Thursday, 15 January 2009

FILM REVIEW - Mulholland Dr. ...

... *MAY CONTAIN A FEW MILD SPOILERS*

I recently rewatched this; my all time favourite film, and I'm happy to say I'm still madly in love with it. The Silencio scene didn't make me cry like it did before, but the film still shattered my soul and stuck pins into my heart. Every time I watch this film I notice something new, each time I watch it I see a slightly different film; it's forever original and new; timeless. Like most films that are truly special to me, I can't watch it very often, and I wouldn't want to wear myself out anyway, but I cherish the experience when it comes. But enough of me extolling my love, time for a proper review.

Mulholland Dr.; Hollywood...a near murder...a car crash...a beautiful woman without memory or identity...a demonic man behind a wall...an aspiring young actress named Betty...a chance meeting...a young director at war...a quest for identity...a cowboy...a rotting corpse...love...Club Silencio...crying...Hey pretty girl...time to wake up....reality...Diane Selwyn...Camilla Rhodes...betrayal...obsession ...hatred...murder...a wonderful dream...an ugly awakening...realisation...the truth...demons from the past...suicide...silencio...

The plot of Mulholland Dr. isn't the easiest to decipher (the line "dreams are nothing more than wishes, and a wish is just a dream" from Harry Nilsson's "The Puppy Song" could be a help). It's not the easiest film to review either. The film is more intent on mood, feeling and emotion. Yet after a few viewings there is revealed a narrative as beautiful and simple as water flowing in a stream. For all it's twists and turns Mulholland Dr. is really a very simple film about love, obsession, regret, guilt, dreams, imagination, the corruption of the Hollywood dream-machine, and finally the death of creativity. I think I've deciphered most of the film, but I'm not going to reveal anything. I will say this however; some parts are dream, and some parts are reality. The innovative and highly inventive narrative blurs every line that might separate reality from dream, creating a frightening and thought-provoking ambiguity. The film follows several narrative strands in the first half. Firstly there's a woman who loses her memory in a car crash (the beautiful Laura Elena Harring) that saves her from a mysterious and unsettling murder attempt on Mulholland Drive. She finds herself in the apartment that is soon to be occupied by a young aspiring actress; Betty. Betty is from Canada. She is cheery, chirpy, bright and giddy, like Doris Day. She is welcomed upon arrival in Hollywood, yet soon disovers the woman hiding in her apartment (who has now adopted the name "Rita"). Together they try to recover her identity, and become, err, very good friends. They have some very scary encounters on their quest. Then there's Adam Kesher a young director at war with studio execs over his latest project. He is in some of the funniest scenes of the film (Lynch always had a gift for absurdist humour). In one particularly comic scene he goes to a meeting with the execs and two Mafia bosses, who insist on a girl named Camilla Rhodes getting the lead part in his movie. Tensions run high as one of the bosses (Badalamenti, Lynch's brilliant composer), regurgitates his espresso and claims it to be "shiiit!" Adam refuses to give in and smashes the Limo they came in. Hilarious. And if that wasn't enough, he's kicked out of his home by his wife and a pool-man and ends up meeting a scary cowboy while covered in pink paint. You have to see it to believe it. What is interesting about the story so far is the duality. As "Rita" descends into some nightmare Betty ascends into her Hollywood dream. Anyway, at some points these strands collide, as Betty visits the casting operation of Adam's new film, a musical with some catchy songs in it. At the behest of the hypnotic cowboy Adam gives in to demands and casts Camilla Rhodes. Interestingly, the Hollywood dream seems to fall apart after this. Betty and "Rita" fall in love and find themselves in a large theater where a magician reveals hidden truths and Betty is awakened. She wakes up as Diane, a much less vibrant woman on the verge of collapse. She is obsessed with her lesbian lover, Camilla Rhodes (Laura Elena Harring), and after being humiliated at a party by her she vows revenge, leading her to commit an act through the corrupt services of the real Hollywood that leads to her tragic self-destruction.

Lynch directs with an expressive mastery unrivalled by any other director working today. His technique is immaculate, his use of the floating camera to convey a dreamlike fluidity, the various perspective shots, blurred to convey emotional upset or otherwise, extreme close-ups that build up an unbearable tension throughout, and much more. But how can I praise the brilliant directorial work without praising those who helped make it so; Peter Deming, whose camerawork creeps through corridors and floats as if deep underwater, and whose cinematography makes every frame beautiful and rich with detail, so that every shadow looks as if it's hiding something. And not to mention Angelo Badalamenti, whose score and brilliant use of sound are essential to the mood and emotional effect. Indeed at the end credits, the sound gives the viewer the feeling of being lost to an underworld, a deep ocean of sadness, of drowning in the mind. And Lynch's attention to detail glues the very deliberate narrative together (clever use of waitress name-tags, strange faces and other things that might seep into the subconscious mind. The performances are exquisite, particularly from Watts (a towering achievement), Harring and Theroux.

As I've mentioned eariler, the film is rich thematically. It's ultimately a sad and disturbing yet highly imagined and stylized portrait of Hollywood, a land of murder and violence, of corruption, a factory that sells unreliable dreams to naive young Bettys, and a place where artistic integrity is overcome by a yearning for "the good life." The second last shot of the film is masterful, panning over the dark reality of Hollywood; corporate and sleazy while the spectres of Betty and Rita, happy and smiling dance over it. A wonderful, beautiful, and ultimately heartbreaking film...silencio...

4 comments:

Mark said...

great blog

steven 559 said...

Thank you...

Dan the Man said...

A splendid blend of surrealism & cinema...see celluloidofkewl

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Maybe the most incredible movie I ever seen in my whole life!