“Much more than an enigma to be cracked, Mulholland Drive takes as its subject the very act of solving: the pleasurable and perilous, essential and absurd process of making narrative sense, of needing and creating meaning. Whether or not they explicitly pose the question, Lynch’s late films ponder the role of story at times when reality itself can seem out of joint.” — Dennis Lim, ‘The Man From Another Place’, 2015
Though originally premiering in October 2001, the Frida Cinema will be holding a special 20th anniversary screening of David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive on March 18th. The revolutionary masterwork will once again take center stage and beguile us with it’s serpentine mysteries before leaving us with only ‘silencio’.
If you’ve ever been to a Frida event, or are a fan of reading this Blog, then it’s likely you’ve seen the film or have at least heard about it. And since there is no print publication of this blog, I can presume that you are reading this via the internet. This means that you have unprecedented access to resources online to help make sense of the film – more so than the average person in 2001 might. If you’ve just seen the film and have come here looking for a breakdown then I must disappoint you, as this will not be that article.
For those uninitiated in the dark mystifying turns of Mulholland Drive, there can be almost no preparation. As a story, the film winds in, out, over, and on top of itself, retreading familiar territory with not so familiar characters. But these aren’t time loops, and this isn’t a philosophical statement. Lynch’s meta perspective on genre and storytelling in Los Angeles takes the shape of an epic, sprawling out larger than LA county itself to properly transcend his own cinematic tendencies as a director, and the expectations of narrative cinema writ large.
Many of the characters in Mulholland Drive will find themselves metaphysically trapped in the sun-shackled oasis of Hollywood: Naomi Watts as an actor desperate to be a movie star, Justin Theroux as a director for a major studio fighting for control of his picture, and Laura Elena Harring as a woman who cannot remember her own name, being chased by people she does not know. Lynch stages these incidents with all the flourishes you’d expect from a neo-noir mystery-thriller. The durational unease present in Blue Velvet and Lost Highway is similarly applied here in Mulholland Drive to dramatic effect.
I should acknowledge my reluctance to elaborate more. This has nothing to do with fear of spoiling the film – because what is there to spoil?! – rather, I don’t want to speak too much for fear of misrepresenting the film. The story is very unique and so well documented it would be redundant to repeat it beat-for-beat here. The images and scenes that Lynch constructs for this film are so much more evocative and intriguing than any description. In fact, like most jokes, art is better left without explanation.
If there is some way to ‘understand’ this film more, it may be in attempting to understand its source. Its idiosyncratic, multi-disciplinary, septuagenarian creator. And that may be more difficult than attempting to understand ourselves.
So just watch it. Be confused, be pissed off, or be enraptured by it.