June 25, 2022

Classic film review: Mulholland Dr.

Dir: David Lynch
2001

Whoever likes amusement parks will probably like Mulholland Dr. as an exhilarating roller-coaster of surrealism, neo-noir and dark comedy that leaves you intellectually tired, confused and slightly queasy when you get off. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise, seeing as David Lynch, the mind behind Twin Peaks and Lost Highway, is at the operator panel.

 

It begins conventionally enough: A beautiful woman (Laura Harring) stumbles away from a car accident with amnesia and a purse full of cash. She hides in a house, where she is found by an aspiring actress (Naomi Watts). They try to piece the mystery together. Elsewhere, a movie director fights for his artistic integrity as a mob threateningly insists on a specific lead actress for his latest project. But then the crazy commences…

 

Lynch starts to turn a kaleidoscope of surreal, incomplete sequences and mind-boggling non-sequiturs; in other words, the film totally trips out. A mouldy hobo lurks knowingly behind a dumpster; an old couple gleefully squirm around like little Borrowers; characters fracture and blend to re-emerge with exchanged names and faces. By the end, the narrative strand is so warped that viewers might feel like they’d just got Punk’d.

 

Yet, there is the impression that logic is some kind of afterthought, since every aspect plays off instinct, consequently managing to connect to the audience on a strangely intimate level. Mulholland Dr. could well claim to be an introspection of the human psyche, examining the disparities and boundaries between fantasy and reality, between big dreams, big disappointments and small lives.

 

This being said, the provocatively opaque plot twists invite stacks of interpretations to gnaw on. Squint through the jumbled fragments a different way and you could make out a metaphysical indictment of the Hollywood industry. Peer through once more and you could discern a philosophical exposition of the relationship between audience perception and the screen (think along the lines of Magritte’s ‘Ceci n’est pas une pipe.’).

 

But try as we may, we still can’t make heads or tails out of the inclusion of a riddling cowboy or a blue-haired Belle Epoque grande dame. The best, although not entirely satisfactory, way to absorb it all is to just surrender to the madness; it makes for a better film experience if you don’t think and Drive. (Sorry.)

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