Mulholland Dr. (2001)

David Lynch directs Naomi Watts, Laura Harring and Justin Theroux in this L.A. surreal mystery where a naive wannabe star ends up in a Hollywood of dreams and nightmares.

Uh-oh… I didn’t enjoy this quite so much on a revisit. Held up as one of the 21st century’s very best movies, the Mulholland Dr. in my memory has iconic sequences of surreal interaction, erotic oblivion and horrific dread. We all know the horrific dread I’m talking about. The shitman who lives behind Winkie’s Diner. He’s still terrifying, he’ll burn himself on your fear receptors. The sequence where Naomi Watts’ good girl and Laura Harring’s femme fatale get it on is as hot and heavy as ever too. The strange mystery is still compelling. Although the puzzle of what is going on now seems easier to follow, defanged after two decades of academic theories and normalisation. Mulholland Dr. is a clunky affair in the main. Extended from an abandoned TV pilot into a self contained feature film. When released, it was lauded as a phoenix from the flames. We marvelled that something so unusual and affecting could come out of a salvage job. Watching it now, its recycled nature rears it ugly head far too often. The first hour is full of loose ends and dead ends… deadpan scenes establishing characters and plot lines abandoned by Act Two to focus on the tragic romance between glamorous lost souls. Half of that opening hour is wasteful filler, included as it was shot and edited, though useless to the project the film evolved into. I also read that Lynch originally envisioned the TV series as a Twin Peaks spin-off; Audrey Horne’s adventures in LaLa Land. I would have watched that. Maybe that is why Naomi Watts lead is so thinly sketched. The game actress brings a lot to a very one dimensional role, this is the movie she’ll be remembered for… but maybe Audrey Horne’s back story would have filled in some blanks that haven’t been considered as the story went through different incarnations. Mulholland Dr. is still very watchable, with moments of greatness and a gut wrenching death blow of an ending. But it is starting to show its age and ramshackleness a bit too much to be considered Lynch’s or this millennium’s finest work of cinema.

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