Director: David Lynch
Screenplay: David Lynch
Starring: Justin Theroux, Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring, Ann Miller, Robert Forster
Runtime: 146 Minutes
Original UK Release: 2001
Mulholland Drive is where the full experimental capability of David Lynch’s earliest projects finally enters the beating light of Hollywood. Although originally beginning its life as an extended television pilot and evolving over time, the result is one of the most inscrutable, yet thoroughly involving and moving films of the 21st century.
Lynch is at his most interesting when working outside of traditional narrative constrictions, using the platform of their roots and signifiers to deliver a much stranger experience – operating on a level of emotions that lead the viewer as opposed foresight and narrative expectation. Reinterpreting the qualities of 40s/50s noir mysteries through his own particular lens of unreality, Mulholland Drive offers up a mosaic of different and divisive ideas, yet somehow forming a whole more incalculable than the sum of its individual parts.
While a Nancy Drew-esque mystery being propelled by its two unique leading ladies – Watts and Harring, both on astonishingly great form – is the core drama, it also acts as a derisive critique of the absurdities of Hollywood as an institution, the dream factory it represents in the eyes of audiences, as well as the dark forces at work behind the curtains that will turn lives in an instant if not placated.
It functions within the lair of incongruity, reality warping instances and seemingly unrelated detours which behave with the kind of logic that could only make sense in a dream. Ornaments and figures and locations of impossible space and opulence that could only exist on a metaphorical plain, but are somehow tangible within the films universe. Its captivation is held in so many instances by telling the audience that what they are about to see isn't real, and then allowing the spectator to willingly believe in the illusion and be broken by its eventual reveal.
Angelo Badalamenti’s score is a misty triumph. Much like his work on Twin Peaks and past collaborations with Lynch, the sound is half of the pictures work already completed as it hovers over every sensational beat with incredible emotion, and yet it’s still an illusory manipulation that intends to trap its audience in a state of mind and somehow succeeds.
To try and distil ‘the point’ of it all is the miss the intention entirely. If you look deep into its imagery and construction then there is sense to be made in the chaos, but even then like a waking dream the films collisions with reality create an effect. One which induces the exhaustive sensations of Hollywood, and the concepts it both delivers on and brings crumbing down.