The strange tales of director/screenwriter David Lynch unfold like dreamscapes that manifest themselves in reality. The bizarre workings of the inner world are projected into the outer world of everyday life as the viewer sleepwalks through an ominously symbolic plot with occasional Zenlike flashes of sudden clarity.
Lynch's Blue Velvet (1986) is without a doubt the weirdest film I ever saw. I loved it and watched it several times over the years, astonished each time by the juxtaposition of the mundane squeaky-clean world of small-town America and the dark secrets it hides.
Lynch also created the oddball TV series Twin Peaks and wrote/directed Eraserhead, a cult film among people who apparently get their kicks from nightmarish physical deformity.
His latest installment of weirdness is the 2001 film Mulholland Drive, which I viewed for the first time on TV last night. IMO it's not as good as Blue Velvet, but it is more than a little interesting and it won Lynch the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival and got him an Academy Award nomination.
Mullholland Drive is a twisting road in the Hollywood hills where the rich and famous build mansions to look down on the little people of Los Angeles far below. It's the most interesting drive in LA -- the scene of tragedies like the night Montgomery Clift wrapped his car around a tree after a booze and pills party at Elizabeth Taylor's home and went through the windshield face-first, ruining his good looks so thoroughly he never got over it.
Lynch uses Mulholland Drive as a symbolic gateway to the strange goings-on in modern Hollyweird. The film opens with a beautiful young woman in the rear seat of a limousine heading up the road. The chauffeur pulls over at an isolated spot and the woman says, "We don't stop here." But the second man in the front seat points a pistol at her and barks, "Get out!"
In gangland parlance she is obviously being taken for a ride. However, before she can open the door, the limo is struck head-on by a speeding vehicle involved in a drag race.
The woman climbs out of the wreckage, bleeding and possibly the only survivor of the crash. Dazed, she makes her way down the road on foot.
Cut to Betty (played by Naomi Watts), a fresh-faced ingenue arriving by plane in the land of her dreams, also known as LaLa Land. She taxis to her aunt's supposedly vacant apartment in an overgrown courtyard complex and surprises the crash victim in the bathroom shower. Suffering from amnesia due to a concussion, the victim doesn't know who she is and takes the name Rita from a movie poster of Gilda starring Rita Hayworth.
Cut to Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux), a film director in a board room meeting with producers who look like Mafia overlords. He vehemently refuses to use a particular young woman in the starring role of his newest film and he is promptly fired. Kesher goes home and finds his wife in bed with the hunky gardener.
Lynch weaves the three main characters together with a stage magician and an overly made-up female singer lip-synching the song "Crying," thus continuing Lynch's obsession with Roy Orbison music and all things 1950s-ish started in Blue Velvet.
The plot of Mulholland Drive is obtuse, like the key reference to Chinatown in Roman Polanski's film noir of the same name. In Chinatown and David Lynch cinema, you never really know what's going on, you just think you do.
Mulholland Drive is driven by shifting identities, intrigue, betrayal and murder as the three main characters journey through the hidden side of Hollywood.
Betty turns out to not be Betty after all. The real Betty is a waitress in a diner and the Naomi Watts character simply borrowed her name because she (not "Rita") is the one with amnesia.
Lost yet? You will be before the movie ends with the fake Betty paying a hit man to murder "Rita" because she became a movie star and won the heart of director Kesher. But you will also be entertained and pleasantly mystified along the way.
(Watts got all the publicity, but I couldn't take my eyes off of her female co-star, Laura Harring, whom I had never seen before. Hoochee mama, what a looker! Black hair, black eyes, a Mona Lisa smile and a body to kill for.)
Lynch is an innovative film maker like Orson Welles, but innovators are not necessarily trend-setters in Hollywood where money counts for everything. Welles spent most of his career begging producers to fund his projects rather than actually making films and he left a sparse legacy of one masterpiece, Citizen Kane. Lynch is likely to do the same with Blue Velvet as his only masterpiece.
"The earth was made round so we can't see too far down the road and know what is coming." -- Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa
Last edited by starrwriter; 04-27-2007 at 06:12 AM..