Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Mulholland Dr.


Warning – contains SPOILERS

The two stories appear to have been folded into each other, in a Mobius strip, with some details overlapping and some not. What gives? Is there a right solution, which only David Lynch knows (and much more clever, diligent film critics than myself will have figured out)? Several possibilities exist

1) It was all a dream This is the most consistent, encompassing explanation, but it does not take us very far. It simply reduces all phenomena to the same flat, invented plane.

[Phillip Lopate]

the second half of the film is even more Borgesian in its circularity and more hallucinatory in its imagery than the first. And yet the film leaves one with the uneasy feeling of having missed the crucial element that will put all questions to rest.

[Amy Taubin]

Film Comment, Sep-Oct 2001, pp49 and 54

How much more explicit could David Lynch possibly have been in Mulholland Dr.? Perhaps he could have flashed on screen a title card, reading: Everything you have seen so far is a dream, but that wouldn’t be his style. Theres little ambiguity that the first of Phillip Lopates several possibilities is correct: after a disconcerting jitterbug sequence, the camera roams over a pink pillow, then dives in. Now Im in this dream place comments the character who later introduces herself with the line My names Betty only to be told (by the local psychic) No, its not! The dream ends when The Cowboy sticks his head around Betty/Dianes bedroom door and says Time to wake up, pretty girl. The clues are dotted throughout the film even the title, which Lynch makes such a point of showing in its abbreviated form, thus representing Mulholland Dream as well as Mulholland Drive.

But nearly all viewers and critics prefer to see the film as a baffling puzzle, a Mobius strip that can’t be resolved. David Lynch has made such a movie it was called Lost Highway, a film that made no sense at all which ever way you sliced it. Mulholland Dr is very different despite occasional spooky-scary-sinister moments, its basically a comedy, as are most Lynch projects. That isn’t enough for some, however they need Lynch to be deeper than that, to be an intelligent artist, one whose themes can and should be analysed, agonised over in search of Taubins crucial element.

The imagery in Mulholland, for example, is so crudely Freudian (locked boxes = female genitalia, etc), that Lynch surely must be ironically harking back to those forties movies that so clumsily embraced then-fashionable ideas of psychology and psychiatry. But this view of Lynch as ideas man runs directly counter to the gee-whiz persona Lynch has always affected in interviews, the legendary Jimmy Stewart like character seemingly so at odds with this weird and wonderful filmography. But is this an affected persona at all? Could this image be what David Lynch is really like? Could it be that, instead of being some inscrutable cinematic genius, Lynch is, in fact, just a little bit thick, relatively speaking?

This wouldn’t make him any less of a genius, of course genius has little to do with cleverness, rather describing someone who does things that nobody else has even thought of doing: a quantum leap beyond. Mulholland Dr shared the directors prize at Cannes with The Man Who Wasnt There, and while the Coen brothers are very, very clever, they’ll never be as interesting in their use of celluloid as a relatively dim artist like Lynch. Cinema happens to be the medium in which this trained painter operates: hell try anything, he’s open to all kinds of influences and possibilities, he often repeats himself, his sense of humour is often very basic and juvenile. If it pops into his mind, soon after it’ll pop up on screen, as onto a canvas, miraculously unmediated by conventional ideas of intelligence. Its what makes him a great director, and even though Mulholland Dr is far from a new avenue for him to explore, it confirms three decades after he started Eraserhead – that his talent is of the truly freakish kind, impervious to the vicious onslaughts of Time and Hollywood.

25th November, 2001

by Neil Young