Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Drive ★★★★★

”It'll be just like in the movies. We can pretend to be someone else.”

Cinematic perfection and unquestioned brilliance. All this, from a film that wasn't even supposed to be a film.

“Part one: she found herself inside the perfect mystery. Part two: a sad illusion. Part three: love.” Yep, that's all you're gonna get from an auteur.

Nothing has surpassed Mulholland Drive since its release in 2001, and it's possible nothing will for many years. David Lynch’s masterpiece of masterpieces, the LA neo-noir is frequently cited as one of the best -- if not the best of all -- of any film made this century. Staggering in its depth, complexity, and mystery, Lynch turns any sense of narrative order and tradition on their heads to create an intricate, vignette-filled, and purposefully enigmatic plot that only invites you deeper into the rabbit hole. I hope you took the red pill.

In Los Angeles, city of dreams, there are dreams within dreams, nightmares within nightmares. A literal key that holds the key to the mystery. Selective amnesia and an actual amnesiac. A film within a film, about the making of a film. Clichés about the clichéd characters they inhabit. Surreal events circumventing the real, then a complete flipping of reality itself.

And yet somehow, it wasn't originally supposed to come out this way. Lynch was first creating another television pilot, which in turn never got picked up. But as opposed to letting what was another strange David Lynch show just disappear, he completely reworked it into a feature film. Instead of a dozen characters who may have had more stories in future episodes, Lynch kept all of them in a film just a couple hours long and purposefully throws wrenches right into the spokes of the usual character arcs.

Ostensibly a mystery about a woman without an identity -- lost after an accident on the titular road -- meeting up with a bright-eyed hopeful actress who tries to help her recover her life and the circumstances of her dark secrets, through a surrealist lens the film subverts any of its preconceived notions or genres, flirting with a twisted fantasy and alternatively an inevitable nightmare. Somehow, Justin Theroux is the top-billed actor; however, make no mistake, this is Naomi Watts’ and Laura Elena Harring’s film, who both pull off at once clichéd and narrow roles which become starkly satirical yet dark and haunting pieces in the puzzle of the dream. It deconstructs theme after theme, becoming an auteurist fantasia of the mind.

The final 30-40 minutes are transfixing. Don't you dare read a thing about them if you've yet to watch the film.

Famously coy -- some say downright espousing obfuscation on purpose -- Lynch has never given concrete answers on the “meaning” of the film, and its mind-altering entanglement of satire, mystery, and surrealism. But I've found that in his interview with Chris Rodley, he may have said it best when finally pressed that fans “want you to tell them what it all means.” Lynch replied, in part:

I think they know for themselves what it's about. I think that intuition -- the detective in us -- puts things together in a way that makes sense for us…. I think people know what Mulholland Drive is to them, but they don't trust it. They want to have someone else tell them. I love people analyzing it, but they don't need me to help them out. That's the beautiful thing, to figure things out like a detective. Telling them robs them of the joy of thinking it through and feeling it through and coming to a conclusion.

So, interpret how you wish, extrapolate meaning and nuance and greater purpose in the ways in which you see fit. That's the essence of watching a film after all anyway, that a story's universality can also be uniqueness. Nothing matches Mulholland Drive, and every subsequent watch takes me into a new direction.

Added to David Lynch ranked.
Added to My Subjective List of the Best Narrative Films.
Added to My Subjective List of the Best Films from Every Year I've Seen Them.

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