It's Strange Calling Yourself: Mulholland Dr. (2001)

Dreary, perverse, reminiscent of Los Angeles despair, sporadic, surreal, demonic, obtuse and minimalist are all terms and phrases that could to some degree describe David Lynch’s mutli-narrative expose into California disillusionment that is Mulholland Dr.  However, no one of these statements fully encapsulates the complexity that is this film, transcending logical linear narrative and taking mundane and comforting images and completely turning them on their heads is a result of what has by now become known as Lynchian filmmaking.  It is a scary film, not in the sense that Halloween or a zombie film is scary, but instead horrific in its incomprehensibility and reliance on the darkest corners of unconscious fear that allow the film to be broodingly gruesome.  Despite having a rather lengthy runtime and multiple plots to follow, Mulholland Dr. consumes viewers into its world so much so, that when the power went out at my house unexpectedly during my viewing of this film, I felt myself preoccupied not with taking care of my quickly thawing food items, but instead fixing power so I could return to the enthralling story being depicted by David Lynch with poetic.  Perhaps though, the most notable thing about Mulholland Dr., as is the case with most of Lynch’s work is that it borders ever so evenly between dream and reality, we as viewers are never certain about the actuality or probability of anything occurring in the film and whether the collective imagery shown even matters at all.  For in the world of David Lynch, individuals encounters are both fabrications of unconscious desires and happenstance occurrences within the nightmarish world of reality.  Simply put, nobody is safe in the world of David Lynch, because nobody is who they seem to be, something that becomes quite clear in Mulholland Dr., several times within the film.

I will make a passing attempt to explain the plot of Mulholland Dr., but given its rather convoluted and grand nature, what I attempt to discuss may seem like a stream of conscious reflection more so than anything.  The film begins with one Rita (Laura Harring) taking a ride through the hills of Hollywood, only to be pulled aside by her chauffeurs and held at gunpoint.  Her death seems imminent, until the men and the car they are driving is hit by a group of speed crazed teenagers coming around a corner farther ahead.  At this point Rita flees the scene and takes up residence in a recently evacuated house in suburban Los Angeles.  At this point, we are introduced to Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) who is an aspiring actress, despite having clearly sheltered upbringings.  Thanks the generous help of her aunt she is allowed room and board at an apartment in the city.  Upon her arrival to apartment, she discovers Rita in her bathroom completely distraught and suffering from amnesia.  Being the helpful person that she is, Betty agrees to help Rita find out what happened and get answers to her attackers’ motives.  Their relationship at first seems innocent, but as the plot advances, the two become romantically involved and end up sleeping together, a decision which proves rather fatal.  Along with this storyline is the experience of Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) who is a big time movie director suffering the wrath of illogical movie producers who demand that he hire specific people for his cast, particularly Betty.  We as viewers recognize her from earlier scenes, however, at not point is a logical connection made as to why she must be hired, we are only shown an Ozesque character behind a curtain whispering demands.  There is yet another layer of narrative, which involves a bounty killer (or cop, it is never clearly specified) named Joe Messing (Mark Pellegrino) knocking off various individuals for what appears to be no reason whatsoever.  These three narratives collide together in a jarring fashion and it appears that they have nothing in common, but as we have come to expect with Lynch, perhaps they are intimately related.  The film closes with a rather unusual scene of repetition to the beginning moments, with little to no reason.  We as viewers are left pondering existence and the very fabrication of our reality.

What then are we left to make of with such a surreal and nonlinear plot such as that of Mulholland Dr.  I will admittedly say that I know nowhere near enough about Freudian or Lacanian theory to properly analyze the subconscious nature of the filmic text, however, I will attempt to explain how Lynch’s film exists within the state of unconscious, particularly in a Surrealist sense.  The surrealist movement, headed by greats like Breton, Dali and Bunuel, desired to tap into something inherent to human desire that was repressed for a variety of reasons, in their times mostly political and religious.  The result was artwork and cinema that was violent and sexually perverse.  A second intent of the surrealist was to invoke shock and awe in those who witnessed their works as being something both obviously wrong in terms of ethics, yet seemingly inherent to human nature as well.  With this in mind, a film like Mulholland Dr. is clearly the next evolution in Surrealist filmmaking.  One can look at any work by Lynch and see this, although it is mot apparent in his early work Eraserhead.  Lynch’s film is arousing to viewers, not because it is formally obvious or melodramatic, but because it is eerily close to each individual that watches it, even the most bizarre of scenes in the films appears to ring true to a viewers innermost workings.  We, as humans, have a capacity for inner turmoil that often remains unanswered and Mulholland Dr. forces us to acknowledge such issues.  As for the films repetition and seeming déjà-vu nature, one needs only to reflect again, on how their mind works.  I know I am constantly replaying particular life events through my head, particularly those that prove to have a traumatic effect on me; it is perhaps a ploy on Lynch’s part to replay the traumatic events of attempted murder to further its importance to the overarching narrative.  Of course, there is always the possibility that none of it matters, that is an equally plausible reading of Lynch if you ask me.

Lynch is a staple of American independent cinema, considering his masterful mixture of the experimental and traditional narrative.  Owning his film makes you look cool, and if you can quote them or provide a copy for a viewing party, that makes you even cooler.  Oh yeah, and Billy Ray Cyrus is in this movie

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