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Having spent time with loving ranchers and hard-working miners, let’s turn off the wholesome faucet and take a trip into the brilliant warped mind of David Lynch. I don’t wish to be pigeonholed as a critic with a collie named Lassie and a horse named Pie. I did, however, love Dizzy, our family’s beloved golden.
David Lynch. Where to start? How about with David’s Baby, otherwise known as the wailing Damien at the foot of the bed in “Eraserhead.”
That disturbing child is one of those images your memory can’t undo. I have seen “Eraserhead” just once in 1977, 43 years ago. But that image is burned into my psyche like a cattle brand.
In my mind, Lynch made many memorable well-crafted films, but only one masterpiece: “Mulholland Drive.”
The British “Sight and Sound” magazine polls the world’s critics and directors every decade to determine the top 100 films of all time. “Mulholland Drive” sits in the 28th spot in the 2020 poll.
A 2016 BBC poll of 167 critics named “Mulholland Drive” the best film of the 21st century, just ahead of “In the Mood for Love,” “There will be Blood,” “Spirited Away,” and “Boyhood.” An inspired list!
First of all, no one knows what “Mulholland Drive” is about. It’s praised as an open-ended, surreal journey which seems to go nowhere and everywhere. The online magazine “Salon” made the most noble attempt to unravel its mysteries in a fascinating article called “Everything you were afraid to ask about ‘Mulholland Drive.’”
After a few hundred words of dumbfounding conjecture, the article moves to FAQ, which starts with “What the F*** is going on in this movie?” The article amuses me, but I don’t believe the writers have deciphered Lynch’s code any better than anyone else. But they try hard!
A smirking Lynch inserts MacGuffins everywhere, just to tease and befuddle us.
So, now that I have you intrigued or at least curious, let’s hop into my first car, a 1957 black and white Ford, and head down Mulholland Drive, a road in the eastern Santa Monica mountains of Southern Cal.
A woman is in the back seat of a car which stops suddenly. Men pull a gun and order her to get out. Just as she steps out, another car smashes into them all. Our mysterious lady, the only survivor, staggers down a hill, and hides in a vacated apartment. She has a concussion that has wiped out her memory. She does not know who she is. She names herself Rita.
Enter Betty, an aspiring ingenue, stepping off the plane in LA to chase her acting dreams. She’s staying at her aunt’s apartment – where the injured lady is hiding.
Rita and Betty meet and become unlikely friends. Rita helps Betty practice lines for an audition. Betty helps Rita hunt for clues to her identity. Rita’s purse is stuffed with wads of big bills she cannot explain.
From here, the story gets really murky. Betty figures out where Rita might live. They visit. A car is parked outside, with suspicious men.
And then comes surreality, sex and symbols. Suddenly, names of characters seem to change. Betty might be Diane. Rita might be Camilla. Wait, isn’t the same actress playing two ladies?
That’s confusing enough. Then, in mid-conversation, one of them seems to vanish like a hologram whose light source died.
Floating symbols are everywhere. Pandora’s blue box. A cowboy. Two blue keys. A blue rose.
Oh, and the murders. Victims: A man in an office, a woman next door, a maintenance man. The last bullet is pumped into a noisy vacuum cleaner. It dies, too.
Lynch’s tale seems to end at a dinner party, with Betty crying while Rita kisses a director.
Oh, yes, hot lesbian sex steams up the apartment, too.
Now for the clincher: Lynch weaves this together into a memorable journey down a rabbit hole. Just throw your hands in the air, and ride it down.
“Mulholland Drive” is a love-it-or-hate-it movie. A philosopher friend thinks it’s a fraud – the movie has no clothes on. I think it’s hypnotizing and brilliant. He’s wrong.
Lynch’s writing has been described as a mobius strip, with threads winding around and turning inside out.
Sometimes he’s too weird and/or too dark for me, but in “Mulholland Drive” he’s channeling Hitchcock, ratcheting up Vertigo-flavored suspense to a fever pitch.
Watch it, get confused, argue about it - and then read the Salon article and try to figure out what the duck feathers it’s all about.
That will wipe out a week of quarantine, easy.
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