Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Review #100: Mulholland Dr.

It will come as no surprise to my regular readers to know that I liked Mulholland Dr. a lot. I am writing this review after having watched it for the third time, twice in as many months. People love David Lynch or hate him. There seems not to be much middle ground. I love him, and I've loved him for about 15 years, so I consider myself a relative newcomer.

And despite watching Lynch works for 15 years, half the time he can still leave me completely flummoxed. When I first saw this film five years or so ago at the cinema, I had no idea what was going on, but I knew I was fucking terrified. The other thing I knew was that I was surprised at how the critics were raving about the movie. Not because it was bad, but because they had crucified Lynch for Lost Highway just a few years earlier, and I felt much of the ground covered in the two movies was similar. How could professional critics hate LH and love MD, which, arguably, was in some ways derivative of that earlier work? (Indeed, such was the acclaim that Lynch was nominated for the Best Director Oscar for this film.)

No matter. Fuck the critics. I liked what I saw. But could it hold my interest a second time on DVD? Would I be able to watch it alone at night with the lights down?

Second time around, Mulholland Dr. is a little less twisty, but not much -- perhaps that was due to a gap of five years between viewings, though. And this time around I had taken the list of David Lynch's "clues to unlocking the film's secrets". While they didn't necessarily help as much as some people might have expected, they did at least help focus the mind at certain points in the film. They helped give a sense of exactly who was whom, and when, as well as starting to create a sense of chronology out of the mayhem.

For the third viewing, I had committed as much of this stuff to memory as possible before starting the film. And what's really fascinating is that the whole film seemed to take on a subtly different feel. The dark, Lynchian terror is still there, of course, but I felt more open to the humour than before. (Humour has always been present in much of Lynch's work, but the more tense you are as a viewer, the more hidden the humour is, if that makes sense.)

But not only that. I also felt that despite "knowing" the secrets of the film and "knowing" the movie's chronology, it still had many rich, as-yet-unrevealed layers to work through. The dream-like feel becomes even more so. The cuts to new scenes seem even more obviously cuts to different timelines, which sometimes they are and sometimes they're not, I guess. Just because you "know" the film, there is still so much you don't really know...

Naomi Watts plays her role to perfection. On first viewing I thought the acting was quite poor. That's not wholly unusual in Lynch work, but I'm beginning to see it as a stylistic choice, as strange as that sounds. This is more apparent here, in Watts's performance, than in any previous Lynch movie. The way she moves from quirky, ditzy, small-town wannabe actress to protective detective to actress extraordinaire (in her audition) is faultless. And what is fascinating here is the way in which Lynch seems to be saying: "Look how fake people look when they act "normal", and how "real" they look when they are clearly faking." Just excellent!

Laura Harring also makes a strong impression as the car-crash victim with amnesia -- the catalyst for the whole movie. Again, it's one of those "is thais bad acting or good acting" performances that just might not appeal to you. No such questions can be asked of Justin Theroux, however, who puts in a great showing as the director of the film-within-a-film. He's a real standout.

And the Spanish-language version of Roy Orbison's "Crying", performed by Rebekah Del Rio, is simply phenomenal.

When it comes to films that make you doubt everything you see, this must surely be the zenith. It's a twisty-turny thing of beauty that must be seen to be (dis)believed. While not currently my favourite David Lynch movie, Mulholland Dr. is making great strides in the right direction, currently sitting in fourth place, after Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me (91 points), Blue Velvet (88), and just one point behind Lost Highway (84) at the time of this review.

Acting: 14
Story: 16
Direction: 18
Enjoyment: 17
Involvement: 18
Total: 83

Note: Check out Candy Minx's post here for 10 clues to unlocking Mulholland Dr., and this page of IMDb for notes on the movie's timeline.

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