Mulholland Drive
review by Elias Savada, 12 October 2001

As the master of the confused narrative, Lynch has once again pepper sprayed his viewers with twentieth-century visions of Heironymus Bosch's Purgatory. You may scream at the incoherent madness that unfolds over this two-and-a-half hour experience, but you'll beg to go back to find a logical understanding to the weirdness that has assaulted you. Good luck. You'd have a better chance of finding Waldo than "common" sense in most of Lynch's oeuvre (the exception being The Straight Story).

This picture puzzle of the Hollywood landscape consists of the director-writer's prerequisite sideshow set pieces of death, seduction, and dwarves as seen through the sadistically strange eyes of a cinematic maestro (which won him a share of the best director prize at the Cannes Film Festival). Lynch's faithful fans will revel in his trademark irrational excesses, of his cryptic story lines (Ah, to be a ganglion in his brain. Why couldn't Osmosis Jones have tackled the mind of David Lynch instead of the body of Bill Murray!), intoxicating imagery (murky cinematography by Peter Deming, who takes a similarly dark approach in the forthcoming Hughes brothers' thriller From Hell), dreamlike editing (fade-ins and fade-outs courtesy of Mary Sweeney, another Lynch compatriot), a dread-filled score (by longtime Lynch partner-in-crime Angelo Badalamenti, ripping a page from his score for Twin Peaks), and all of the other baffling, unconventional mysteries far from the mainstream maddening crowd.

Mr. Lynch's opus began life back in 1999 as an intended network television pilot and anxiously anticipated return to the boob tube. Following its pointed rejection ("ABC doesn't want Mulholland Drive for fall and they don't want it for midseason. They don't want it."), in its current theatrical form -- with added nudity, oozing sexuality, a corpse or two, and associated violent shenanigans -- it's strictly premium cable fare. It seems appropriate that Le Studio Canal Plus helped rescue the project; Lynch has a wide following in Europe, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's marvelously mystical romantic Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain [simplified for U.S. release as merely Amelie] has distinct Lynchian underpinnings.

Whereas Twin Peaks tweaked a nation's curiosity for brilliantly weird television melodrama more than a decade ago, even with today's more tolerable small screen audiences, network executives (and theater-goers) are scratching their heads at wunderkind Lynch's latest post-production journey down a lost highway. What hath this cinematic god wrought? There is no easy or unanimous answer. You'll be hypnotically entranced and/or contemptuously infuriated. Handicapping individual appreciation for a work of this caliber is akin to practicing black magic. Or a throw of the die. American distributor Universal Focus is cautiously unreeling the film in selected markets (including New York and Los Angeles) and a handful of screens, including Washington, D.C.'s smallish Loew's Cineplex Dupont Circle and its sister operation in suburban Shirlington, Virginia.

On the twisted road from Deep River, Ontario, to the City of Angels, blond-haired, kind-hearted, aspiring starlet Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) has landed in the courtyard apartment vacated by her show-biz aunt, away filming on location. Meanwhile, high above the hills of Hollywood, a sexy brunette is nearly murdered in a limo along Mulholland Drive; an opportune turn of bad luck leaves her alive but adrift in a sea of amnesia. The latter stumbles down the hillside into Betty's lair, espies a Gilda poster (thus christening herself Rita—as in Rita Hayworth), and the two women—the ever-optimistic Canadian and the sullenly scared damsel in distress—form a fatalistic bond as they begin a feature length investigation attempting to fill in Rita's blank past. Yet as one jagged piece of the puzzle falls into place, many others sprout as the bizarre picture jigsaws among the several sinister plotlines, primarily involving frenetic film director Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux), forced by his mysterious backers to star an unknown actress, Camilla Rhodes, in a forthcoming production. As the tangential tales drag you along to a rather odd conclusion (a word I use with great trepidation), the eccentric characters blur, the "twilight zone" reality bends, and the story becomes anything but straight. We are not in Kansas, or Iowa, anymore, but in the wildly strange carnival world of the irascible David Lynch. For those of us riding this carousel, the brass ring you grab is merely a key to Alice's wacky Wonderland.

Click here to read Cynthia Fuchs' interview.

Written and
Directed by:

David Lynch

Justin Theroux
Naomi Watts
Laura Elena Harring
Ann Mille
Dan Hedaya
Mark Pellegrino
Brian Beacock
Robert Forster

R - Restricted
Under 17 requires
parent or adult




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