" Mulholland Drive" is a disturbing, haunting, and brilliant film noir about a female amnesia victim who tries to find out about her forgotten past. She discovers that she is at the center of a sinister web of murder and intrigue.
The film is kind of like a provocative surrealist or abstract painting. It doesn't always make sense, but it works perfectly on an intuitive or subconscious level. The film permeates your consciousness like a disturbing dream that is impossible to shake off.
" Mulholland Drive" was originally an open ended pilot episode for a new show, but the series was rejected. Judging from the pilot, the series might have the most avant-garde and challenging thing on network television.
Later, some French investors paid Lynch to shoot new footage in order to make it into a theatrical film. The reworked pilot won the best director award at Cannes Film Festival (it tied with the new Joel Coen's new film, "The Man Who Wasn't? There.")
The film’s director, David Lynch is best known for his surreal thrillers such as the " Twin Peaks" series, "Wild at Heart," and " Lost Highway.” But he also directed a pair of marvelous traditional films such as "The Elephant Man" and "The Straight Story." " Mulholland Drive" is one of his most consistent yet experimental works.
Many of his works are so rich that they invite multiple viewings, and they are always open to many interpretations. Many of the characters in " Mulholland Drive" are ironic versions of stock Hollywood characters, so the film is both a homage and parody of classic Hollywood films.
The story begins when a group of sinister men try to kill a mysterious brunette who is dressed in dark clothing (Laura Elena Haring).
The crime is interrupted when a group of drag racing kids crash into the car. The dark woman stumbles off from the car wreck, and finds shelter in someone else's room.
It turns out that the room is being rented by an actress named Betty (Naomi Watts) who is like an opposite of the dark girl. The dark girl is mysterious, dangerous and tortured woman who dresses like a femme fatale, but her counterpart, Betty, is a cheerful, All-American blonde in the Doris Day tradition.
When the dark woman sees a poster of "Gilda" so she adopts the name Rita after the film’s vampy star Rita Hayworth.
The vampy Rita and the "good girl" Betty represent two extreme feminine film types or two opposite sides of the female psyche or human nature. But the film confounds audience expectations, and both of them turn out to be far more than they seem to be on the surface.
Betty and Rita become close friends and perhaps more. They go on a dangerous mission to find the secrets behind Rita's past.
This dream-like film takes place in Hollywood, the ultimate dream factory, and Lynch takes some shots at the oppressive film establishment.
There is also a subplot about an annoying and altruistic director (Justin Theroux in a Barton Fink-like performance) who must cast an unknown actress in the main role in the film or suffer the consequences. In one of the best scenes, he is threatened by a menacing Mafioso type in western attire nicknamed "the Cowboy" (played by Monty Montgomery.)
The cowboy could represent all real-life Hollywood execs that try to set arbitrary limitations on cinema without truly understanding the medium.
The film's mood is totally intoxicating. It’s impossible not to get swept up in the film’s thick atmosphere of foreboding and menace. This is one of the few recent films that transport the viewer into a completely different world.
" Mulholland Drive,” is one of the most compelling and outstanding American films of the decade. It is the work of a mature and confident cinematic master at the top of his game.
Released by Touchstone Pictures, Directed by David Lynch, screenplay written by David Lynch and Joyce Eliason, MPAA Rating: (for violence, language, and some strong sexuality), Running Time: 146 minutes, Star Rating ****
Laura Herring (Rita)
Naomi Watts (Betty)
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