“This is the girl.”
When a naïve mid-Westerner, Betty (Naomi Watts), heads out to California to pursue her dreams, she becomes entangled in a web of deceit, lust, and crime when she meets and falls in love with beautiful amnesiac, Rita (Laura Harring).
Neo-noir has never looked better, been as sexy, or as confusing as it is in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.
Lauded as a surrealist masterpiece, Mulholland Drive has no use for linear storytelling. Moving in and out of time and perspective, Lynch arguably tells one of his most coherent tales through the film’s central characters – even though they shift bodies/personas.
Of his “difficult” films – those which do not readily lend themselves to interpretation (Lost Highway, Fire Walk with Me, Blue Velvet, Eraserhead) – Mulholland Drive is more or less a conventional crime drama. I promise, it really is. Give me a moment to explain.
You see, spurned by the woman she loves, Betty/Diane (Watts), pays a shady character a sum of money to kill her lover, Rita/Camilla (Harring). When the deed is done, he’ll let her know by putting a blue key in her apartment. But, when Betty/Diane finally sees the key, after truly believing she wants her lover dead, she is overcome with shame and guilt. In a fit of grief, she shoots herself.
Yes, that’s really what happens. The rest – the time shifting, the persona shifting, and all of the Lynchian dream confabulations – is, well … it’s art, darling, part of the Lynchian-millieu.
When the film came out in 2001, I actually waited to see it for the first time until after it released for home viewing, and then I ran out and bought a copy – sight unseen – knowing it would be worth it.
Mulholland Drive is one of the few films I own on almost every available medium. Despite this, last year, when my mother gave me the “annual” iTunes gift card for my birthday, I also purchased a digital copy of the film.
You see, when I get an urge to see Mulholland Drive, I need to see it. I’ll get hung up on a scene or in a particular shot or in some dialogue between the characters that I want to relive. That’s one of the, for lack of a better word, endearing things about this Lynch film. It bears repeated viewings and shifting interpretations. Not only does it bear it, Mulholland Drive seems to invite it. Even Lynch himself seems to relish the often wildly varied interpretations of this film, while also simultaneously providing these 10 clues to unraveling its mystery.
And, like memories of events from my own life, what I once thought of Mulholland Drive a decade ago upon that first viewing is not what I think about it now.
So much of Lynch’s work feels like a dream – some of it lucid, some of it not so much – that even the very act of trying to analyze it, to discuss it with friends, or to write about it quickly begins to unravel; your grasp on any meaning losing shape and definition the moment you begin to reflect. And so, like a dream, Mulholland Drive must be experienced to be understood.
Performances from Naomi Watts and Laura Harring are layered and complicated, creating a chemistry that is as odd and sexy as the film itself. Watts shows the early flash of vulnerability, tenacity, and intensity that will become the hallmark of her acting prowess in the years that follow Mulholland Drive. Her performance is not to be missed.
Naomi Watts (Inside the Actors Studio) interview:
David Lynch interview:
Laura Harring interview:
Wiki facts: Mulholland Drive
Is Mulholland Drive rotten or fresh?
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Watch or buy Mulholland Drive on Amazon