David Lynch (director)
22 May 2017 (released)
05 June 2017
Welcome to the twisted mind of director David Lynch whose 2001 neo-noir puzzle MULHOLLAND DRIVE offers an excursion into the realms of alternate realities and surreal dreams…inviting viewers to go with the flow and drawn their own conclusions. Good luck!
As is usually the case with Lynch’s works, nothing really is what it seems to be… and it’s no different here (clue: the answer lies hidden inside the little blue box). The film begins with a surreal montage of a some beauties dressed in 1950’s style outfits, one being played by Naomi Watts, singing at some contest while the opening credits begin rolling across the screen. Cut to the next scene in which a mysterious looking brunette beauty (Laura Elena Harring) is chauffeured in a flash car along famous Mulholland Drive, a road high up in the Hollywood Hills. Just as the two men in the front seats order her to get out of the car (we suspect an execution style murder may take place any second) the car is hit by another car and the impact throws the dark haired woman into the shrubbery while we are left to assume her co-drivers were killed in the crash. Apparently suffering from shock, amnesia, a concussion and consequent memory loss, the injured woman manages to make her way down the hills to LA where she sneaks into an apparently empty apartment.
Cut to the next scene in which pretty blond Betty Elms (N. Watts), an aspiring actress, arrives at LA airport to make her way to a luxurious apartment usually occupied by her aunt. At the airport she says goodbye to a friendly elderly couple, obviously fellow plane passengers she befriended during her flight to LA and to whom she told that she has come to Hollywood to follow her dream of becoming a successful movie actress – made possible by her aunt’s generous offer to stay in her apartment. We then learn that Betty’s aunt is apparently also an actress whose current engagement for a movie shot in Canada enabled her to offer the empty flat to Betty. Upon arrival, Betty is not only mighty impressed by the sheer luxury of the apartment but also surprised to find a naked woman in the shower. Yes you guessed it - it’s the mysterious brunette from the car crash earlier on! A misunderstanding leads Betty to believe the woman must be a friend of her aunt though when asked, the woman is unable to remember her own name, nor how she came to be in the apartment in the first plalce. Glancing at the walls, she spots an old movie poster for the 1946 noir thriller Gilda, starring Rita Hayworth… and tells Betty that her name is Rita! The two women strike up a friendship (later they embark on a lesbian affair) and Betty vows to help Rita in solving the puzzle of how she came be in the apartment, and how she came to have suffered a concussion. So far, so good!
But then things get more and more confusing (and at rapid speed at that), as Lynch begins to jump from one seemingly unconnected subplot to another – involving arrogant film director Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) who is being pressured by the mob to ‘replace’ his leading actress of choice with an unknown actress called Camilla Rhodes (Melissa George), a bumbling hit man killing three people over a book containing important phone numbers, a strange man ‘behind the walls’ holding a peculiar little blue box, dwarf actor Michael Anderson (from Twin Peaks) as the strange and manipulative Mr. Roque, the discovery of a decomposed body presumed to be a female called Diane Selwyn, and (in a revealing key sequence) a devastating performance by Latino singer Rebekah Del Rio offering her rendition of Roy Orbinson’s hit ‘Crying’. This is, of course, only the tip of the iceberg… as in the second half of the film identity-swaps take place - leading us to the shocking conclusion. Just don’t expect straightforward answers or explanations!
Naomi Watts is terrific as the confident and sympathetic Betty, who later turns out to be… well, I won’t spoilt it for you guys! Laura Elena Harring is the ultimate femme fatale and perfect casting as the mysterious woman with no past, and Justin Theroux is spot-on as the successful film director who by the way is the only person whose character does not shift or change throughout the plot.
Speaking of the plot: the basics of this mystery are very cleverly concocted but the problem is that here, Lynch has perhaps been too clever for his own good. The film’s conclusion and explanations begin to make some sort of sense if you’re brave enough to stick with it to the end… but even then one must wonder whether Lynch simply makes too many demands on his audience by expecting us to follow every bizarre twist and turn with the same ease as he himself does…and of course, he’s responsible for the script so all’s crystal clear to him.
Still, for those who love surreal thrillers and plots more complex than a maths exam, MULHOLLAND DRIVE should be the perfect vehicle. Stunning photography by Peter Deming and a hauntingly atmospheric soundtrack by Lynch favourite Angelo Badalementi round up the affair. This newly restored Blu-ray release furthermore offers an array of Bonus Features. Dream on!