Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Mulholland Drive

Ooookaayyyy…. So. On Mulholland Dr. L.A. a woman (Laura Harring) is in the back of a car. In the front seat is a man with a gun to her head. Before he is able to fire at her another car hits theirs killing everyone but the woman. She escapes through scrub land and finds herself in a small apartment complex where she is able to sneak into the apartment of an old woman who is leaving town for a while. Meanwhile Betty (Naomi Watts), a young woman with acting aspirations arrives in L.A. and arrives at the same apartment which belongs to her Aunt. She goes inside but finds the escaped woman in the shower. The woman is unable to remember her name and after telling Betty all she remembers is an accident, the two of them set about trying to discover her identity. For some reason the woman’s bag is full of $100 bills and a single blue key. After much searching and seemingly unlinked sub plots a blue box is discovered and opened with the key. After that my internal monologue went a bit like this; “Wait... No So… That means… No… But… He was… Hang on… Ay?... Huh?... Who’s that?... Oh of course… Nope.

This is a completely mental film but I thought it was great. For two thirds it is a mystery with the odd surrealist moment thrown in. I found this part of the film really interesting and complex and had no idea what was happening or where it was going. Despite this I was enjoying the ride. Then it goes crazy. Suddenly people aren’t who they were and characters appear in strands of the story that they had no connection with. One character goes from an amnesiac to a lesbian to the partner of a film director in a couple of scenes while another goes from a vibrant and talented young woman to down and out prostitute. I don’t know how or why and on further reading it turns out that the cast didn’t either.

Writer and Director David Lynch didn’t let the cast in on the film’s meaning let alone anyone else and actor Justin Theroux described the process as like working blindfolded. Whatever the meaning/s were I enjoyed it, but can totally see why a lot of people wouldn’t have. I would say though that I was a bit frustrated not to discover the identity of the woman who called herself Rita or why she had a bag full of cash. If I had to guess I’d say that the first part of the film is an idealised dream that the Betty character is having after her life hasn’t worked out the way she wanted it to. The scenes in which Rita and Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) are together are towards the beginning of the narrative but after a relationship between Betty and Rita and that the scene when Betty is down and out and hiring ‘that man’ for ‘that job’ come just before the final scene with Betty on the bed surrounded by smoke (-and breathe-). That might be complete bollocks though and I doubt we’ll ever know! Maybe it’s just best to enjoy the film on a visceral level.

Apart from the film’s complexity, interesting if not a bit mental storyline and unusual narrative structure there was much more to like. I loved the sound and score. It was magnificent; from the various singers to greatly timed music and best of all the almost undetectable noises and sounds at crucial points which ratcheted up the tension. The second thing that stood out was Naomi Watts acting. She was brilliant. In her first few scenes I wondered if she was simply playing the wide eyed newbie or actually was, but as the narrative progressed (sort of) and her character morphed I thought she was excellent. She seemed to play about eight different characters due to a mixture of the film’s messed up nature and the fact that she was playing an actress and each one was exceptional. The scene in which she auditions was incredible. Laura Harring was also very good but I thought that she was blown out of the water by Watts. The two actresses shared many great scenes together but if you’ve seen the film then you can probably guess my favourite scene. If you haven’t, imagine what your favourite would be, then bingo!

The design and cinematography was also great all round. The film reminded me of the video game LA.A Noir and it wouldn’t surprise me if this film had more than just a little influence on that game. It felt as though the film was taking place in a Hollywood now gone, as though we were back in the 1940s or 50s. This was emphasised by the stellar older cast members such as Ann Miller and Jeanne Bates and the occasional old style building. The sets were also littered with furniture, fridges and lamps which felt like they belonged in a different era. The style also departed from the Noir feel with many varying avant-garde film making techniques such as strange camera angles, misplaced focus and of course its nonlinear narrative. This keeps the viewer on their toes and had me scratching my head.

Mulholland Drive is a strange and unusual film which was a delight to watch. It’s the sort of film which you want to discuss with other people and can argue over what happened or why until you’re blue in the face but can never prove if you’re right or wrong. In addition to this the performances are outstanding and it looks and sounds dazzling.    


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