Sunday, April 03, 2011

#94: Mulholland Drive

Oh Mama! This is going to be difficult.

An aspiring actress Betty ( Naomi Watts) comes to LA. She is to stay in her aunt's plush apartment in Sunset Boulevard. No sooner has she settled herself in her temporary abode that she sees another lady named hiding in that very apartment. The lady has just escaped a car accident and calls herself Rita (Laura Harring). From their first encounter, one realizes that this is going to be a story about how their relationship unfolds. The chemistry is apparent and so is the mystery around Rita. That's as much as I can coherently summarize about Mulholland Drive- a movie that has been acclaimed as one of the all-time great psychological thrillers.

It is said that David Lynch had originally intended this to be a TV series but since it got rejected he gave it an ending that suited a feature film. I will have to say here I don't know what that ending was. For the movie ends in as much of a shroud of mystery as the beginning. My version is simply this: David Lynch has made this movie because he wanted to make one peach of a mystery movie. He put in two sexy women from whom you just wouldn't have been able to take your eyes off and to make things even more difficult he even had them both bare breasted. Not once but twice. And then he added a haunting background score and gave the movie a foreboding sense that this mystery is going to solve itself in no time. After doing all the hard work, he couldn't piece together a proper ending and at some point he gave up. What we ended up with is an incomplete masterpiece.

I say it's a masterpiece because this one will have you by the proverbial jugular with it's intensity. It's dark, surreal and beautifully shot. And then there's a complex story with multiple threads that we all love to see connected. A lady who has been in an accident with at least $100,000 in her purse and an odd-shaped key, a man who commits three murders for a simple black book with phone numbers, another man who dreams of a grotesque person and a Hollywood director who doesn't want to compromise on the choice of his leading lady. I say the movie's incomplete because none of those events reach a logical conclusion.

Greater critics and reviewers before me have failed to provide a clear explanation for the events in the movie. You can read what the big guys said in this Guardian piece. And now form your own conclusion and it will still hold water against any of those interpretations. Is this a drawback of the movie? David Lynch wants us to believe that this is what he intended with Mulholland Drive- to each, his own. Honestly, I don't know. This one is going to take a one-on-one interview with him to get to the real deal, though he was always declined to speak about it. On Wiki though, there's a list of ten clues that he had given in a DVD that if you can crack is the key to unlocking the mystery in the movie. If you ask me, I wouldn't trust those- maybe it's yet another decoy by Lynch and the man is laughing in his living room with a glass of scotch in hand as poor souls like us tormented by those questions we have, watch the movie again and again.

Nevertheless, what I did love about the movie is the whole sense of an unexpected twist around the corner that's seeped in the movie. That sticky feeling just doesn't let up and that is what is going to keep you at the edge of your seat. When directors give all what they've got for the last 20 minutes in a climax of a thriller, it is a part of their vocation. To do it for 2 hours and 23 minutes at a go has to be an art- an art that David Lynch seems to have mastered. I would recommend Mulholland Drive simply because it stretches the boundaries of conventional storytelling and asks a pertinent question. Once you've built enough suspense in a story, is it really important to break it ?

For me the answer is a resounding yes but I suspect David Lynch is going to let this one pass.

Rating: 6.8/10

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