And Now I’m In This Dream Place

by

Mulholland Drive

Mulholland Dr.
Directed by David Lynch
2001

bakinakwa says: 

When it came time to choose our inaugural film, the choice wasn’t immediately obvious.  We could go with our namesake, of course, but that would be a clichéd and not at all unexpected selection.  We had already decided to do a film we actually own, so what were the options?  Donnie Darko is a film we’ve both loved, but we’ve seen it not too long ago, so that’s out.  Bob Dylan‘s Dont Look Back would be cool, but there must be a better kick-off.  Casablanca?  No, that’ll have to wait for Humphrey Bogart month.  Lost In Translation?  No, we want to go back and see The Virgin Suicides first.  What then?

We settled on what was probably the clear choice all along: Mulholland Dr., a film that, since seeing it in theatre on November 24, 2001, I have consistently maintained is my favorite of all-time.  lakelia is less enamored with it (I think), but as a starting point it simply felt right.  So, what made me regard it so highly immediately after my first viewing?  Considering that I probably hadn’t seen but a few dozen films previously, it could hardly be attributed to any sterling critical faculty.  Leaving the theatre, walking out into the chill, after-midnight southern California air, I felt energized, excited, invigorated, challenged and, here comes another cliché, alive.  I remember it now as a visceral, physical reaction.  To the unprepared imagination, Mulholland Dr. is dynamite, single-handedly exploding the boundaries of what a movie can and should be.  While critical reviews and my friends’ reactions at the time felt mired in dissecting the plot and chronology of the film, I felt satisfied just getting comfortable in the intensely emotional and mysterious place within myself that David Lynch’s wrecking-ball had cleared.  A year later I saw it twice during my first year at college, but it was that first experience that set me on a personal quest deeper into the realm of cinema.

The obvious question facing me this time around was, after so long, would it still hold up to my ideal of it?  The answer, I found, is a resounding yes.  Mulholland Dr. is a film that, to me, genuinely defies logic.  It can be fun to attempt to parse, but that’s really beside the point.  In fact, the only question I leave the film with isn’t “Is it supposed to be a dream?”, but rather “Isn’t it a dream?”

The acting, the shots, the music, the overall mood of Mulholland Dr. deserves to be devoured without questions, without restraint.  Lynch’s combination here of the mysterious, the humorous, the absurd, the romantic and, yes, the erotic, is nothing short of a masterful balancing act and quite possibly unparalleled.  The entire film courses with those five elements, resulting in a provocative blend that for me pulled off the ultimate trick of making the world beyond the screen – my own world, reality – more lustrous and compelling.

Naomi Watts deserves special mention; this is the role that took her from the doldrums of Children Of The Corn sequels to recreating Fay Wray‘s part in mega-director Peter Jackson‘s King Kong, not to mention the numerous to-die-for roles between the two.  The trajectory of her character, whatever her name is, is heartbreaking, and Ms. Watts’ understanding of the that arc is simultaneously instinct with abandon and nuance.  She brings passion and hunger to the role, but mostly she brings the right stuff for each individual moment.  Laura Elena Harring too is outstanding; if the path her character travels is much shorter, that ultimately takes nothing away from how right she was for the part or the chemistry shared between her and Watts on-screen.  Then there’s Los Angeles.  Speaking as someone who mostly detests the place, L.A. never looked so gorgeous.

The film’s defining moment?  I would say the astonishing performance given by Rebekah del Rio at Club Silencio.  That scene in particular is a damn-near perfect distillation of Lynch’s way with music, chiaroscuro and the surreal.  The other music in the film is also great and well-used, but del Rio’s song is reason enough to either scoop up the soundtrack or get lost in a perpetual cycle of rewinding and re-watching her scene.  I did both.

I realize I’m just gushing at this point, but I love this film.  I probably won’t get to say this too often in the coming posts, but this is one film that is an utter and complete joy to behold.  Now how’s that for clichéd?

bakinakwa’s rating: 5 Stars

lakelia says:

Whatever it’s about, Mulholland Dr. is riveting. The visual experience, the pace of the story, and the acting, most especially Naomi Watts’ acting, are stellar. It is a beautiful film, and an unsettling one. I think what I associate most strongly with it are the distinctive mood it creates in me – quiet, uneasy, mesmerized – and the colors David Lynch captures so vibrantly – city lights seen from above, bright faces against dark sky, the red of Rita/Camilla’s lips, the blue of the box and the key.

The image above is from the part of Mulholland Dr. that’s fairly followable – the fantasy in which Betty, innocent, generous, and talented, and Rita, bewildered and in need, get swept away by soft love and investigative adventure. In which a bizarre criminal network run by men who barely speak, a man’s horrible hallucination behind a diner, an incompetent hit-man, and a Hollywood director bullied by a lone cowboy all intertwine into an inscrutable combination of the mysterious, the humorous, the sweet and the sinister. The connections between all these scenes isn’t explicit, but it seems perfectly reasonable to anticipate an explanation.  Then the most beautiful singing I have ever heard heralds a transformation, and everything – everything – gets turned upside down.

There is an explanation for Mulholland Dr. in the sense that there is an explanation for dreams. As soon as the idea that Diane dreamt herself as Betty took hold in my mind, it made perfect sense. Some brew of guilt, longing, grief, and good ol’ free association could well give off the vapors of the first half of the film. Someone told me about this explanation a few years ago, and it sounded reasonable. Reading about the theory tonight, it really does account for almost everything. But I feel about it the way I felt after seeing the director’s cut of Donnie Darko. Satisfied, enlightened, but a little let down. A mystery is at least as fun to wonder about as to have come clear, and in the case of Mulholland Dr., this clarity is a little lackluster for such a powerful film. I’d like to think that as with dreams, as with dreams’ connection to reality, as with reality itself, there might be something greater going on. Who is the blue-haired lady in Silencio? Why does the man behind Winkie’s have the blue box at the end? Maybe Diane’s vivid imaginings and free associations are more than the sum of their parts. Maybe not. But at least it’s something to wonder about.

There are films I’ve loved more, but Mulholland Dr. is undeniably a masterful work.

lakelia’s rating: 5 Stars

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One Response to “And Now I’m In This Dream Place”

  1. tododecharol Says:

    rebekah del rio is outstanding there, as the rest of the cast…
    that scene is just a masterpiece by itself

    check my blog entry on that 😉

    http://tripus.wordpress.com/2007/12/23/latin-love/

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