Mulholland Drive - rated - HOT! HOT! HOT!

Espresso Bonkers

A friend of mine saw this film and remarked that it was one of the most confusing films he'd ever seen, and noted that many in the audience were saying it was the worst film they'd ever seen. At the session I was at, it was packed - sold out, and many people stayed until the end of the credits. What does that tell you? That people will go to see a David Lynch film, and although most will tell you they didn't understand it, that fact will put some people off the film, but others will revel in it.

I revel in it.

In fact, I think Mulholland Drive is one of his more accessible films. If you compare it with Lost Highway, or even Eraserhead, it seems perfectly straightforward. But speaking of "straight," if you compare it with The Straight Story, a film that Lynch calls his most "experimental" film, then you're comparing it with the extreme right of the Lynchian brain.

I see Mulholland Drive as a parable - a morality tale. It is the old old story of the pretty girl who came to Hollywood, was used and abused, and ended her life tragically, too early, burned out and rejected. The earliest recorded example of this is the true story of Peg Entwhistle, the girl who jumped to her death from the "Hollywood" sign.

Sure there are a lot of non sequiturs in the film. Partly that is due to the fact that the film started its life as a TV series, with a whole lot of characters who were to appear in forthcoming episodes which never eventuated (the two men who meet at Winky's, for example). But I love all that. I love being immersed in the Lynchian universe, with all its obsessions and fears. As to the main story, I tend towards the Roger Ebert view: Betty Elms is Diane Selwyn as she would like to have been - but Diane is the reality, and Betty is the impossible dream Hollywood story from way back: she wins a jitterbug competition, for heaven's sake! Betty might even be the ghost of Peg Entwhistle. Or Dorothy Stratten, the poor beauty queen who came to Hollywood only to be murdered by her husband (as told in Bob Fosse's underrated film Star 80). After all, Betty Elms comes from Deep River, Ontario. Dorothy Stratten came from Vancouver, British Columbia.

I can't believe those critics who thought the two-faced elderly couple were Betty's parents. Didn't they hear them say "It was nice to meet you" to Betty as she leaves in a taxi? But I love the idea that one critic had, that they may have been the judges of the jitterbug competition! Wow! My husband's theory, which I love, is that the careless joyriding teenagers who crash into "Rita"'s car are ghostly teen jitterbuggers!

Because I see it as the feverish dream of a dying girl, I don't feel the need to tie everything up neatly. The blue box is just a device to move between the dream and the reality. Things don't have to make sense - weird things from Betty/ Diane's psyche just pop up as they do in dreams. Among David Lynch's recurring obsessions which pop up in most of his films, including this one: a mysterious entity which controls everything that happens (check!), a person or persons who comes into your life and takes over (check!), red velvet curtains (check!), hotel room /apartment number 26 (check!), a phone ringing in an empty room (check!), and, most importantly perhaps, good coffee (check, but please bring a napkin!).

The film is dedicated to the memory of Jennifer Syme. I wasn't aware there was a mystery about who Jennifer Syme was: I read somewhere about her ages ago - she was Keanu Reeves' girlfriend and she died in a tragic car crash. I read later that she was a personal assistant to David Lynch, and that she was a dark-haired beauty (like "Rita").

Mulholland Drive is beautiful to look at (Lynch must be the modern filmic master of Yves Klein blue, and at one stage I thought I was watching Bladerunner, as the lights of Los Angeles lit up the screen). It is also beautiful to listen to. The film has another ethereal Angelo Badalamenti score, with a knockout (literally!) performance of Roy Orbison's "Crying" (in Spanish). It is a lovely, sad mystery, which uses the techniques of cinema with great flair. It is the best directed film of 2001/2, and my pick for the Best Director Oscar this year.

© Michèle M Asprey 2002

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