Friday, July 09, 2010

Mulholland Dr. (2001)

USA/France, 147 minutes
Director/writer: David Lynch
Photography: Peter Deming
Music: Angelo Badalamenti
Cast: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Ann Miller, Justin Theroux, Robert Forster, Lee Grant, Billy Ray Cyrus, Dan Hedaya, Angelo Badalamenti, Monty Montgomery, Rebekah Del Rio

"Figuring out" this movie is a bit like looking at one of those '90s Magic Eye 3D images (an insight that's not new with me)—the metaphorical trick of relaxing your eyes and tricking your brain into seeing provides a glorious moment indeed, an inherently binary toggle. Yes, Mulholland Dr. is one of those things that people like or dislike intensely, and yes, you need to see it more than once. It's the last 25 minutes or so, after the blue box drops to the floor, that most inspires people to their sputtering denunciations of knave trickery and base pretension on the part of David Lynch, a response that's actually a bit funny when you think about it. Who, after all, doesn't want to be fooled, at least a little, when they settle down to watch a movie? And isn't that one of the reasons we watch in the first place, and in the dark—because it's like dreaming, intuitive and fleeting and irrational? Not that I want to (or could) go deeply into the various Freudian or Jungian dynamics and psychology of either this drama or dreaming itself. But look, the hallucinatory dislocations and discontinuous developments and the tenor and textures and even the forgetfulness and blank spaces of dreaming are all over this, sometimes even at the complex level of dreams within dreams within dreams, no small feat. That's ultimately how it makes sense—and yet, I think anyone can agree that the first two hours amount to a perfectly charming and perfectly mysterious, atmospheric, and insanely engaging kind of Nancy Drew whodunit (albeit one with teeth and claws), not a bit difficult to follow even with its absurd twists and turns. Betty (played by Naomi Watts, who is brilliant across the length and breadth of this) is new in Hollywood from Deep River, Ontario, bright-eyed and setting off on a promising career in the movies. Rita (played by Laura Harring) has amnesia after an attempt on her life is inadvertently thwarted by an auto accident that she walks away from. Betty tries to help Rita get it all sorted out. Meanwhile, hotshot director Adam Kesher (played by Justin Theroux) has a spectacularly bad day, encountering heavy interference in the film he is working on. Oh, and a cake and steak joint on Sunset, Winkie's, is effectively established as a vortex of evil. Along the way Lynch surfs a number of Hollywood's most standard and familiar tropes of genre: noir, melodrama, horror, suspense thriller, even westerns and exploitation pictures (not to mention expressionistic doppelgangers and elements of both Persona and Vertigo), mixing them all up just deftly enough to keep the entire production entertaining even as the tension and momentum build inexorably. Then the blue box falls and, in a way, you're on your own. The momentum is still there, you can feel it, it's like a vise on your head, with the stakes higher than ever. But the meaning starts to seem impossible, maddeningly slippery, fluid, elusive. Why do they all have these new names? These new roles? What changed? What's different? Why are all these things happening now? Who are those old people? Not to worry. The answers are there, though not everyone may agree on the specifics of them, nor even, perhaps, find themselves capable of rationally communicating all of them. Is the effort to understand worthwhile? Isn't it always? Watch again. You'll enjoy yourself; you'll see.

1 comment:

  1. For some reason I found myself drawn to this film. I have watched it many times and just enjoy the ride. Especially the spanish lip sync version of Roy Orbison's Crying. I'll sometimes go back and watch that part 2 or 3 times listening to the song.