Plenty to "Mul" over
The noirish L.A. mystery "Mulholland Drive," originally conceived as a TV series, is a bit confusing and doesn't tie up all its loose ends, but it still benefits from director David Lynch's unpredictable imagination.
By FRANK VIGORITO
(Originally reviewed at the 2001 New York International Film Festival.)
David Lynch elicits a number of responses from first-time audiences. The most common is perhaps utter confusion. The man who brought America "Twin Peaks" has since delved deeper into the mystery of our world; "Blue Velvet" (1986) uncovered a violent underworld breeding in a white-picket-fenced American town; "Lost Highway" (1997) introduced us to a more overtly noir world with characters that changed bodies and times, who enjoyed voyeurism and committed murder. In "Mulholland Drive," David Lynch takes us to Hollywood, where young Bettys arrive with stars in their eyes, trying to make their dreams come true, where they can mingle with the rich and famous and find success acting as different people. Confusion, once again, abounds, but the elusive beauty of "Mulholland Drive" is not in its puzzling plot, but in the cinematic moments created by that plot and the exquisite suspense that Lynch wields in the act of storytelling.
Since it was originally developed as a TV pilot, Lynch admits that "Mulholland Drive" asks more questions and begins more puzzles than it can possibly answer or complete at the end of two and a half hours. But the story that it chooses to tell and focus on is intriguing from the start. A young, beautiful, and wealthy woman (Laura Harring) sits in the lush back seat of a stretch limousine slowly winding its way up Mulholland Drive and into the lavish neighborhoods of the Hollywood Hills at night. A gun, a car crash, and an escape into the city below begin her story as a walking mystery, a dame in distress with no memory and little in the way of clues.
|Written and directed by: David Lynch.|
Cast: Justin Theroux, Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Ann Miller, Dan Hedaya, Mark Pellegrino, Brian Beacock, Robert Forster..
Related links: Official site (French)
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Lynch leads her not into the arms of a private eye, but into the bed of Betty (Naomi Watts), a recently arrived, naive and totally exuberant young actress from rural Canada. Using tips she's learned from movies and television, Betty transforms herself into a private dick and begins helping the mysterious brunette, whom we now know as Rita, to find her life and solve the mystery of her memory. Meanwhile across town, Adam, a young, successful director (Justin Theroux) is being bullied by his producers into hiring a hack actress for his newest film a role coveted by all of Hollywood's top actresses. After he protests the move, he is thrown into a typical Lynchian underworld where he discovers the pressure is really coming from a powerful, mysterious mob boss, and that his best move is to give in.
Somewhere in between Adam and Betty are a small collection of characters, some violent, some comic, some figments of the imagination. How all of these people will come together, whether or not they will come together, is the story that Lynch pulls us along with like a carrot on a string. All the time we're asking questions. What's behind that wall? What's in the purse? Who will answer the phone? What will we find around the corner? The suspense is what we come seeking and Lynch knows it; the answers to our questions are often unexpected and never complete; the audience is left to work things out for themselves, to "intuit" as Lynch says, the meaning that on the "inside you know about, but have a hard time telling your friends."
|All the time we're asking questions. What's behind that wall? What's in the purse? Who will answer the phone? What will we find around the corner? The suspense is what we come seeking and Lynch knows it.|| |
To make it harder, Lynch uses his time-shifting/character-change technique toward the end of the film, so that any answers that may have been forming in the back of your brain (or on your official David Lynch cinematic plot scorecard), are now completely useless. Or are they? There are characters in the film that don't change, that don't shift, and seem to have survived in this Lynchian universe for a long time. Instantly recognizable, veteran actress Ann Miller plays Coco, a woman who owns Betty's apartment complex, who seems well acquainted with the ins and outs of the world, and who turns up in the most unlikely of places. Coco may be the best clue to start tying ends together in "Mulholland Drive," but if she/Lynch have their way, we'll only end up in knots for having tried.
As Lynch would probably suggest, we should stop trying to make too much sense of our lives and instead choose to experience life and what it has to offer fully, and completely, in the moment. "Mulholland Drive" is an exercise in this type of intense moment-to-moment storytelling that offers neural activity at every step. A mysterious piece of work, it thankfully reminds us what it is to see a film with suspense that's not short-lived and mystery that's not quickly predictable.
|OCTOBER 11, 2001|
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