Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive ★★★★½

From the opening jitter bug sequence we are thrust into a fevered dream where Lynch once again attempts to give us glimpses of what goes on behind the curtain.

If there is one thing I love about Lynch's films it is the pin pricks he gives us of a veiled existence. It seems that in his universe there are forces at work warping and influencing our perception of time and reality. To me it has always felt as if Lynch tries to explore the fallacies of human memory and the intricacies of our psyche with his more surreal films. His explorations are often one without a map, choosing atmosphere over logic and form over structure.

Mulholland Drive is no different in so far that it most definitely holds the typical Lynch aesthetic, but I do feels it suffers from the circumstances it was created in. It was supposed to have been a tv show, it was cancelled but with an extra investment the pilot was extended and turned into this film. This makes this film come across more like a patchwork than usual. It feels as if Lynch was not able to fully realize his ambitions and ideas around this satirical, nightmarish vision of Hollywood and the movie industry. This is a Twin Peaks version of Hollywood, heck, it is a Twin Peaks version of a film. The narrative of the first two acts is rather straightforward with glimpses of various, surreal plot lines that hint at what could have been had this story been allowed to grow. Lynch's characters are never real in his surreal films. They are either ideas or archetypes. For example the two leading ladies here are the archetypical femme fatale and the naive blonde, while the dwarf and the Italian brothers seem to be more abstract, symbolizing the machinations of the Studio machine. What is exceptional about Mulholland Drive is that when we eventually step through the looking glass it is reality we find, filled with real people and real emotions. And it still is the most bizarre and darkest piece of the film, drenched in maddening reality.

Like I said before there are ideas a plenty here, but Lynch does not completely manage to fully realize all of them leaving some strands of thought unresolved. He does give us a whole lot of breadcrumbs to piece together what he is trying to say here, but it does feel a bit like completing a puzzle without knowing what it should look like. Usually I'd relish in the challenge, but here I find it to be a somewhat unsatisfying one as it feels as if the puzzle maker has intentionally thrown away a couple of the pieces.

Still, Lynch gets away with it. There is so much cinematic perfection here that it is almost impossible to deny its quality. The trademark artificiality of the performances works stunningly well, especially contrasted with the grimmer final act. One of the most impressive examples of this is the audition scene where Watts acts really well that she is acting really well. That scene is a suitcase with a hidden compartment, empty at first glance but under close scrutiny it reveals an exciting hidden layer. Watts is fantastic in this film, but in that scene I was as mesmerized as all the people in that room. Meta awareness without being obvious, I love it.

The most impressive scene is perhaps a dead giveaway, but that's only because it is unbelievable. The Club Silencio scene is a masterful display of film in its totality. Words, sounds, images and performance all come together in a perfect slice of cinema. It is unsettling yet beautiful and probably holds the key to understanding this nightmare. It is Lynch shouting at us in his abstract cinematic voice, telling us that nothing is real, not even reality. At least, that's what I thought he was shouting.

It is futile trying to analyze this film and those seeking closure or plot will probably walk away disappointed. I would have liked a bit more coherence but in the end that is an unimportant quibble as roaming around in Lynch's mind is rewarding enough as it is.

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