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Mulholland Drive

May 12, 2013

Mulholland Drive (2001)
Director: David Lynch
Actors: Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring, Justin Theroux

Mulholland Drive

Synopsis: A young starlet, ‘Betty’ (Naomi Watts), comes to Los Angeles to house-sit for her aunt and try out at a few auditions. In her apartment, she comes across an amnesiac woman, nominally called ‘Rita’ (Laura Elena Harring), and both ladies set about uncovering the mystery of what happened to ‘Rita’….

Review: David Lynch’s mysterious tone poem to the wonder/horror dichotomy of Hollywood and dreaming is quite simply mesmeric (and that’s ‘dreams’ as a term for ambitions and projections, as well as ‘dreams’ in its more literal sense as the unconscious part of ourselves which takes over when we sleep).

It’s a real pandora’s box of characters, locations and scenarios – and though the film seems to offer a plot something along the lines of young aspiring actress Betty helping amnesiac Rita unpick the origin of her present situation – after the women share a clinch at the 100-minute mark, things get awfully abstract as all the previous strands of the plot seem to reinvent themselves and completely invert what had gone before. There is some logic in viewing the film as a refutation of the majority of the early action, as the Betty/Rita segment is potentially a figment of Diane’s wishful projections and emblematic of her unwillingness to face reality (so many motifs back this up – coffee being a wake-up call to the ‘real’ world; and the bold, expressionistic devices – the red lamp, the blue box and key – being harbingers of reality manifesting itself). That said, I think many critics and commentators have got carried away in ascribing an empirical logic to Lynch’s sequencing, and though maybe there is one, to me, submitting to the film’s surrealism, dream aesthetic and air of mise en abyme is far more alluring.

Plus, the film has so much more going for it than as a mere mechanism for genre speculation. It’s a truly gorgeous ode to film noir and femmes fatales, and it uncannily mines the gilded/seedy ambience of Los Angeles and Hollywood so brilliantly. What makes Mulholland Drive particularly triumphant is that it’s about as pure a piece of technical cinema as you’re ever likely to see. Lynch makes his story speak sensuously through editing (the opening Limo ride up Mulholland Drive contains magical fades), cinematography, mise en scene and perhaps his most masterful hallmark – sound. Mulholland Drive has easily one of the great sound designs, with Lynch’s sinister use of a synthesiser, coupled with moments where the diegetic sound is removed altogether, making some unforgettable aural scapes. (May 2013)

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