Mulholland Drive Reviews
It took two viewings to get a faint understanding of events and even then after cheating and reading original reviews of the film from its release.
The film begins with an apparent car accident on Mullholand Drive in the Hollywood hills of Los Angeles
leading to the amnesia of a survivor (Laura Herring).
Herrings character (at this point unnamed) stumbles into the house of an aspiring Hollywood actress Betty Elms (Naomi Watts).
Betty with Herring who takes the name of Rita, after Rita Hayworth the actress try to solve the mystery of the amnesia meanwhile in other peripheral storylines that at first appear to have no relation to these events. People are shot, lesbian relationships develop, there is a Quentin Tarantino like director, casting sessions. The list seems endless.
There is a relationship to these pretty innocuous events that becomes apparent after studying the film you have just watched!
It takes a lot of concentration and detective work. Something that you won't expect from most films.
Director David Lynch delivers a film that is very thought provoking.
Can't explain any further, but two things for sure - Hollywood and unrequited love is like oil and water, and David Lynch is a peculiar, insane filmmaker to love.
Original 2012 Review:
From what I've gathered thus far, this is a director's heightened, darkened, paranoid Hollywood memoir. Everything about this film is from the point of view of a Hollywood director who is saying something about artists working for 'the man,' the envy and desperation they're forced into, the mold that they have to cut pieces of themselves away to fit into. Diane (or Betty, however you choose to look at it) begins her journey to Hell in the prologue (this is all very similar to my own Death Odyssey), her life fading into an ugly trip that will eventually have her chipping away more than a few parts of herself to fit into a mold; her extreme desperation, coming from the slums of life, can only forsee splattering a boldfaced message on that mold, exhausted from the routines she's forced upon herself, and that have been forced upon her.
Ironically, this basis for a story is told amidst a framework antithetical to the consumer demand movie 'the man' would have you molding for, so we get to explore two extreme contrasts told within each other. We get this indirect sense of Lynch's conspiratorial paranoia when we see 'the man' speaking from the control room, delivering orders from the top of a heirarchy. We know nothing more of 'who' they are than Lynch himself, other than that we know these rooms and these people exist in some fashion, and they control our lives.
The film works because it's "hypnotic" (as Roger Ebert put it), but it's over-the-top in trying to be clever, and I believe most audiences will just feel too far removed, as even I did for the most part. There's more than just an impression Lynch is making, and that's where he should've stopped himself, because the structure of the script acts as though it encodes some greater meaning that the audience can't access as much as they would if this structure was ignored. It would've been more interesting to not loop the structure and return to scenarios from different angles, but rather continue moving forth with the same impressions in a spiral journey. abstract linear form.
Mulholland Dr. tells its story in for the greater part in a "main" line, which is about a woman helping an amnesiac recover her memory. Running in parallel are a sequence of seemingly unrelated vignettes that do not tie into the, until the very end of the film. Many of these marginal notes remain unexplained even then, and their ambiguity is not a flaw, but rather a crucial element in the film's mystery element. The film as a whole does not proceed in an ordered plot, but rather in a combination of dreams and flashbacks. In doing so, Lynch overturned the definition of cinematic narrative, which had hitherto gone unchallenged. The idea that films must follow a temporal plot progression, or indeed that they must display narrative logic at all, was directly called into question with the film's release. What followed was a realization that audiences enjoyed having the opportunity to piece together a plot in absence of an absolute definition: something which occurs to an extent in all mystery films, but never on a scale as large as Mulholland Dr., and certainly not at the level of form.
While the meaning that Lynch intended is known only to himself, a commonly accepted interpretation is that the first part of the film is a dream in which Diane Selwyn dissociates from herself after committing the murder. This is an example of Freud's theory on the unconscious being brought to life: it has all the elements of a dream-work. There is displacement, whereby Diane is incarnated as Betty Elms, the "ideal" Diane before her downfall; and Camilla is split into separate entities, Rita the part that Diane loved and the blonde Camilla the part she despised. There is condensation, whereby the perceived power behind all of Diane's misfortune is embodied as a mafia, complete with the cowboy as the strongman arm; and Diane's desire for recognition and fame is brought to life in the love scene she auditions for. The film is packed with metaphor, including the man behind the diner as the embodiment of Diane's failure, and Diane's corpse in the dream as a foreboding towards her suicide. Color and lighting are used to spectacular effect, creating an ominous suspense around the mafia, an unsettlingly bewildering atmosphere in Club Silencio, and maintaining suspense and darkness throughout the film.
Through Mulholland Dr., Lynch achieved a twofold purpose. Not only did he show that a film in which the primary tool of storytelling is metaphor rather than narrative can be successful, he also used the film as a protest against the American Dream (and by extension, capitalism). Mulholland Dr. is essentially what could be called a "failure story", a testimonial to how the idea of the American Dream benefits only a very few at the end, to the loss of the common man. By portraying Diane as a young hopeful actress, we see how a mere turn of chance results in her never receiving a big break, while Camilla becomes more and more successful. All the while, this affects their strained, forbidden relationship, until jealousy drives Diane mad and she kills both of them. Metaphorically, this is a representation of how competition at the expense of social relationships results in the mutual destruction of both parties.
In its protest against capitalism, Mulholland Dr. attempts to prove that its fundamental tenets are flawed. The idea that anyone can pull themselves up and succeed in the world is challenged in the dream, where it is revealed that the system is tightly governed and rigged by a small group of powerful people who are able to control the flow of wealth. They can blackmail and force Adam into hiring an actress against his imperative as a director. In doing this, Mulholland Dr. slams capitalism as a system which is not truly meritocratic, and provides only an illusion of free will as it guides a person's hand from the background.
In reality, the film provides a novel and alternative way to challenge capitalism, where before Marxist demystification was the only methodology for uncovering the flaws in a system. While both Marxism and the perspective the film provides have a common goal, their approaches are fundamentally different. Marxism argues that mystification is a result of a non-empirical, unscientific worldview, and therefore demystification counters that by laying bare the facts without any distortion - presenting the world as it is; whereas in Mulholland Dr., the methodology relies heavily on metaphor and distortion to unveil the flaws in a system. That reliance means that this new form of demystification certainly isn't Marxist in nature, but perhaps a more easily accessible and understandable one to society at large. Where Marxist demystification may appear very hardline and difficult to accept for the common man (and is also very difficult to accomplish in the first place), metaphoric demystification is a softer, artistic way of opening minds to challenge capitalism themselves.
Mulholland Dr. is an example of revolutionary cinema at its finest, bringing political change to the film industry and to society as a whole. It questions the status quo in cinematic narrative and in economics, all the while maintaining a dark, mysterious atmosphere which leaves the audience wondering so that the individual must find their own answers, and that has secured it a rank among the greatest films of all time.
Betty has come to Hollywood, bright eyed and bushy tailed, to be a movie star. She is staying at her aunt's house where she discovers Rita, a woman who has been in a car accident and has lost all her memory. Betty does not seem to be a character with much internal depth or darkness. Her flatness of effect is even parodied in her very first scene in the airport where the dialogue is clearly overdubbed and fake. Her blind kindness makes her vulnerable to exploitation. For instance, she does not seem to care that a stranger is living in her aunt's house.
In the audition scene, Betty tries out for a part in a small movie called the Sylvia North Story. The scene occurs about halfway through the film. Our expectations for the audition have already been set up by much of what we have witnessed leading up to the scene. Coming up to the audition scene the audience members are somewhat invested in betty's success, a basic expectation for any protagonist, but they are wary of some danger that may be in store because of her innocence and we have little or no expectation that she will impress with her actin skills. At this point the audience has already seen the scene played out earlier in the house as a practice round with Betty and Rita. In the first reading, the scene is revealed to be trite and the dialogue clichéd and melodramatic. Betty's character rebukes her father's friend who is trying to seduce her for the second time it seems. She moves closer and closer as her threats become sterner. The Betty and Rita cannot finish the scene without laughing at the dramatic quality of the script. A universe of expectation has been laid out for the viewer and these expectations will work as a trap. Everything in the audition rooms seems to reinforce what we already think. The people are really stiff, Betty's reading partner is orange and looks like he has been getting too much sun, and the director is absent minded and laughable. When the scene begins, and Betty's reading partner pulls her in closer, what triggers first is our awareness of how vulnerable she is. When she pushes him away, the audience members do not know if she is reacting as herself or as the character. Then Woody moves to put his hands below Betty's waist and a transformation that is so sudden takes place. The transformation is so sudden that the viewer experiences whiplash. The audience members are lured into engaging emotionally with the scene when Lynch triggers our expectation that Betty might be exploited the viewers have dropped their guard and then they are left in awe because it is not like what they have expected based on the earlier seen where Betty and Rita were practicing.
Another instance, where Lynch utilized our expectations is in the beginning of the movie. Near the beginning of the film in Diane's apartment, it almost looks and sounds as if someone smoking cocaine. The film then pans across to Diane's red pillow, this is one of the many hints and references to dreams that the audience will receive during the film indicating that some of what the audience will be watching would be an illusion. Diane is experiencing a drug-induced stupor, where she dreams that for once, things go her way. She both gets the girl and the career she always wanted. When Diane wakes up, towards the end of the film, she is clearly depressed and then kills herself after her neighbor tells her that there are detectives looking for her. By showing these scene, lynch has provided the audience with knowledge of the main character prior to the movie so that the audiences expectations could be formulated. After he allows the audience to formulate expectations, he catches them off guard and surprises them with a plot twist.
All throughout the film from the overdubbed dialogue, David Lynch has made us privy to the veneer of things. It is all curiously two-dimensional and that puts the viewers on guard since surfaces are all they get. Lynch encourages the audience to examine those surfaces but always remaining detached enough for a disinterested critical view of what they are seeing. However, this two-dimensionality and flatness is also a deception. While the viewers think they are on their guard, superior to the cloying emotions of Hollywood wish fulfillment, Lynch relishes dropping the bottom out, showing the viewers just how unprepared and susceptible they are to emotions. Not content with the dreams that Hollywood has been feeding us, Lynch utilizes clichéd expectation to move us into the spaces films have yet to go, showing us the dangers and the hopes of believing.