Mulholland Drive ★★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Included In Lists:
Great Movies
Sight and Sound Top 250 - #28
Ladies and Gentlemen: The Essentials -#25

Review In A Nutshell:

Has there anything been as intense or as thought provoking as Mulholland Drive? Only few films could surpass the ambition that this film tries to strive for, and most of those films are among the likes of Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and Bergman's Persona.

Mulholland Drive, on its surface, tells a simplistic tale about a woman who has lost her identity and gains a help from a stranger, whom then develops a close bond with and embark on a journey that would ultimately affect both of their lives. This was my perspective of the film during my first viewing, and even with that, I was highly satisfied with what was given to me. It was thrilling from start to finish, conjuring up this air of mystery that I was so desperate to solve, by the end of the film I wasn't able to crack the case as I hoped but it definitely held my curiosity and desperation long after the film has ended. It has created a mark on my mind that keeps growing and growing, and each day that I delay a revisit pushes me to the edge of insanity, constantly trying to solve it basing it only with my initial experience of the film.

I finally found time for myself to come back and visit Mulholland Drive, and this time I was determined to finally unravel Lynch's labyrinth, hoping to come out the other side understanding my experience and its purpose for existing.

Mulholland Drive is essentially a portrait of Hollywood, showing us the dark side of a place that is synonymous to fame, beauty and art. The film follows two women and their adventure takes us to the deepest and darkest parts of Hollywood, showing us the wickedness of the business and how it could break up relationships that one could easily mistake as unbreakable. Lynch doesn't hold back on his style but at the same time he ensures that his style remains relevant to the ideas and tone that he is trying to get across. The way he depicts the businessmen in Hollywood felt more real than what is actually shown in other films, and though the interactions between characters do come off as unorthodox, especially if one isn't used to the Lynch's aesthetic, it still captures the cruel and corrupt minds of these men.

The real meat of Lynch's tale is the dark journey one goes through when a fresh face enters the "land" of Hollywood, which in this case would be Betty/Diane. She is the pure example of a person who strives in the career in acting because initially for the love of the craft and to make a name for themselves in the business, but then loses their sense of innocence with the development of romantic relationships and the unjust ideals of the film business. This was an aspect of the film that was slightly blurred during my initial run through, as most of my focus was on trying to orient myself to the film's time and place and I was still taking in details of characters in order to understand each one's intentions and purpose. My theory for the film's first and second act is that Betty/Diane is dreaming of her past, her expectations, and her plans. It speaks so much about the character, and this was more obvious during my second viewing, by the end of the film we truly understand how tortured this character is. The parallels of the third act with the first two acts may not be clear at first but once you watch it understanding that it is told in Betty/Diane's perspective then the film delivers a more impacting experience.

Lynch sets the film out in a way that is definitely jarring and slightly frustrating during its first run through, but this issue is more to blame on the viewer for being impatient. The film requires multiple visits as Lynch assembles his film, especially during the film's final 25 minutes, in disorganized fragments; there were times that I felt the film's resolution was a recall to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, providing a third act that doesn't explain itself and requires the perspective of the viewer to fuel its strength. The only way to have one's mind be aligned with the film's difficult storytelling is to provide the film the attention it deserves. One needs to constantly search for the little details in order to even remotely understand the small but significant scenes. Lynch isn't the type of guy, who would spoon-feed the film's story, and once a person is aware of this, then it is then one could gain a more satisfying experience.

Though I now consider this as one of the best films of all time, I still don't comprehensively understand it; scenes like the one that took place in Silencio is still not particularly clear to me, but I my grasp definitely got tighter as compared to my initial viewing. There is definitely an emotional and spiritual core present in these scenes that I haven't quite reached yet, and the closer I get to it, the more satisfied I become.

Peter Deming's cinematography was brilliant. He has produced a hypnotic and dreamy style that establishes the film's tone and atmosphere, and still retaining that Lynch-ian quality that sets his films apart from other filmmakers. The photography's top achievements would be the horror driven scenes which includes, the event at Silencio and the film's ending, where dark and gloomy blues just dominate the shots.

Angelo Badalamenti has worked on many of Lynch's films, and his score for Mulholland Drive is arguably his best. One can immediately indicate that the score is by Badalamenti as it contains this sense of creepiness to it that other composer have failed to achieve. Only in rare occasions do the score dominates the film, and when it does it doesn't come off forced or manipulative. Badalamenti is more concerned with creating that sense of uneasiness in the atmosphere, not knowing what could be lurking in the next corner and hyping up the horror even in the most stable and simplistic scenes.

The film's acting is carried by both Naomi Watts and Laura Harring, playing Betty/Diane and Rita respectively. Both actresses dominated the scenes they were in, shaping their characters exactly the way Lynch has expected them to and ensuring their performances heightens the film's ideas and connects with the film's style rather than displaying a sense of ego and proving to us that their acting is "natural" and "effective". Both of these actresses display strong chemistry with one another and this chemistry allows intimate scenes to bloom which immerses us in their relationship. If this connection wasn't well established, then the film would have easily fallen apart and come off as lifeless. Justin Theroux as Adam Kesher was surprisingly great in the role. I expected a wooden or shallow performance from the actor but he was able to insert some personality to the character, even if it doesn't challenge and pushes the actor's abilities to the limit.

Mulholland Drive is a masterpiece and has welcomed me to Lynch's filmography with open arms. This film was so great that it would be difficult for me to separate my feelings towards this film when reviewing the director's other films. This is definitely a film I would immediately recommend to anyone when they ask for films to watch as I personally believe that everyone needs to at least give this film a watch at least four times in their lives.

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