performances...You've all heard how good Naomi Watts is in this film. I can assure you that the praise is justified and more. Like Lynch, her performance goes anywhere and everywhere, to the depths of despair to triumphant moments of one's greatest narcissistic realization, to...you fill in the blank. It's an outstanding, phenomenal performance. Laura Harring is great too, but in a more conventional way. Her amnesiac Rita makes an appealing femme fatale, but because Rita/Camilla only exists within Diane's warped psyche, this is really not a character exploration as in-depth as Watts'. Still, a damn fine performance.
Upon repeated viewings, Mulholland Drive reveals itself to be a pitch-perfect masterpiece. From the concept to the performances, Mulholland Drive is a phenomenal movie.
on January 29, 2003
Aside from its often discussed mystery, Mulholland Drive presents one of the most exciting, shocking, addictive 2 and a half hours of pure cinema of the 90's. One might ask how a dream movie about a lesbian amnesiac can be this entertaining. The answer is simple: David Lynch knows what he's doing. I usually get bored by directors who play tricks with their audiences, like David Lynch has been known to do. But this flm shows his true storytelling skill as well as his excellent craft with actors.
The film works as a serious of related and unrelated vignettes. The grand summation of these events surely confuses viewers, even provoking anger on those searching for semblances of traditionality or immediate logic, yet the vignettes themselves are so offbeat that a viewer-friendly ending would have disrupted any artistic cohesion.
Though this movie does have meaning as a cautionary tale about Hollywood and the dreams it shatters, its main purpose in the panorama of modern film is how far and innovative Lynch stretches the medium to tell a seemingly simple story: (about an innocent girl who goes to Hollywood).
Naomi Watts (in a dual role) stars as the sunny idealistic Betty in the first two thirds of the movie and then as the cynical, embittered Diane in the last one third. Naomi Watts gives a star-making performance. She lights up every scene with a charming, old-fashioned perkiness as Betty and portrays Diane with alluringly dark emotional shadows. As Rita/Camilla (her love interest) Laura Elena Harring is a perfect object of seduction. Their scene of sex is a heartbreaking, poignant display of erotic love. One friend believed it to be "exploitive" but considering that the entire relationship between the two lovers is the drive that fuels the dream/movie, I would say that the sexual passion of these two characters was absolutely necessary to display in a fleshed out sense (no pun intended).
Also in the mix of characters is the too-hip-for-words director, Adam Kesher (Justin Thereux) a director who, while looking to hire Betty, is seemingly caught up in a whole Hollywood scheme with bizarre midgets, Italian mobs, an adulterous Billy Ray Cyrus, and a very sinister cowboy.
Something must be said for the music in this film by Angleo Badalamenti (who also plays one of the Italian mobsters). The music is haunting, evocative, and sometimes comic, underlying the emotions of each scene brilliantly. Cinematography is excellent, as to be expected from a Lynch movie.
Lynch has made bizarre independent (Eraserhead) Oscar winning linear stories (Straight Story, The Elephant Man) and critically panned (Wild At Heart). With Mulholland Drive he returns to Blue Velvet's cross over avant garde appeal. A masterpiece of art cinema.