100 GREATEST FILMS OF ALL TIME – 21: MULHOLLAND DRIVE

by Daniel Suddes

Mulholland Dr (2001 ) Written and Directed by David Lynch Produced by: John Wentworth, Mary Sweeney, Alain Sarde, Michael Polaire, Tony Krantz, Joyce Eliason, Neal Edelstein, Pierre Edelmann Starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, Robert Forster, Ann Miller, Billy Ray Cyrus Oscar Count: 0 (Nominated for Best Director)

David Lynch, despite world-wide respect, has been an inconsistent director at best. Like the little girl with the spit curl, when he’s good, he’s very, very good (Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Inland Empire, The Straight Story) and when he’s bad he’s horrid (Lost Highway, Dune, The Elephant Man…yes, The Elephant Man). InMulholland Dr, Lynch is at his best. His bizarre dream worlds are used for a meaningful and logical end, and the film is the most hypnotic thriller ever filmed.

There is no story to this film in the traditional sense. It is about a woman who invents a conspiracy to explain her failure as an actress. But Like Lynch’s other work, it is made up of images, feelings, and ideas. People do not really speak in this film, as what they are feeling cannot be put into words. They are almost like marionettes – highly suspicious that they know of their nature but cannot find the man pulling the strings.  This makes the bizarre images seem more poignant. They are what is beneath our own conscious but are usually ignored.  Lynch’s bizarre images sometimes do not mean anything. But they are meant to be disconcerting and make people uncomfortable. Why? Because these images of violence and sadism exist in our every-day life. There really are derelicts behind the local diner with frightening faces. Does it mean anything to you?

People seem to constantly forget that, above all else, Lynch is a satirist. There are some truly funny moments in this film – from the incident with the cheating spouse (which results in a vast quantity of pink paint ending up on someone’s clothes) to the many who is seemingly unable to enjoy an espresso. But the film is also a damning indictment of the Hollywood fantasy dream. Lynch’s modus operandi is usually to show the hypocrisy of the conservative ideal by demonstrating how much more shocking rigid social rules make human nature seem.  But the Hollywood Dream factory has just as much hypocrisy in it. Young, fresh faced individuals hop off the bus and into a den of sin. Do we really need to go over how many actresses are caught up in the violence Betty finds herself in here? Or the crushing disappointment that Diane finds herself in? It may seem like the massive conspiracy from up on high (coming from a cowboy and a wheel chair bound man with a tiny head) but it’s just the nature of the beast.

It is so hypnotic that people often forget that the film is not perfect. Although most of the film is explained (one has to pay attention closely) there are certain characters that are introduced and then forgotten, as well as some rather pretty unusual editing choices.  Still, the artistic triumph of the film overshadows those minor flaws. This is a film that has to be seen by anyone with a Hollywood Dream. This will explain all of the subsequent nightmares that one will have after being rejected after every audition.

Normally, this would be where I would describe the best scene or moment in the film. This time, I refuse to do so. There are two reasons for this. The first is that Lynch has chosen not to isolate the film on the DVD release by scenes.  And it is difficult to separate one moment from the next. Like a dream, everything is significant in some way, even if it cannot all be remembered. Any moment works as a tiny short film, even Billy Ray Cyrus’ cameo as a mullet sporting adulterer.  Still, I’ll go ahead and recommend the Club Silencio moment. That was utterly creepy in all of the right ways and perfectly sums up the themes of Hollywood illusion.

Did You Know: The film originally started as a Twin Peaks spin off in the early nineties. It would have followed Audrey Horne on her journey to Hollywood. The pilot, which was filmed years later and removes all Peaks references, serves as the first two acts of the film. The third act was completed after NBC passed on turning Mulholland Dr into a series, but Studio Canal offered funds to turn it into a feature. Had the property become a TV series, shock rocker Marilyn Manson would have had a recurring role.

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