Mulholland Drive (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

Review byMatthew Turner01/07/2002

Five out of five stars
Running time: 146 mins

David Lynch’s latest film is a blistering return to the full-on weirdness of Lost Highway – erotic, atmospheric, terrifying, darkly funny and just plain weird, it’s the first genuinely unmissable five-star film of 2002

The posters for Mulholland Drive feature the words "A Film By David Lynch" in uncharacteristically large writing. More often than not, the ‘A Film By…’ credit is little more than a sop to the director’s ego, but here it serves a genuine purpose, because Mulholland Drive is definitely not a ‘normal’ movie – in fact you are unlikely to see anything else like it all year.

Mulholland Drive started life as a proposed TV series, before panicked ABC executives pulled the plug on it. Luckily for us, European film-backers Canal Plus put up the extra money required to turn it into a full-length feature and the result is what just might be David Lynch’s best film to date.

It is tempting to label Mulholland Drive as ‘Lost Highway with lesbians’, as both films are very similar in terms of both plot and atmosphere. It starts normally enough. A beautiful brunette (Laura Elena Harring, from U.S. TV soap Sunset Beach) narrowly escapes an attempt on her life when a gang of joy riders smash into her car, killing her would-be assailants but giving her amnesia into the bargain.

She stumbles into an empty house where she is found the next morning by Betty (British-born Naomi Watts), an impossibly perky small-town blonde who has just arrived in L.A., intent on realising her dream of becoming an actress.

Betty takes an immediate shine to Harring (who gives the name ‘Rita’ after glimpsing a Rita Hayworth poster), and together they try and unravel her identity, falling in love in the process. This culminates in an extremely erotic (amnesiac) lesbian sex scene that contains perhaps the best dialogue ever written for such a scene: "Have you done this before?", Betty asks. "I don’t know", comes the reply.

Meanwhile, other subplots involve a hip young film director (Justin Theroux) having A Very Bad Day (he finds his wife in bed with the pool-cleaner -a very funny scene- and some mysterious gangsters are insisting he cast a particular actress in his latest film) and a startlingly inept hitman.

It is difficult to review the film without mentioning the stunning twist that occurs about two thirds of the way through, though in fact, "twist" is something of an understatement.

Suffice it to say that just as the mystery of Rita’s identity appears to be solved, the film takes a sudden dramatic turn (similar to that of Lynch’s previous film Lost Highway, which Mulholland Drive most closely resembles), the two lead actresses suddenly appear to be playing different parts and the mood becomes altogether darker and more menacing.

Mulholland Drive, then, contains all Lynch’s trademarks: mysterious dwarves, offbeat sex scenes, beautiful women in car accidents, an obsession with coffee, a terrific soundtrack (courtesy of Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti), a definite fondness to lip-synching to Roy Orbison songs and a palpable sense of menace that seeps into every scene.

The acting is terrific – both Watts and Harring give superb performances, and, if there’s any justice, both will become Very Big Stars Indeed. There’s good support from Lynch regular Michael J. Anderson (the dwarf) and Dan Hedaya, and one can only assume that the original TV series would have featured more of Robert Forster (Jackie Brown), as he is disappointingly under-used here.

Even if the film leaves you utterly confused (and, to be honest, part of the fun is in reaching your own interpretation), there is still an awful lot to enjoy. Highlights include Betty’s gob-smacking audition scene (the complete opposite of what you’re expecting), Theroux’s encounter with his adulterous wife, and a stunning Spanish rendition of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’ (Llorando) during the ‘Club Silencio’ scene.

To sum up then, this is an absolute treat for Lynch fans and undoubtedly the weirdest cinematic experience you’ll have all year. See it and drive yourself pleasurably mad trying to decide for yourself what it all means. Unmissable and unquestionably one of the best films of the year. Highly recommended.

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Mulholland Drive (15)
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Content updated: 18/12/2018 16:42

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