Mulholland Dr.

 (David Lynch, France/USA, 2001) 147 minutes


Director: David Lynch
Producers: Mary Sweeney,
  Alain Sarde, Neal Edelstein,
  Michael Polaire, Tony Krantz
Screenplay: David Lynch
Cinematography: Peter Deming
Editor: Mary Sweeney
Music: Angelo Badalamenti
Naomi Watts (Betty Elms)
Laura Elena Harring (Rita)
Justin Theroux (Adam Kesher)
Ann Miller (Coco Lenoix)
Dan Hedaya (Vincent Castgliane)
Mark Pellegrino (Joe)
Michael J. Anderson (Mr Roque)
Robert Forster (Det Harry Forster)

Reviews and notes

2001 Cannes, Toronto, Chicago, New York, Vancouver, London
2002 Rotterdam, Belgrade, Wellington

Like Billy Wilder’s film named after another iconic Hollywood street, Mulholland Drive tells a sordid tale of the industry of illusion and its boulevards of broken dreams – but for Lynch, these dreams fold into dreams within dreams within dreams. Originally intended as a pilot for a television series, Lynch’s mobius riddle was rejected by TV executives. In restructuring it for the silver screen, Lynch crafted one of his finest masterworks. When the perky, wholesome Betty Elms lands in Hollywood for what could be her big break, she meets ‘Rita,’ an ostensible femme fatale who is rendered identity-less because of amnesia from a car accident. Lynch’s (and Hollywood’s) dazzling dream factory sets to work with mysterious objects, startling visions, amusing detours and revelatory alterations in acting styles and character identities. The noir cracks open and gives way to a multi-toned, terrifyingly beautiful hallucination that is as much a complex reflection on Hollywood as it is an endlessly transforming psychological puzzle.
- Harvard Film Archive.

David Lynch has been working toward Mulholland Drive all of his career, and now that he's arrived there I forgive him Wild at Heart and even Lost Highway. At last his experiment doesn't shatter the test tubes. The movie is a surrealist dreamscape in the form of a Hollywood film noir, and the less sense it makes, the more we can't stop watching it.

It tells the story of . . . well, there's no way to finish that sentence. There are two characters named Betty and Rita who the movie follows through mysterious plot loops, but by the end of the film we aren't even sure they're different characters, and Rita (an amnesiac who lifted the name from a Gilda poster) wonders if she's really Diane Selwyn, a name from a waitress' name tag.

Betty (Naomi Watts) is a perky blond, Sandra Dee crossed with a Hitchcock heroine, who has arrived in town to stay in her absent Aunt Ruth's apartment and audition for the movies. Rita (Laura Elena Harring) is a voluptuous brunet who is about to be murdered when her limousine is front-ended by drag racers. She crawls out of the wreckage on Mulholland Drive, stumbles down the hill, and is taking a shower in the aunt's apartment when Betty arrives.

Rita doesn't remember anything, even her name. Betty decides to help her. As they try to piece her life back together, the movie introduces other characters. A movie director (Justin Theroux) is told to cast an actress in his movie or be murdered; a dwarf in a wheelchair (Michael J. Anderson) gives instructions by cell phone; two detectives turn up, speak standard TV cop show dialogue, and disappear; a landlady (Ann Miller - yes, Ann Miller) wonders who the other girl is in Aunt Ruth's apartment; Betty auditions; the two girls climb in through a bedroom window, Nancy Drew style; a rotting corpse materializes, and Betty and Rita have two lesbian love scenes so sexy you'd swear this was a 1970s movie, made when movie audiences liked sex. One of the scenes also contains the funniest example of pure logic in the history of sex scenes.

Having told you all of that, I've basically explained nothing. The movie is hypnotic; we're drawn along as if one thing leads to another - but nothing leads anywhere, and that's even before the characters start to fracture and recombine like flesh caught in a kaleidoscope. Mulholland Drive isn't like Memento, where if you watch it closely enough, you can hope to explain the mystery. There is no explanation. There may not even be a mystery.

There have been countless dream sequences in the movies, almost all of them conceived with Freudian literalism to show the characters having nightmares about the plot. Mulholland Drive is all dream. There is nothing that is intended to be a waking moment. Like real dreams, it does not explain, does not complete its sequences, lingers over what it finds fascinating, dismisses unpromising plotlines. If you want an explanation for the last half hour of the film, think of it as the dreamer rising slowly to consciousness, as threads from the dream fight for space with recent memories from real life, and with fragments of other dreams - old ones and those still in development.

This works because Lynch is absolutely uncompromising. He takes what was frustrating in some of his earlier films, and instead of backing away from it, he charges right through. Mulholland Drive is said to have been assembled from scenes that he shot for a 1999 ABC television pilot, but no network would air (or understand) this material, and Lynch knew it. He takes his financing where he can find it and directs as fancy dictates. This movie doesn't feel incomplete because it could never be complete - closure is not a goal.

Laura Elena Harring and Naomi Watts take the risk of embodying Hollywood archetypes, and get away with it because they are archetypes. Not many actresses would be bold enough to name themselves after Rita Hayworth, but Harring does, because she can. Slinky and voluptuous in clinging gowns, all she has to do is stand there and she's the first good argument in 55 years for a Gilda remake. Naomi Watts is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, a plucky girl detective. Like a dream, the movie shifts easily between tones; there's an audition where a girl singer performs Sixteen Reasons and I Told Every Little Star, and the movie isn't satirizing American Bandstand, it's channeling it.

This is a movie to surrender yourself to. If you require logic, see something else. Mulholland Drive works directly on the emotions, like music. Individual scenes play well by themselves, as they do in dreams, but they don't connect in a way that makes sense - again, like dreams. The way you know the movie is over is that it ends. And then you tell a friend, "I saw the weirdest movie last night." Just like you tell them you had the weirdest dream.
- Roger Ebert, 12 October 2001.

Restoration notes:

Sourced from a new 4K restoration which was supervised by director David Lynch and director of photography Peter Deming. The technical presentation is fantastic and the film looks quite incredible. Detail and especially depth are dramatically improved and even the dark nighttime footage looks superior. The biggest improvements, however, are in the area of color reproduction. There are completely new color tonalities and saturation is far better. As a result, the entire film looks richer and lusher, and the unique lighting is even more effective. There are no traces of problematic degraining or sharpening adjustments. Image stability is excellent. Finally, the film looks spotless. There are no debris, scratches, cuts, stains, or damage marks to report. All in all, this is an outstanding presentation of Mulholland Drive that allows one to experience the film in an entirely new way.

The lossless soundtrack is excellent. Depth is outstanding and there is an excellent range of nuanced dynamics. The various sound effects are also well defined. The dialog is stable, exceptionally clean, and very easy to follow. There are no audio dropouts, pops, or digital distortions.
- adapapted from Dr. Svet Atanasov,, September 29, 2015.

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