Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001, France/USA)

              Mulholland Drive is widely regarded as David Lynch’s masterpiece, and since its premiere in 2001, it has become one of the most critically lauded films of the 2000s. This is remarkable given the fact that the film emerged out of a failed TV pilot that was supposed to be Lynch’s follow-up to Twin Peaks. While it is clear that certain characters in the film were meant to be given greater life in the TV series version, Lynch made the best of the situation, turning his pilot into a puzzle box of a film. Mulholland Drive arrived amidst a wave of films in the late 1990s/early 2000s which centered on identity crises, including Eyes Wide Shut, Memento, and Vanilla Sky.

               Narratively, the film is uniquely structured in that the first three quarters of the film are ultimately revealed to be a wish fulfillment fantasy. This fantasy involves Betty Elms, a starry-eyed young woman from Canada who arrives to stay at her actress aunt’s apartment in Hollywood. While at the apartment, she encounters a woman who has taken refuge there after a car accident, known only as “Rita”. The two proceed to try to unravel Rita’s identity. In the meantime, there is a subplot involving a director – Adam Kesher – who is being persuaded by dark, mob-like forces to cast a certain Camilla Rhodes in one of his films.

               While Lynch has often been criticized for being a surrealist whose films don’t make sense, Mulholland Drive follows a clear – albeit unorthodox – narrative structure. It also clearly has a lot to say – even on the surface level – about the Hollywood system and how it treats actresses. Certainly in light of the #metoo movement, the film has taken on a deeper resonance. Overall, however, Mulholland Drive is open to myriad interpretations, some of which contradict each other. It is a deeply ambiguous and beautiful film.



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