This movie is often cited by critics as the best so far this century and its hard to find that a contentious opinion. Mulholland Dr is a movie I have to revisit every so often so as I feel aligned with it, because after a hiatus I lose track of what it was all about and I don’t like that feeling. Even now as I write this I realise I need to see it again and ‘pronto‘!
After my first viewing I wasn’t overly impressed with Lynch’s usual Macabre storytelling (a la Lost Highway) to f&/k your mind over, but Mulholland has something which lingers and feels ineffable in our lives. As a moviegoer Mulholland is like the antithesis of the aspirational 2016 release La La Land which also I’m a huge fan.
Like La La, Mulholland tells the story of an aspiring actress with high hopes arriving in Holywood. Mulholland not unkeeping with the Coen Brothers Barton Fink reality of Hollywood tells a very different story. Fame can become an illusion and in quest for that grandeur an individual can lose track of what they represent and who they are. An individual is malleable if left to the devices of big corporate and hell-bent on success.
Hollywood definitely isn’t all its made out to be and not only are we seeing that since the commencement of the Pandemic where moviemakers are leaving to make movies in other states and nations because of Californian Tax hikes, but even pre-COVID in light of the Weinstein saga and what it took to make a name. Mulholland like Barton dispels the myth that Hollywood seeks great art at its source. They exposed like no others what this industry is about and how the idealistic individual can become twisted and wrecked in its wake.
Still untarnished by the false promises of the rapacious film industry, the wide-eyed actress, Betty, sets foot on bustling, sun-kissed Hollywood. Brimming with hope, and eager to spread her wings and prove her worth, Betty moves in Aunt Ruth’s expensive apartment, unbeknownst to her, however, that fate has other plans in store for her, setting the stage for life-altering experiences with the unexpected, the indecipherable, and the unknown. Now, in the centre of an elaborate labyrinth of half-truths, faded memories, unrequited loves, and dangerous encounters with the city’s ugly face lies a strange key to a mysterious keyhole, an even stranger indigo-blue cube, the young director, Adam, and one cryptic woman: the amnesiac brunette and devilishly seductive car-crash survivor, Rita. But, time flies and Rita’s opaque past demands answers. After all, both women deserve the truth. What is the secret of the serpentine, dream-crushing Mulholland Drive?
David Lynch doesn’t like interpretations of his work. Just let the art be. I don’t think he even knows where he was going with this movie. Whether or not you are satisfied with a particular interpretation of the plot should be irrelevant to your enjoyment of the film. It’s a great film and one for the ages as far as surrealist neo-noir mystery films. His Blue Velvet is another stand-out in this genre. Mulholland Dr like a lot of Lynch’s films can be like a good wine – he must be savoured and mulled over.
Is it all a dream? The life we live as well?
I haven’t seen this one but as a rule…I do like Lynch’s films. Totally different mind working there…I can’t believe he is in Hollywood.
To be honest, I’m not across much of his work. My old man was into Twin peaks in a big way, which I haven’t seen. I loved Blue Velvet which has be one of the greatest 80’s American movies.
Mulholland is outta this world. Although paradoxically I always feel I have to see it again to keep in touch with reality, which it is anything but.
Matt….I can’t describe some of the Lynch movies I’ve seen. Eraserhead being the one that made my jaw drop…I could not explain it even if you paid me.
There is one on youtube called “Rabbits” and that one is very strange but appealing.
I still haven’t seen Eraserhead! I’ll check out Rabbits. Thanks Max. I hope you are all well.
Keep an open mind! Read about it a little…it will help…it’s very odd.
One day I’ll see it. I just haven’t got round to it. Now the Olympics is on, less chance haha
I thought there is only one interpretation of this film? And that consciousness and guilt “intrudes” on the created reality – Diane’s “dream world/fantasy” and “real world/facts” collide, and Lynch decided to show both, visually presenting what is going Diane’ mind, including her dreams, feelings of guilt, depression, etc. She built this perfect world in her mind, but the “key”, the phrase “this is the girl”, the “nasty-tasting espresso”, she probably drunk in the café prior to the tragedy, and other things, all this tarnish her dream-world, and reality gets the better of her in the end. Personally, it took me ten years to appreciate and “get” this film for what it really is, but now I consider it one of the greatest cinematic achievements.
I couldn’t agree more with your interpretation about Diane and of the greatest cinematic achievements at least of this century. I also love its look at Hollywood ala Barton Finch.
Thank you for presenting your insightful thoughts on the movie.
I personally find it hard to compare them. Though both films try to show “the other side” of Hollywood and some scenes satirise the industry – that’s where their comparison ends on the internal level. They do have different angles. The issue here is that Fink was clearly very talented, but there is no evidence that Diane was so. Her acting in that “trial” scene may be, and probably is, imaginary. She was a “piece” in the Hollywood machinery, like hundreds of others, and though Fink has also become so in some way, he certainly has already started to establish his enviable playwright reputation in New York. Fink has also remained “intact” as per his talent and personality, though his disillusionment transpired into reality, whereas Diane “disintegrated” complete – and the fault is not really “Hollywood’s”.
Lynch’s critique of Hollywood as an industry is almost incidental because of his focus on the “Hollywood dream” and life, and the internal personality, whereas Coen’s is purposeful since they satirised in their film not only the journey of a script, but also the whole concept of a Hollywood film, including such concepts as “murder”, “dead-body”, “serial-killer”, “alcoholic genius”, “Hollywood fraud”, “ghost-writing”, and nearly all elements of a “film-noir”.
I think in terms of mood, story, idealistic artists (both pieces in the ‘Hollywood machinery’ – as you put it) and the overhanging grim Hollywood you can make some connections, but I also appreciate your contrasts between the two films. I don’t think Lynch’s critique was incidental when you consider the menacing story of the aspiring director and the threats he endures to conform – or else! But, I found your study into their differences very poignant and well-argued. Thanks for explaining all that.
Yes, you are right, perhaps I I meant “incidental” in terms of being secondary to the main character’s internal development because those threats he endured to “conform” was actually in response to Diane’s internal struggle about not really wanting to have her girlfriend killed. “This is the girl” is the phrase she said to the killer – and it cost her a lot both mentally and emotionally. The same pressure was faced by the director – Diane wanted to believe like she had no choice in the matter, as though some external agency put pressure on her to say those words, when, in reality that was not the case. So, the pressure on the director corresponded with the pressure that Diane experienced in “the real world”. The real plot, facts, reality, is going on underneath the story we see – we have to guess through signs and symbols and weirdness because Diane does not let us break her fantasies down, so, in this way, the story is hardly about any aspiring director.
I gathered you meant secondary to the main character’s internal development, but as the film is presented at surface level that story arc was significant. You are obviously more familiar with this movie than I am. I haven’t seen it for about 2 years, but I am biting the bit to see it again especially after reading your astute observations. Cheers.