Beginning as a neo-noir about a glamorous amnesiac (Laura Harring) and the innocent, aspiring actress she befriends (Naomi Watts), Mulholland Drive becomes a fully-fledged Lynchian psychological thriller.
Set in Los Angeles, hopes and dreams are right at the surface. So too is Hollywood illusion and we’re never quite sure what is real. Lynch peppers the story with the peculiar and bizarre. We glimpse a grotesque creature living behind Winkie’s diner and a menacing cowboy who exerts control over Hollywood casting. Behind the studio system lies an intimidating and hostile mob of eccentric gangsters but their motivation for fixing casts hides somewhere off-screen. All of this surrealism plummets Hollywood into darkness: it’s the antidote to the upbeat cheerfulness of the La La Land phenomenon. Lynch’s hand-held point of view cameras take us around corners we’d rather not look.
Mulholland Drive began life as a television pilot with Lynch re-working the material into a feature film after its rejection by studios. Perhaps as a result, its characters, plot and ideas have a seductive depth and longevity.
The parallels with Lynch’s Twin Peaks are substantial, even featuring an eerie electronic score from the show’s composer Angelo Badalamenti. Naomi Watts’ LA newcomer, Betty, is as pure and saccharine as Laura Palmer. Like Palmer, her troubled side is powerfully revealed. Watts (21 Grams, The Impossible) has rarely been better and while Hollywood’s myths and illusions feed a distorted reality, the chemistry between Watts and Harring grounds the film in emotional realism. At the film’s epicentre we discover love.
Unlike Lynch’s earliest films, (most notably the surreal experimental film Eraserhead), Mulholland Drive has an accessible, discernible story even if it remains open to many different interpretations.
And yet, like much of Lynch’s work it accelerates towards the weird. The climax is a mind-bending feat of story-telling that jolts and provokes as much as it engrosses us. That this bizarre final act might just be closer to reality than anything before it, says much of Lynch’s desire as a director to stimulate and inspire our detective instincts.
The ambiguity of the film as a whole rewards multiple viewings, each one revealing something new. Shots that were once unnoticed take on new significance. Fresh interpretations reveal themselves. With this remastered 4K digital transfer, David Lynch incites us once more. Where better to re-examine the meaning of the fascinating,mystifying Mulholland Drive than the big screen?
l Mulholland Drive is re-released in selected cinemas nationwide, including Sheffield’s Showroom Workstation, from April 14, 2017. Screenings at Derby Quad are scheduled from Tuesday, May 2, 2017.