dir: David Lynch
A few minutes after watching the film, I found myself at a pub which just happened to be conveniently located around the corner from the cinema. I wasn't sure how I'd gotten there, nor what I was planning on doing once I was there. I sat at the bar, confused and wondering.
One of the girls working behind the bar must have come towards me to ask what I wanted to drink, but I must not have heard her at first, because when I realised where I was, she was shaking me by the shoulder, concerned with the current location of my mind and presumably my wallet.
"Eh, are you okay?"
- "I'm not sure."
"What's happened to you, were you beaten up?"
I felt around my face and body "No."
"Were you in a car accident?"
Again, I answered in the negative. "Do I look that bad?"
"Well, you look like you just found out your mother just died. Ah, wait, I've worked it out now."
She walked away from me, poured a double shot of some stiff drink into a glass, and handed it to me.
"On the house."
- "Th-- Thankyou. Why?"
"You'll need it. You just watched the latest David Lynch film, didn't you?"
- "Yes, yes I did. How could you tell?"
"We get that a lot around here." She waved her hand in a broad arc, encompassing many of the other people sitting around the pub. Many of them had the same shellshocked, post traumatic stress disorder facial expression that I must have had plastered all over my face.
David Lynch makes films of a particularly unique variety, encompassing everything from the absurd to the grotesque, and certainly from the sublime to the patently ridiculous. Mulholland Drive is an extention of every film Lynch has made previously, only more so, if that makes any sense, which this film certainly does not.
Mulholland Drive won last years Palm D'Or at Cannes, which is a ringing recommendation if I ever heard one, and numerous critical plaudits from critics too frightened to admit they didn't understand a fucking thing that happened over the course of the film.
Does one employ the same criteria for 'judging' or evaluating a David Lynch film as one does to other movies? Well, no, to be honest. Then again the people that know Lynch's previous movies know what to expect, and those that loath his previous films are unlikely to ever step into a cinema playing one of them ever again. And someone who's never heard of Lynch or his idiosyncratic films is unlikely to be able to restrain him or herself from muttering "What the fuck is going on?" at regular intervals.
Not that anyone asked, but for the record, I have loved Lynch's films for a long time, seeing them as certainly standing well apart from most other films of their time, eschewing the easy paths that most dreary hack film makers, and taking us on interesting, if not always comprehensible journeys which few other directors are capable of doing.
Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Lost Highway, the Twin Peaks pilot, even The Elephant Man all have at their core visceral mysteries, nuances, stylised story telling techniques and ample oddities to keep viewers entranced, engaged and bewildered for decades. The Straight Story seemed to tell fairly straight, so to speak, yet still managed to seem both genuine and decidely odd at the same time. There are Lynchian sequences and moments which are part of popular culture with many people not even knowing their source but knowing the punch line.
No one who is a fan of Lynch's previous efforts would be too surprised by his latest film, but then again they will be just as confused as the ignoramus next to them as to what is really going on in the movie. Anyone who sat through Lost Highway may expect it, but be just as clueless. So what is the most appropriate way to discuss or review the film? I haven't got a fucking clue.
I can say that I enjoyed it, in so far as a David Lynch film can be enjoyed. I have always believed, since watching Wild at Heart in the cinema as a teenager, that David Lynch's intention in making films was to engage people on a visceral level, his desire is to evoke a certain range of emotions, sensations and
feelings with the progression of his story. It made sense to me that Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart worked on that level: fear, sexual desire, disgust, discomfort, sadness, joy at whatever intervals he sees fit, often placing them so close together that the cumulative effect was all the more powerful and traumatic.
The intellect itself is still engaged, but since his films have rarely had linear plots, and the characters and events seem to paddle around in a dream like state of symbolism for its own sake, our responses are keyed in on a more primal level, to the extent where the plot matters far less than how we feel about a
Okay, that may seem like a simplistic exegesis on my part, but it at least works for me. Lynch himself is less than forthcoming with explanations of his own films in interviews, often being content with mumbling increasingly eccentric statements as if to perpetually reinforce his reputation as the loopiest director in American film. I am not going to presume to illuminate others, since no-one's ever going to work everything out, mostly because it is next to impossible to distinguish what is weird but meaningful and what is weird solely for weirdness' sake, if that's even a word.
After watching the film I have taken the time to read other reviewer's explanations of the plot and other people's opinions as to what the story really means. I remain unconvinced that any of them presuming to be able to work out the overarching 'truth' of the story, and its ultimate meaning, are anywhere near the
mark. Mostly because I don't believe that Lynch wanted it to make sense in that 'way'. But the absolute beauty of this film, if you didn't walk out in disgust half way through, is that it provokes that level of thought and debate amongst viewers, a virtue which few films these days can assert.
The plot. The plot? There is no point trying to relate any of the plot. Sequences of vignettes and unconnected sequences don't make a plot. It's left up to us to work out what the plot is if we have the time or the inclination. There seems to be a plot, but if you're watching it for the first time, I wouldn't get too
attached to it if I were you.
A dark haired woman (Laura Harring) is being driven down Mulholland Drive in Hollywood in a limousine. The limo stops and we get the impression she is about to be killed. A chance car crash saves her, but leaves her concussed and with amnesia. She scrambles down the Hollywood hills trying to find a place to rest.
By chance she ends up in a woman's apartment. That woman's niece called Betty (Naomi Watts) coincidentally arrives to stay at that apartment, and mistakenly assumes the naked woman in the
shower is a friend of her aunts. Betty has come to Los Angeles from Canada in order to make it big in the movies, in that classic American Dream cliche which in reality results in cornfed girls from Ontario or Nebraska or Ohio ending up in gangbang films in order to make 'ends' meet. The dark haired woman calls herself Rita after seeing the name on a poster for the classic Charles Vidor flick Gilda, which starred Rita Hayworth.
Eventually, the pair try to work out the truth of Rita's real identity.
At the same time, a young(ish) director called Adam (Justin Theroux is trying to cast actresses for his movie. He is informed by the strange behaviour of his producers that a woman called Camilla must be cast in the lead role. Two strange brothers who appear to be mobsters (played by Dan Hedaya and the legendary
composer himself Angelo Badalamenti) after being less than pleased about the quality of the espresso offered to them, proceed to ruin Adam's life when he demures in the space of a day, although his wife manages to add to it all in her own sweet way.
Amongst all this there are also multiple vignettes which seem to bear no relation to the plot at all, but also seem to connect later on. From here the story jumps and shifts in so many directions, some of them lead nowhere, some of them seem to further the story to no avail. Taking a literal approach to the film is fruitless. For three quarters of the film's running length, the film seems to be formulated as a mystery, but
eventually you have to let go of the preconceived idea of what that entails.
The real mystery is that Lynch ever thought this would pass as a pilot for a series on tv. The tacked-on ending to give a semblance of 'closure' in the later quarter of the film will either make people wonder at how much any film can be improved by having its two female leads whip their breasts out and start playing with each others', or leave them grateful that even though the film has now been rendered incomprehensible, at least there was some hot lesbian sex between two stunning women. How many films can claim that, eh?
I do not believe that the film *can* be worked out in a logical manner. I think that anyone that believes they have worked out how to perfectly reconcile the latter 'reality' with the preceding 'reality' is lying to themselves. And if they were to run up to David Lynch with their explanation, his inevitably confused response would make the questioner want to punch Lynch several times in the nuts. I have my own theories as to what it may mean, but I don't necessarily believe that it can be worked out or that it needs to be worked out.
The film has so many symbols and macguffins that ultimately one has to realise that it means everything and nothing. It's not necessarily Lynch's joke on us. Lost Highway has similar temporal / character identity shifts which whilst able to be explained with pedantic psychobabble, simply works beautifully if you just accept that that's just how it is. If you couldn't stomach Lost Highway, and are currently serving time in jail for having killed your local projectionist / video store clerk, then perhaps avoiding this film is a good idea too.
The cinematography by Peter Deming is nothing short of stunning, giving Los Angeles an entirely different presence as it almost becomes a character in the film itself (and possibly is, I don't fucking well know, give me a break). Angelo Badalamenti delivers an ominous, compelling score, completely in synch with the
ominous moments of the story, showing that his and Lynch's madness dances together.
On a minor note, I very much enjoyed many sequences in the film, not least of which was the one with the hitman whose days just kept getting worse. It exemplifies the level to which Lynch truly appreciates the absurd, a common staple throughout all his films needless to say, and probably explains why his films are so
beloved by the French.
All the same, I very much enjoyed the sequence in the theatre called Silencio, where, after a character keeps telling the audience (being us) that nothing is as it appears to be, a singer comes out and gifts us with a version of Roy Orbison's "Crying" in Spanish. Great to see another sequence with the Big O's music playing part, though it isn't as magnificent as Dean Stockwell's miming of "In Dreams" in Blue Velvet, it's still
enjoyable and affecting.
Seeing the ridiculous amount of Australians in this film (Naomi Watts in one of the two main roles, Marcus Graham in a short but hilarious / odd cameo, Melissa George as the weirdest character / least developed character of all, makes me wonder if some evil entity is forcing Hollywood producers and directors to cast all
these Australians in their films. It would make sense.
Overall, only your own feelings regarding weird films and David Lynch will dictate your enjoyment of this film. There is consummate skill involved in the creation of such a beast, but only an individual can decide what the hell it all means, if anything at all. And don't recommend it to anyone you know: if they like it you'll have to listen to their inane interpretations for weeks on end, and if they hate it they'll think you're a freak or an idiot and they'll want you to pay them their money back. Or they'll give you a hard cock-punching, which isn't fun for anyone concerned, believe me.
I wouldn't even know where to begin to give this film a score. Let's say it's either an 8/10 or a 2/10
"No ai banda. There is no band." - Magician, Mulholland Drive