Ep. 94: Mulholland Drive

Have a listen to my film summary and review of the mysterious masterpiece “Mulholland Drive.” David Lynch is a gifted filmmaker. He’s made an impact that will be felt forever in the annals of movie history. One shared aspect of all his films is that they contain clues to a mystery. Myself, and others like me, have entered into Mulholland Drive trying to collect the clues and solve the mystery but alas, it’s just not gonna happen.

Mulholland Drive (2001)
Mulholland Dr. (original title)
R | 2h 27min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller | 19 October 2001 (USA)

After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.
Director: David Lynch
Writer: David Lynch
Stars: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux

I’ve found “spoiler” sites that claim to know the meaning of the film and they are frankly — reaching at best. At worst they are rewriting the movie. MY movie hero Roger Ebert said the film should not be interpreted but rather allowed to wash over you and do whatever it does.like that, it makes it more of an emotional experience rather than a technical exercise. I have seen it and read a lot about it. As for my experience of it? I feel it’s a love/hate letter to Hollywood. There is much beauty in this film ad much truth. Sometimes truth isn’t beautiful. Let me start my summary and review by saying this is not a normal film. It is non-linear and it doesn’t do much to help the viewer understand the message. I feel there is a strong message but others like Ebert who I respect feel it does not. Its only meant to be enjoyed: the moods, the music, the horror, the mystery, the actors.

Open ended and open to interpretation films are a mixed bag. Most of us want to be able to get answers to our questions from the director, the actors, or even from a critic on the internet. I used to be that way. I wanted to believe every story had a solid meaning if I looked for it. This changed for me about the time I watched Innaratu’s “Birdman” with Michael Keaton and strangely enough, the woman who plays Betty in Mulholland Drive, Naomi Watts. The plot in many films leads to solid meaning, in others it only serves as a background or a “playground” if you will for the viewer to derive a personal meaning. It can never be proven but it is encouraged by the filmmaker. The films like this are purposely ambiguous. When someone wrote that Niggan was dead in Birdman I bought it. When someone else said the whole movie (play included) was a misfiring of a dying brain that had just committed suicide. This made sense. I’ve had dreams that seemed to last for years. There is no time in dreams. I got a lot out of Birdman, the spanse of time is just one of my conjectures. A few other examples of films that are meant to be open to interpretation are: Donnie Darko, 2001 A Space Odyssey, and Under the Skin.

David Lynch has been a director for a long time. I believe some of what’s going on in Mulholland Drive is his judgment on actors, Hollywood, and the movie making machine.

For the rest of the episode, I’ll be giving a summary of MUlholland Drive and my interpretation: Spoilers may follow but you still have to draw your own conclusions with this movie.

No mainstream director has been pigeonholed as weird more than David Lynch. His movies feature metaphor and symbolism and they take me down a winding road everytime I see them. I have a hope they mean something because they are all very well made films. Mulholland Drive stands out as one of his most successful films. Despite this, there are handfuls of critics who say it’s not a good film and really tells no coherent story worth mentioning. I knew all this going in and more than once I tried watching this film only to stop it fearing it was “going nowhere” as some of these critics had led me to believe. Even my wife told me it was very weird and she didn’t “get it.” Let’s get into this masterpiece and see if we can derive some meaning shall we?

At the beginning, we see a Brunette who is about to be murdered. As she is riding in her limousine, some scary types order her out of the car. We see later that she is way high above the night lights of Hollywood. As they are forcing her out, a joy ride with some wild teenagers comes flying up the road and smashes into the limo. It appears the brunette is the only one who escapes the crash and lives. She starts to work her way down the hill to the city but speaks nothing. We come to find out she has amnesia and doesn’t remember her own name. This is the first place in the film where open interpretation can come in. She could be a famous actor or she could be no one. She makes her way into a house where she sees a woman is locking up. The house is vacant which may be pretty good for her as she figures out what is going on.

I saw this as a symbol of Hollywood. Fame is in play all the time but there is little control of it. David Lynch is a great guy to tell us this because he has been so successful himself. What happens to a great actor when her memory is gone, when she is alone in a strange house. It’s as if she is equalized from a star down to the human level. There is a new character introduced and he is talking about his dream in Winkies (it has the logo of Denny’s). Job interview? Who is this guy.Investigator? Walking out back he sees a zombie like figure. From his dream. I can only guess that this must represent the monster of the city that can swallow you whole if that is your fate. There is a general theme of fear that roams like a fog into every scene. It’s like the opposite of security. Hollywood has none of that.

Naomi Watts (Betty) comes into town and moves in to the house with the Brunette, with amnesia is in the shower and assumes the name Rita because of the Rita Hayworth poster she sees. The Brunette doesn’t belong there, she’s like a nowhere girl. Betty is very kind to her and there seems to be a real mutual affection here. I think the brunette could be the persona Betty is trying to create as an actress.

I think it’s safe to assume this film is somewhat of a commentary on Hollywood and the politics of how films get made. It’s also a statement of how with fame, it’s all an illusion. One person can be a star in place of another and it has little to do with well-meaning auditions. There’s also something here about how it can all change on a dime in Hollywood. We have the director, Adam Keshir, who carries a golf club assumedly for protection. He tells a group of suits at an audition that he will pick his leading lady. They disagree and demand that he pick theirs. When he storms out, terrible things happen to him. First, he finds his wife in bed with Billy Ray Cyrus. Second, his bank account is emptied and he has been fired from the movie by the studio. He is instructed to go see “the cowboy” which he does and finds out he can have it all back if he chooses the right woman for the role. When one is rich, she/he runs the risk of losing much and in Hollywood we get the impression that is happening all the time.

This movie is all over the place but after a few scenes, Betty and Rita have a lesbian makeout scene. When this is meant to be a film (I believe) to show the victimization in Hollywood by studios and/or a mistreatment of women, I found this writing a little odd. It could also be an ego massaging itself.

The emcee explains in different languages that everything is an illusion; Rebekah Del Rio comes on stage and begins singing the Roy Orbison song “Crying” in Spanish, then collapses while her vocals continue—her performance was a recording. Betty finds a blue box in her purse that matches Rita’s key. Upon returning to the apartment, Rita retrieves the key and finds that Betty has disappeared. Rita unlocks the box, and it falls to the floor with a thump.

Everything is an illusion and the people we try to be and fail at are often roles we shouldnt get on stage and in life. I also think the Aunt’s money is a symbol too: easy come easy go, especially in Hollywood. If you don’t earn something, it may harm you in the end. Again, the illusion of success permeates the film.

Author: Damien Riley

I'm an old school blogger who went full movie blogger and podcaster! Now, I post short reviews about movies I see. This is my podcast, I hope you enjoy listening.

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