by Jason Whyte
(This review was written in 2001.) It's been almost a week since I've seen David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive," and I'm still reeling from the experience. It is a film where its images, sound, story, performances and dialogue linger in the mind and heart.While it may not make much sense, that's a thing to embrace, not to hold back. I've always been a casual fan of David Lynch, loving "Twin Peaks" and "Blue Velvet," and being blown away by his "regular" film "The Straight Story" from 1999, a beautiful film with a nuanced performance by Richard Farnsworth. I am a big admirer of his work, but just not one that continually captivates my mind like Kubrick, Allen, Kurosawa or Anderson. That said, I am proud to say that Lynch's work in "Mulholland Drive" is his best ever.
"There Is No Band...."
Is there a set, describable story here? It's hard to say. I've been asked already what the film is about and had to reply "I don't know. You just have to see it." There is a plot, but the film is such a powerhouse of emotion and visual texture, with such a winding narrative that challenges the viewer, that describing the plot is hard. There's Betty (Naomi Watts), a young woman from Cornwall, Ontario who comes to Los Angeles in the dreams of becoming an actress. There's Rita (Laura Ellen Harring), an amnesiac that is found in Betty's apartment that has a secret. There's a director (Justin Theroux) being forced to hire a particular actress for a movie, and then discovers Betty. Or does he?
I want to call that a description, but the film's emotions and technique are so above it that you simply can't answer the inevitable question of what it is about. That said, Lynch does provide a beginning, a middle, and an end so flawlessly; he keeps his material haunting and so watchable. I can't take my eyes off of it, and I never wanted the experience to end.
There are some women I could stare at for days. Grace Kelly, Cate Blanchett, Kim Novak. Even this year we've seen three of them; the animated Dr. Aki Ross from "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within," Keira Knightley from "The Hole," and now Naomi Watts as Betty. She reminds me of Novak and Kelly, Hitchcockian ladies at their finest, come crashing together. There's a single shot in the film during the 50's "I've Told Every Little Star" audition, where the shot zooms in on Watts as Justin Theroux looks at her, and the shot is priceless in every way that Grace Kelly's closeup in "Rear Window" was.I don't have all the answers. I don't want to. "Mulholland Drive" exists as a transcendent motion picture that ranks alongside "Requiem For A Dream," "Happiness," and "Magnolia" as the recent greats in American cinema.
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originally posted: 07/09/04 00:04:15