Lynch's Muholland Drive

4/11/02

In the early 60s a movement known as abstract art became a craze that had art critics reeling.Many of the works were plain garbage, while others were intriguing displays of a new perspective on the visual arts. David Lynch is the cinematic equivalent of an abstract artist. His latest work Mullholland Drive, seems to defy any rational explanation.This genre has been called film noir.†† Film noir is a filmmaking methodology that was explored in the post WWII era. It breaks all the conventions of modern cinematography. Plot and theme are not essential to the development of the story, time and space are inverted, redirected and sometimes actually suspended, characters can exchange places and surrealism abounds.With all these strange elements, film noir, in most cases, still strove for coherence.

Lynch however has dispensed with even that element in Mullholland Drive.Remarkably though, I was not repelled or even confused by this impossible-to-make-sense-of piece.Like abstract art, I simply enjoyed virtually every minute of it for its stylistic content.This film has the Lynch imprint from the opening scene featuring teenage white kids dancing to 1950s rock-n-roll.There are possibly two or three discernible Ďstoriesí going on.A woman has survived a murder attempt, but develops amnesia, then struggles to find her identity with the help of an unlikely accomplice.A director is badgered by underworld figures to cast their chosen female lead in a 1950s period movie.Finally, a third woman (I think sheís another woman) is connected to the amnesiac and a Canadian girl which has become her companion.And these aren't the only aspects of this strange drama, that a viewer will encounter. The story overlaps sequences repetitively from different perspectives. This technique has become a trademark of Lynch's directorial style. Many viewers find this element of his films confusing and pointless. Used to excess it does confound or even bore. And it is one flaw in this film. A minor one though.

What appeals to me most in this film is the multiple levels of its unfolding.I was engulfed by every turn in the story line and enthralled by the sequence that examines illusion.At one point the amnesiac character, Rita awakes and repeats in Spanish: There is no band.Next, her and Betty (the pretty blond, Canadian girl) are in a theater watching an ominous series of staged events that demonstrate the unreality of their mental experiences.This is one of the filmís best sequences.It ends with a glamorous actress singing in Spanish of soulful love for her paramour, only to collapse and reveal, the singer herself was lip-synching.This scene, like so many others bore no tangible relevance to other developments in Mullholland Drive. Yet, I didnít mind the oddity, or its discontinuity I thought: Uh well, itís a very complex allegory, and itís evocative, but hey stop being a critic and watch.

When Lynch stitches together some meaningful plot elements, he seems more intent upon misdirecting the audience, than giving the story context.The bungled hit that a hired killer character attempts was both funny and unsettling.The several reincarnations of the third woman named Diane, only served to confound viewers.The gratuitous lesbian scenes between, Rita and Betty, made the already hypnotic tone of the movie, more entrancing.Still, this irrationality didnít make me shake my head thinking: What the hell is Lynch doing here.

To sum it up, Mullholland Drive is not a film for moviegoers unfamiliar with this unconventional directorís style. There is no final 'point' to this work, just as there would be no central message contained in an abstract painting. In fact, point has no meaning in the context of this film at all. The entire work can be taken as having some 'meaningfulness' in the experience of viewing it. For the existentially inclined (like me), it couldn't be better. Illustrative of the pointlessness of our perchance lives, is Mullholland Drive .However, for his fans, it's another work of art. One thing is for sure, there will be no sequel, to clarify, extend or expand this tale.

Ken Wais

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