Mulholland Drive ★★★★★

I’ve given up trying to determine my favourite David Lynch film as it invariably ends up being whichever one I have watched most recently. However, one film that does regularly battle for the number one position is his dreamy Hollywood-horror, Mulholland Drive. Originally conceived as a television series the film should feel like a condensed compromise whilst casting actresses best known for their roles in Sunset Beach and Tank Girl hardly instills confidence either. Yet out of this constrained vision Lynch has created a dark and enthralling slice of cinematic magic that is hard to comprehend in a longer form or with different lead actors.

Lynch is a man who is seemingly fascinated by Hollywood; the stars, glamour and iconography, yet repulsed by the machine that powers it. This push and pull conflict is perhaps best illustrated here in his neo-noir headfuck where characters and audience alike get lost in a world of forgotten-identities, fractured realities and scary tramps that live behind diners. Mulholland Drive is the only film I have ever watched for the first time only to watch it again immediately after. Partly this need to instantly revisit Lynch’s film of broken dreams and promises was because I needed to try and piece together exactly what I had just witnessed and partly because I wanted to wallow in this dreamy and occasionally nightmarish fantasy.

Whilst the film is undoubtedly confusing, particularly the first time around, there is still a logic, albeit a fluid dream logic, at the heart of the story. Pay attention and the final half an hour makes the preceding two hours come into sharp focus. All those frequently baffling and seemingly unconnected sequences that go nowhere suddenly make sense as you begin to piece together who these people are and how they relate to a story of a naive fame-seeker and a glamorous amnesiac. Yet Lynch introduces enough smoke and mirrors to provide countless debates and counter-theories which always keeps the audience on their toes, even those that have seen it a dozen or more times. Above all it is a film that is just as enthralling when you are as lost as Betty and Rita or when you believe you’ve solved the intricate puzzle.

As with all of the director’s most Lynchian films it has a strange off-kilter and artificiality that permeates every facet of the picture. By conventional standards it is always hard to say that the performances are good yet within the worlds Lynch creates they are nothing short of mesmerising. It is safe to say most of the actors here deliver career-best performances, particularly the magnetic Naomi Watts. Given her character in the film there is an element of life reflecting art as the film turned Watts into a genuine star. As with all his movies it is exquisitely shot with a stunning Badalamenti score and perfectly judged song choices.

Mulholland Drive is a surreal, beautiful, intricately crafted and captivating work of art.

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