Mulholland Drive | Sunday Observer

Mulholland Drive

Los Angeles is a strange place. It’s a town of mystery and intrigue, built upon an industry of dreams. This is where countless people have gone with hopes of striking it big, landing that one important movie that will shoot them to fame and fortune. How often have we heard about a person from No Where, U.S.A. coming to Hollywood and through a combination of skill, persistence, and luck end up on top of the world? Sadly, for every success story there are a dozen others ending in heartbreak and tragedy. L.A. is not only a place of dreams, but of nightmares. Around every street corner one can find a dark and twisted history. This is where Elizabeth Short’s unsolved murder lent to her forever being known as “The Black Dahlia,” or where Peg Entwistle’s infamous leap off the Hollywood sign solidified her place in movie lore.

Early in David Lynch’s brilliant Mulholland Drive (2001), the camera shoots the city from high above, with the glowing streetlights illuminating the darkness. There is an awe and wonderment of this image, yet there exists malevolence waiting to be stumbled upon.

It only makes sense that a filmmaker of Lynch’s caliber, one who so often explores the fantastical recesses of the mind, would tackle the mystique of the so-called “Dream Machine” that is Hollywood.

With his writing and direction, he has made a mesmerizing depiction of this world, both in its glory and madness. This could have very well been “The Hollywood Movie” if it weren’t for another small, location specific picture known as Sunset Boulevard (1950).

But even Billy Wilder’s masterpiece never examined its material in such an illusive way. Lynch never gives us solid ground in terms of narrative. He is constantly throwing us for a loop, establishing certain narrative points and then subverting them later on. Is any of what we’re seeing real, or is it the figment of a character’s wild imagination? Do characters even exist, or are they all apparitions? Or is it all the amalgamation of multiple people’s thoughts and feelings? Through the years, Lynch has resisted giving any deeper explanation of his work.

A film like this grows through interpretation and analysis. If Lynch were to provide his perspective, it would drain the aura surrounding it.

This is one of its great accomplishments, setting forth a puzzle and leaving us the responsibility of putting it all together.

Surprising to think that this started as a rejected television pilot for ABC, whose fragments were collected by Lynch and completed nearly two years later as a feature. But that doesn’t mean this is simply a collage of sequences stitched together to salvage whatever remained. The circumstances that brought the film to life have little relevance to its quality.

The fact that it fell through for television ended up being a blessing in disguise. Lynch takes familiar conventions of noir – that classic cinematic style of the ‘40s and ‘50s – and melds it into a form all his own. This is a perfect blending of his cinematic tendencies, from the bizarre worlds of Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet (1986), and Lost Highway (1997) to the heart and soul of The Elephant Man (1980) and The Straight Story (1999).

Delving into Mulholland Drive can be like falling into a rabbit hole. Yet it’s a journey that has kept me fascinated, perplexed, and enthralled with every visit. Whatever David Lynch’s intentions were is of little consequence compared to what our experiences are with it, and that’s what makes it so vital and important. Cinema can provoke our sensibilities and stir our souls, but that’s only a part of the whole. The joy of this film isn’t just about what’s on screen, but what we bring to it as well.

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