Friday, January 25, 2002
Mulholland Drive / **** (2001)
Such factors are what we are immediately confronted with in "Mulholland Drive," Lynch's latest endeavor, which sees him returning to those nightmarish roots of "Blue Velvet" and "The Lost Highway." The movie is a kaleidoscope of dissolved ideas, lacking certainty and shape, and frustrating those who even try to make an attempt to derive something conclusive out of the material. Yet our concentration, as bewildering as it may seem, never lifts from the picture; from the first scene until the last, we observe with total interest, clinging to the substance as if it were trying to tell us something important amidst all its meandering. We're manipulated beyond belief by Lynch (who undoubtedly makes that his ultimate goal), but when it comes down to the final result, none of us really care. This a film so psychotic and haunting, it stays on the mind long after the lights have gone up.
The movie opens immediately under a whirlwind of unresolved confusion, as a raven-haired woman (Laura Elena Haring) in the back seat of a Limousine is pulled off the road by her drivers and ordered to get out at gunpoint, suggesting the intent that they are there to kill her. But their goals remain clouded because they are immediately thwarted by a disastrous intervention; at that moment, two cars filled with partying teenagers come racing down the highway and collide with the Limo. Every person associated with the accident perishes... except for the woman in question, who walks away from the wreckage seemingly unharmed.
Later, we discover she has suffered amnesia from the accident and knows nothing of her past. She wanders into a nearby apartment, where an out-of-town aspiring actress named Betty (Naomi Watts) later moves in. Betty discovers this unidentified woman (who takes the name "Rita" after seeing Rity Hayworth's name on a nearby movie poster) and instantly takes a liking to her mysterious persona, eventually deciding to help her rediscover her true identity.
Meanwhile, a second plot begins to weave itself. A relatively new filmmaker named Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) finds himself summonded into a stuffy Hollywood conference room, where two mysterious men, at the command of a midget in a wheelchair who dwells behind glass panels in an undisclosed location somewhere nearby, hand him a photo of a beautiful blond woman. "This is the girl for your movie," they insist. But Adam doesn't appear to be too interested in the pitch, and insists that he will make whatever decision he wants in casting an actress in his latest project. Unfortunately, as the story unfolds and Adam's life is turned topsy-turvy, we realize that the decision isn't exactly his, and that unless he caves in to the demands of higher powers, the safety of his life is at stake.
For the first half of "Mulholland Drive," Lynch seems to have an objective up his sleeve, as he slowly starts to build up two puzzling stories alongside each other. But then there comes a moment when the film is jolted into an alternate reality, and nothing makes sense any longer. Characters change identities, plots are abandoned, ideas are intertwined and images of disturbing splendor flash onto the screen. Like the participants of freakish dream state, we descend into a world of intrigue that ultimately peels back its facade to reveal one massive paradox. I do not attempt to grasp what the root of meaning is behind Lynch's shameless manipulation (that is, if there is any to begin with), but watching it unfold is an amazing experience in itself.
Above all else, the movie is brilliantly executed and thoroughly engrossing, with performances that scream "Oscar," a musical score that is suggestive of paranormal agendas, and images that strip away our defenses and leave us feeling petrified and uneasy. Like Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut," it is a film as hypnotic and psychologically terrifying as some of our creepiest nightmares. Is it as marvelous as that particular picture? Hardly. But Lynch appears to have mastered the effort, and the result is a movie in the class of "Memento" as one of the most captivating experiences of 2001.
Written by DAVID KEYES
Cast & Crew info:
Naomi Watts: Betty Elms/Diane Selwyn
Laura Harring: Rita/Camilla Rhodes
Justin Theroux: Adam Kesher
Ann Miller: Coco Lenoix
Robert Forster: Detective Harry McKnight
Brent Briscoe: Detective Neal Domgaard
Produced by Pierre Edelman, Neal Edelstein, Joyce Eliason, Tony Krantz, Michael Polaire, Alain Sarde, Mary Sweeney; Directed and screenwritten by David Lynch
Drama/Thriller (US); Rated R for language, mild violence and explicit sexual content; Running Time - 145 Minutes