Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive ★★★★★

[Homer Simpson watches Twin Peaks]
“Brilliant, ha ha ha. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on.”

David Lynch’s spin on Sunset Blvd. is a Hollywood nightmare, a uniquely disconcerting experience that builds to a glorious, incomprehensible climax. Naomi Watts is Betsy, a sweet, ambitious actress who arrives in Los Angeles in search of stardom. Moving in to her aunt’s vacant apartment, she strikes up an intense relationship with a concussed, confused young woman (Laura Harring) who’s recovering from a car smash. Meanwhile, a hitman of variable quality goes in search of a black book, odd things start to happen to director Justin Theroux, and a man tries to understand his dreams, out by the bins at Winkie’s restaurant.

There are scenes here of utter brilliance, of heart-stopping terror, raven black humour and intoxicating sensuality: a psychic neighbour babbling harrowing warnings, a botched hit, the punchline to the Winkie’s set-piece, and Watts’ mesmerising audition (as much nibbling, biting and heavy breathing as actually acting). Those stand-out, almost self-contained passages are trapped in an unfolding, enveloping head-fuck of a film that’s comfortably one of the three or four scariest I have ever seen. Someone looking for something, somewhere they shouldn’t be, is generally the most frightening thing I can imagine: here, those sequences are almost light relief.

Though the trick of playing it purposefully phony when it’s light or cheery, and sharp and dangerous when it’s dark, is a familiar one from Lynch – who employed it memorably in Blue Velvet – the left turns, the use of sound, Watts’ harrowing, wide-ranging performance and the air of complete disorientation are like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. And it is an experience rather than just a movie. Usually I find it hard to suspend disbelief; not here. You can’t keep your distance from this film: it cuts off your escape routes, attacks your expectations and your preconceptions, walls you in. It is extraordinarily frightening and not in a transient, temporary way. I can’t get it out of my head, and I’m not sure that I want to.