Friday, 18 June 2010

It'll be just like in the movies. Pretending to be somebody else.

No 391 - Mulholland Drive
Director - David Lynch

After watching a few fairly simple films, I thought I would entertain myself by watching a guaranteed head fuck which I've never before seen.
Also Ultra Culture bloody loves this film - and they're an excellent blog with pretty reliable views on stuff..

I don't want to sit down and write a detailed essay explaining what I think the film is about (though I've found some great sites which have helped deepen my experience, which I'll list at the end... in case you guys need help) - I'm instead going to talk about what I though about the film. Looking at it as a classic Neo-Noir and as a piece of atmospheric wonderment.

We begin with a bungled assassination of a nameless woman (Laura Harring - the character later takes the name Rita from a Rita Hayworth movie poster), who escapes the site and crawls into an empty apartment.
Alas, the apartment is later occupied by Betty (played by Naomi Watts) who has flown to LA from Ontario and plans to become an actress. The majority of the film is about the wonderful relationship which blossoms between Rita and Betty.

However - I just want to add one thing here, which may or may not be relevant to anything (that's the problem with this film, you just don't know) - when we first meet Betty, she is in the airport speaking to an elderly couple she met on the plane. Strangely, her speech pattern is stilted and halting. It felt unnatural enough for me to make a note of it whilst watching.

So Betty meets Rita, and the two are naturally suspicious of one another but gradually - as they try to find out about Rita's identity - a really rather wonderful friendship begins to blossom, before turning into a fully fledged romance. Generally, couples never seem to fare that well in Lynch's films, so once you get over the titillation of their sex scenes (after all, they're both very attractive ladies) it is nice to see an unabusive, genuinely loving relationship.

There are many subplots throughout this film - for example, an assassin trying to get a black book, and a director being forced by a mysterious group to cast someone called Camilla Rhodes in his film. He refuses and is visited by The Cowboy (who also appears later, in what is arguably the most important single moment of the film), who explains how the director really doesn't have a choice. However, the best thing about this shadowy cabal is that it is led by the fabulous Michael J Anderson as Mr Roque. Mr Roque utters one word throughout the entire film, and is on screen for probably a minute, but he is instantly fascinating. Lynch clearly loves Anderson as he finds a way to crowbar him into a lot of his films - and his performance in twin peaks is beyond iconic. In one scene he essentially defines Lynch.

Also, on a brief tangent, is this the weirdest Lynch reference ever? Way to alienate your audience, Sesame Street.

Back to subplots. The one I wish to discuss is that of Wilkies Diner. The diner appears a lot, and each time is important to the film. For example, the waitress there is called Diane; and this reminds Rita that she knew a Diane (who alas is now dead and rotting - possibly the victim of the assassin). But the big scene for Wilkies is the dream scene. Two men discuss a dream that one of them has been having in the diner in which he is haunted by a horrible face. Whilst explaining the story, he retraces his steps and comes face to face with the *terrifying* dirt smeared crone (who glides out from behind a wall) and dies, clutching his chest.
It is clearly an important scene, but (like all the scenes in this film) if you take it at face value - it makes no fucking sense.

All these scenes actually take place and whilst it may be hard to see how they relate, they seem to follow their own logic. After seeing Diane dead, Rita starts to wear a Blonde wig much like Betty's hair - and the two begin to move (often in unison) from venue to venue in similar black outfits.

The climax of their relationship (for afterwards Betty just vanishes) occurs in the super creepy Club Silencia where Betty finds a blue box, which corresponds with a blue key, which was one of the few objects Rita had on her possession. Rita opens the box and ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE!

But importantly, The Cowboy returns and utters the important line:

Hey, pretty girl, time to wake up.

OK, I'm going to break this down into bullet points.
  • Naomi Watts gets up from bed, and we see that she has been asleep in the same position as the previously dead Diane.
  • For the rest of the film, Naomi Watts is referred to as Diane.
  • Laura Harring appears fleetingly (in what I assume are flashbacks), and is referred to as Camilla.
  • Diane and Camilla used to date, until Camilla said she didn't think they should do so any more.
  • Rita/Camilla is now sleeping with the director from the earlier subplot.
At this point the film's order goes all over the place - as several scenes occur during Naomi Watts' walk from the kitchen to the sofa.
  • We see her suffer a break up, humiliation.
  • We see her discuss Laura Harring's character with the assassin.
  • We see a regular blue Yale lock passed to her.
And just as things get really really weird (and this is a fabulous creepy weirdness which has been slowly building up for the past two and a bit hours), the dirt faced crone vagrant releases the elderly couple from a paper bag. They sneak in to Watts' house - under the door - and torment her until she shoots herself. Leaving a smoking bed.

A true WHAT THE FUCK moment, if ever I've seen one.

As a portrayal of mood it is wonderful. The film is deliciously tense. A true horror.

But what does it mean? I'll leave you with some heavy reading:
City of Nightmares - An In depth Analysis of Mulholland Drive

(I'm not saying this is right - Lynch himself refuses to divulge - but it is interesting, and a lot of the original points are similar to what I thought - only he goes in a LOT more detail and research)

No comments: