The Criterion Voyages (Spine #779): MULHOLLAND DRIVE -- A Mindbending Trip Into the Head of David Lynch
By Dan Skip Allen
Mulholland Drive is a famous street above Los Angeles and has a mystique like no other in Hollywood. So go figure one of the most mysterious filmmakers in Hollywood, David Lynch, would make a movie named after this street. The film lives up to the name because it's a weird film, not unlike Lynch's other films and television work like Twin Peaks and Eraserhead.
The film starts with a memorable credits scene with a car driving down Mulholland Drive. The car stops and the men inside tell a woman (Laura Harring) to get out. At that moment, two cars are racing down the street and one of them runs into the limo, sending it careening into a nearby ditch. The woman crawls out of the car and stumbles around, eventually walking down a hill and falling asleep by a bush. She wakes up and goes into another woman's home while she's gone.
That's the beginning of this crazy Hollywood story. It's even wilder than it sounds, though. When the woman's niece (Naomi Watts) comes to stay in the house, she helps the woman who now has amnesia find out what is going on. They work together to uncover this mystery. The film also focuses on a film director (Justin Theroux) and a bunch of shady gangsters and assorted other weirdos in darkened rooms and cowboy figures. This film is one of the weirdest David Lynch has ever done, but it's done very well like all of his movies are except Dune.
Lynch infuses this film with everything including the kitchen sink. It has a noir feel to t even though much of it is set during the daytime. Lynch knows how to add odd moments like when the two women visit a theater with a trumpet player and then the room turns blue or when the director visits a cowboy at a horse ranch. He talks to him in weird language or riddles if you will. All Lynch's trademark tropes are in this film. The 4K version helps all the colors stand out as well.
The technical aspects of the film are very good as well. The score by Angelo Badalamenti is moody and helps set the atmosphere while it has a song sung at the theater that is breathtakingly amazing. The cinematography by Peter Deming and production design are both very good. This film goes to a bunch of locations and they all look gorgeous and have a vibe all their own. Only David Lynch could have made this wild, outside-the-box (pun intended) film. It has so much craziness in it it's hard to describe it and what's going on.
The cast has some amazing cameos full of stars viewers might recognize like Robert Forster as a police detective, Billy Ray Cyrus who's having an affair with Justin Theroux's character's wife, Michael J. Anderson as the man in the darkroom, and Dan Hedaya as a gangster. That's just the tip of the iceberg of all the weird and interesting casting choices. Lynch always picks interesting people for roles in his film. This one is no different.
Mulholland Drive is among a plethora of David Lynch films in the Criterion Collection. Among them, this one might be the most metta considering it's a film about making a film. It has a lot of other aspects as well: a noir, a mystery, and a love letter to Hollywood. Lynch shows in this film how much he loves Hollywood in his weird and offbeat way... the only way he knows how to make a film. Lynch was nominated for the best academy award for his work on the film. It was very deserved.
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