Mulholland Drive

What is behind the curtain? Or just around that bend? Behind the door? Behind the words? Where will our hopes and dreams take us? If we succeed, they become part of who we are. But if Fate is unkind, we face our own fallibility.

In the multifaceted and unreal world of Los Angeles, a city of dreams and nightmares, being true to yourself can be as hard as discovering who you really are. The way can be littered with mobsters, hitmen, and pressures that can drive you crazy. A great setting for a noirish thriller and a mystery within a mystery.

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In the glamorous and sometimes dangerous world on the fringes of Hollywood, two girls (played by Naomi Watts and Laura Harring) are drawn into a lesbian relationship that is unequal in more ways than one. A sense of foreboding is never far away. A top director, Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) is having to re-audition a lead role, but if he doesn't do as he's told he will lose everything. Who knows what will happen when the road ahead is dark?

As we piece together opening scenes, a woman is ambushed in the back of her car on Mulholland Drive. We watch an accident and a narrow escape. We see her drawn under the wing of wide-eyed Betty, whose vision of Hollywood seems almost too good to be true. Amnesia, a hit that goes wrong, strange occurrences around a Wendys Diner, and lots of media-mogul double-talk. We are assaulted with a barrage of clues to solve a puzzle which remains tantalisingly out of reach.

Then there's a major twist.

Mulholland Drive is not a mystery that you solve by the end of the film. You have to go away and think about it. The movie uses a broken chain of cause and effect that challenges and forces an audience in on itself. Remember Memento? Where we realise the film is shot from the point of view of a man with short-term memory loss? Expect the unexpected. And once you work out the 'beginner's' or 'classical' interpretation, new avenues will open to explore.

One of the best aspects of the film is that each scene is so captivating, so unusual, so colourful that we are tempted to enjoy it for its own sake. We race from horror to laughter to romance to mystery.

High production values and fabulous sets add to the visual enjoyment. Perfect editing brings every shot home hard. But the script increasingly tries to force a more Brechtian analysis upon us, making us stand back from the characters where we had suspended disbelief. In a nightclub, when an act is pre-announced as lip-synched, we don't want to believe. Images are absorbed faster than logic, but since they are so beautiful it is tempting to leave logic for later.

Mulholland Drive should be avoided by those who like straightforward stories without too much of a challenge. It is not just a passive viewing experience. But if you like exploring strange byways and have the patience to see what is around the corner, it is a film put on your all-time must-see list.

Mulholland Drive is a film about identity. Your unconscious plays a part in coming up with answers. Don't worry if you have to sleep on it. After all the pieces have fit into place, you might decide just to enjoy it as poetry. The drive can be more enjoyable than where it leads.

Reviewed on: 05 Mar 2007
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Special two-disc edition of David Lynch's psychedelic dream.
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Read more Mulholland Drive reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray ****

Director: David Lynch

Writer: David Lynch

Starring: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Ann Miller, Dan Hedaya, Justin Theroux, Brent Briscoe, Robert Forster, Katharine Towne, Lee Grant, Scott Coffey, Billy Ray Cyrus

Year: 2001

Runtime: 146 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA


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