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David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive

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We have been without any kind of domestic assistance for the last few weeks (at least up until yesterday). Eric’s parents are extremely helpful and put in many hours giving time and attention to our two little kids, unfortunately (at least for us) they were on vacation with every known relative with the last name Olsen – except for us 🙁

So we were like most people in America – on our own and let me tell you – it sucked the major schwappage, alas. We survived, but that isn’t what this post is about, this post is about David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. As we could go nowhere nor do anything without a seven-month-old (can you believe it!) and a 4 +3/4 year old, we rented some movies this past weekend.

I was looking forward to viewing the movie. It received excellent reviews and I believe David Lynch was nominated for an Oscar as Best Director. I have had sort of a hit and miss relationship with David Lynch – Wild at Heart was great – Twin Peaks, not so great. I haven’t stayed awake through Blue Velvet or Eraserhead, but The Elephant Man was awesome.

Mulholland Drive is billed as an erotic thriller, an apt title considering the intensely uncomfortable lesbian scenes and the make-you-squirm-in-your-seat suspense. All was well, until about 3/4 of the way through the movie, when the plot totally fell apart. The sequencing was weird and it seemed more like one of those dreams you have that make you feel all sweaty and out of breath, but when you wake up and give the dream deeper scrutiny, you feel kind of grossed out. In fact, the best way to describe how I felt after watching that movie was confused, embarrassed and befuddled. Sort of like I was forced to watch some perv expose himself in public. ICK!

It just didn’t make ANY damn sense. Yes, I know – THAT’S David Lynch, but damn, last time I checked, any good movie needs a plausible start, middle and finish – and a plot you can reasonably follow.

I will say this, watching Naomi Watts is a fascinating experience. She is riveting and raw. In fact, she was the best thing about the whole movie except for the Spanish version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying” featured in the film.

The movie is worth watching, if for no other reason than as a cinematic experiment, but don’t expect to understand a fricking thing when it’s over except that David Lynch likes shooting really steamy lesbian scenes – not that there is ANYTHING wrong with that.

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About Dawn Olsen

  • i kinda liked it.

    didn’t ‘understand’ it, but liked it.

    also kind of weird to see Ann Miller play that Coco character.

  • Chris Kent

    I still have sweat on my forehead (among other things) leftover from watching that Naomi Watts/Laura Harring lesbian scene. It was a fascinating film, but after awhile I just let the style and mood wash over me and just played along. Trying to decipher some of Lynch’s stuff will lead to madness. It’s like good wine and one must acquire the taste. I tend to prefer Lynch’s more conventional films such as Elephant Man, Straight Story and even Blue Velvet.

    Mulholland Drive ranks as one of his best not necessarily because the story is easy to follow (it’s not), but the overall virtuoso muscle is so perfectly Lynchian. It’s his style, and utterly his.

  • i’ll have to see it again. normally, the lesbian thing would be a plus in my book…but i was just plain ascared that something ugly was gonna happen.

  • Eric Olsen

    Actually, the full-on les-out was exactly when the movie fell apart. Until then the Lynchian filmmaking really drove up the wattage of a fascinating, suspenseful story.

    But I couldn’t have felt more let down by the last 3/4 of the movie: absolutely NOTHING ws resolved – every single plot element was left dangling, the women at the center of the movie became completely different people, for God’s sake.

    It was like 3/4 of the way through a taut, compelling, addictive even, movie, Lynch just chucked it all, said “just kidding, I will now fling a bunch of random shit in your face, and hah fucking hah.”

    When it finally dawned on me that nothing WAS going to be resolved, that all the set-up was going to go for naught, all the strings left dangling, that it was all a big raspberry in the face of the viewer, I was livid. I had nightmares about the contempt for the audience expressed at the end of the movie, made all the worse by the virtuosity of the first 3/4.

    Can someone tell what in the flying flaming monkeyshit was this movie about? What happened after the scene in the cabaret with the Spanish “Crying”? Why did the names of the women change? What happened to the money from the opening accident? You just don’t create that much dread only to piss it away with a bunch of stupid arty shit. Goddamn I’m pissed about this.

  • Chill.

    Perhaps you’re not as familiar with Lynch’s other movies, but I think it’s hardly lack of fair warning. Lynch doesn’t make movies in the straight-forward narrative style we’re used to in America (with satisfying plot resolutions). He never has. The closest he’s come to making a coherent movie is in his early film Blue Velvet but he’s done the absurd schizoid jump in his films before (Lost Highway being the most recent pre-Mulholland example).

    It’s not contempt for his audience since his audience IS generally artsy and expects him to deconstruct character development and narrative stability. Yes, I think he does a lot of “weird for the sake of being weird” in his work and I admit that I don’t really get a lot of his stuff either. But that’s the point and everyone knows it with Lynch. He’s not making movies for Cleveland or for middle America or for a mainstream audience — Mulholland Drive may have done OK compared to his other films, but I guarantee you it didn’t make half the money “The Perfect Score” or some other Hollywood pablum made. Part of the reason you may have found the beginning of Mulholland Drive more palatable than other Lynch work is that the movie originally started as a TV pilot in development, but it quickly got too weird for the TV studios. The one time he DID cross over and have mainstream success was on TV (Twin Peaks), but we all remember how fast America lost interest and turned on him when the show turned bizarro and artsy. America liked the mystery and intrigue he set up, but not his resolution and dissection of the characters and drama. But that’s always been his pattern: set up an interesting take on identifiable situations and people and then blow it apart to unsettle the viewer’s assumptions. I think he’d be pleased with the Olsens’ reaction. He means to challenge the viewer, whether you like it or are infuriated by it. Very few American directors do that these days.

    Lynch has always been an oddball and an eccentric, a decided exception to the way Hollywood makes movies, and I think that we need people like him in the studio industry as movies become more and more homogenous, predictable, and derivative. Only people who come into his movies with the wrong expectations would get angry about what he does with the film. Consider it your education in Lynch’s absurdism: you won’t be angry the next time you see one of his films, which I’m guessing will be a very long time indeed from your comments.

    For what it’s worth, I think Mulholland Drive is a great post-modern look at LA even if you don’t agree with his choices for the plot and characters. For those of you who would get angry about “artsy” direction, I suggest sticking to Spielberg, Zemeckis, and Darabont films. They’ll soothe and affirm your sense of order and values.

    That is all.

  • Eric Olsen

    All of that is jolly and everything but I have seen and written about Eraserhead, Elephant Man, Dune, Blue Velvet, and Twin Peaks (TV and movie), so there is nothing about Lynch I am ill-prepared for.

    I like the Lynchian quirks and fantasias, I love the music, I don’t mind the abrupt twists and turns; what I DO mind is making one movie for almost 2 hours and then making another, incoherent, parody of the firs tmovie for the next half-hour. That is simply perverse and contemptuous.

  • Dawn

    Bababooie – While I appreciate the mini-art house lesson in cinematography, replete with condescension and dripping with snottyness, my issue with Mulholland isn’t that it was too “weird” or arty for me(clearly an uncultured rube from CLEVELAND for crissakes) it was that the film ultimately made absolutely no fucking sense and quite honestly that may be the sign of genius for some, but for me it’s the sign of an idiot savant – or someone too lazy to finish the job.

    Viewer satisfaction can be wrapped in a riddle, inside an enigma with a surprise creamy filling – but the viewer should ultimately feel satisfied.

    To make something so potentially brilliant only to slack off 3/4 of the way through is just so LAZY.

  • Touche. OK, I stand corrected. You’re not as conservative as the “arty crap” dismissal led me to believe.

    I don’t think Lynch is a genius, nor do I think he’s an idiot savant. He’s clearly got a unique point of view and even his use of something like 50s pop songs in the movie is really interesting and bizarre.

    Smarter people than I have probably written criticism about Lynch, but I believe that the sex scene is an interesting schizoid break. I believe I’ve read that among people with severe emotional trauma and mental illness, sex can trigger dissociative thought and separation from reality. I’d have to watch the movie again to really interpret it psychologically or try and find a meaning in its gender/sexuality. But I wasn’t crazy about the movie either. It just didn’t piss me off or strike me as LAZY. Lynch doesn’t fall into a cheap and easy pat resolution — the second half of the movie is equally, if not more, detailed and bizarrely unexpected.

    I’ll have to watch it again so it’s fresher in my mind.

    I don’t like art-house films, by the way.

    That is all.

  • Dawn

    That’s cool man, different strokes for different folks.

  • Chris Kent

    I consider David Lynch a turbulent genius, sort of in the same category of Michael Cimino.

    Cimino makes The Deer Hunter and we are stunned by its epic yet intimate detail. A spectacular, unforgettable film that was brutually human and honest. He follows that with Heaven’s Gate, a horrible, excessive, arrogant film, and suddenly we are re-evaluating his skill level.

    Lynch is equally frustrating. I’ll watch Elephant Man and especially Straight Story and cry tears because the film has struck such deep emotional chords within me. And then I sit through Wild at Heart and wonder in stunned amazement – “Did the same man make these films?!”

    Lynch is a mischievous bastard, but a talented mischievous bastard….

  • anybody ever seen lynch interviews?

    is has a sorta idiot-savant quality about him.

    i mean, i saw him on leno once talking about how he was coming out with a coffee table book of photographs (i think it’s aout of print now)…and he’s describing this photo of some food on the ground that’s crawling with ants….


  • boomcrashbaby


    Don’t read this comment if you haven’t seen the movie and you want to.

    Mulholland Drive is the ONLY David Lynch movie that I got. The metaphors, the allegories, the symbolism and the clues were absolutely amazing to figure out, although I didn’t really figure it out until a few days after I saw it, and was just thinking about it over and over.


    The movie is mostly a dream of Dianes. She dreams she is Betty. A large part of understanding the movie is figuring out when Diane is asleep and awake. The jitterbug contest at the beginning is reality. Then it fades to Diane putting her head on the pillow and the opening credits start……see what that means?….

    The Cowboy, COCO, the blue key, the ashtray, the hollywood conspiracy plot, the homeless man behind the restaurant (who if you freeze frame, is really Diane, imagery of how she really feels inside) many comments throughout the movie are clues WITHIN her dream, that set the stage for reality and explain why she is dreaming what she is. Towards the end, when things start to ‘fall apart’, is when Diane is waking up, so there is no more Betty. When Rebekah dies while singing the most haunting Roy Orbison I have ever heard, the announcer shouts ‘it’s over’ or something like that. Her dream is over, they know it, and that’s why they lean together in the audience. Reality is about to come crashing back in. And typical of David Lynch, reality is far more hallucogenic than dreams.

    Diane loved Camille. Diane couldn’t have Camille. Diane dreamed she was Betty who COULD have Camille. But that was nothing more than a dream, reality would soon take over and Betty would be gone and Diane back having to face the truth.

    The only thing I’m unsure of, is when Diane shoots herself at the end, is it either she killed herself because she realized she could never have Camille, or is the suicide another metaphor for the ‘ending of the dream’?

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks BCB, at least that makes sense, but the “dream” is a far more compelling story than the “waking” and I still see the last 1/4 as a failure – that kind of convoluted foolishness stills feels like a total copout

  • One thing to keep in mind was “Mullholland Drive” started as a teevee pilot for ABC, and then they decided they didn’t want it, so Lynch had to come up with some sort of resolution for what was intended to be open-ended.

    There’s a Cliff’s Notes for “Donnie Darko” in Salon.com today, which also has a link to sites explaining MD.

    If you want a real Lynchian curve-ball, rent “The Straight Story”, if only to see the title card “Disney presents a David Lynch film”.

    Based on a true story, it is about an old man who drives a lawnmower half-way across the states to see his long-estranged brother.

  • boomcrashbaby

    but the “dream” is a far more compelling story than the “waking”

    I wonder if it is intentional or ironic that art imitates life?

    (I felt the same disappointment when I saw it. I didn’t feel so let down when I understood it but not everybody will feel that way).

  • saul estey

    Mulholland Drive is simply telling the truth about the terrible seduction of hollywood on people’s brains, in particular young girls. Young girls are seduced by American culture to come to hollywood and attempt to be a movie star or at least dream about being a movie star. But it is not a passion for acting that motivates them but a feeling that their own lives are failures if they do not become a movie star. So they come to Hollywood. And find a more attractive, more buxom woman with amnesia in the bathroom of the apartment they are borrowing. The blue box in her purse represents her secrets. And, like makeup, her reality is covered and hidden. The reality of her life is that she has no life. She has been brainwashed to sell her body and her integrity to become a Hollywood actress. And in the end, like so many others, she does a few small parts, is able to attend a condescending party at the devil’s address on Mulholland drive, and fades into a wasted life of basic anonymity. She becomes infatuated with the bruntette because the brunette is more attractive with bigger tits. She is chewed up and spit out in the end because she was not attractive enough. There are also Spanish/Mexican references to allude that perhaps the curse of Hollywood is in part due to the cultures that were ousted from LA in the past. ‘Silencio’ refers to the terrible silence of the truth of all of our lives. And no life is perhaps more pitiful and unhonest to itself than the Hollywood life. If anything, Mulholland Drive should be interpreted as a big warning sign to all of those who dream of movie stardom. The system will almost inevitably lead your already brainwashed life into ruin. And that is from Long Beach fools.

  • Eric Olsen

    Saul, um, tha’ts one way of looking at it. I don’t see Hollywood, or any other aspect of showbiz as nearly that sinister, just a very Darwinian and steep pyramid with very little room at the top. Like anythign else, all things being equal, talent, ambition, and most of all tenacity will out, and luck doesn’t hurt either.

    This movie has been on mind on a regular basis since we saw it, so it gets credit for that, but I am still outraged by the ending, the ridiculous cop-out of “it all being a dream” – talking about jumping the fucking shark.

  • But I don’t think it was a cop-out; the idea that it’s a dream is subtly ingrained into the movie from the very beginning, when we see a body writhing under the covers, apparently tormented by some dream, and the actual denouement comes well before the end and grows out of everything that came before.

  • Eric Olsen

    as I stated above, I was totally engrossed with this until the scene at the Spanish language theater, when the whole thing completely changed tone, the preceding logic and arc fell apart, and it became an excercise of trying to figure out what the hell just happened.

    I understand the “clues” in retrospect, but vehemently disagree that the last quarter of the movie wasn’t a total, audience- reaming disaster

  • ellie

    The ending of this movie was not a cop out, it tied the whole thing together. I’m guessing that most of you people are either Americans or love Americans and you watch too much TV and expect everything to turn out ok. This movie is supposed to shock and upset people, it is a tragedy not a romance or a comedy. It is about a woman who falls in love with someone she cannot have and goes mad with jealousy. She has Camilla killed because she feels betrayed by her. She could handle the fact that Camilla was going to be married and resigned herself to that but when she sees Camilla kiss the other woman that is the ultimate betrayal and she cannot stand the thought of her being with another woman so she has her killed. The fact that they are two women has nothing to do with the story. The reason that they are both women is that if Diane had been a man gender stereotypes would have influenced peoples thoughts on the film. This is not some stupid Hollywood film. You are supposed to think about it and watch it over until you understand it. Try watching it again and the more times you watch it the more the meaning of the film becomes clear. If you don’t have time or can’t handle using your brain to think about a film I suggest you try watching something else. Maybe something like the Lion King may be more your level?

  • missy tumbridge

    you are all brainwashed by the charisma of David Lynch. He is a guru. You could look at any film and find merit in it if it had the right marketing. You only need to see that David Lynch has not written most of the films he has directed and Mulholland Drive being the exception – to be honest I don’t beleive he wrote that himself it does not seem like his own voice as in the obvious Alphabet, six men getting sick and Eraserhead. Writing is not David Lynch’s forte. Forget about him and concentrate on your own lives instead of worshipping a guru.