Mulholland Drive – A Review by Josh Hains

I do not hate Mulholland Drive, nor do I like Mulholland Drive.

David Lynch’s most celebrated film, the aforementioned Mulholland Drive, is also his most ambiguous piece of work to date. To call it confusing would be a disservice to his crafting of this meticulous, multifaceted surrealistic experience. It is not that Mulholland Drive is merely confusing from a lack of directorial control and self indulgence leading to unintended confusion and incoherence, but that the film intentionally lacks in many sequences, the connectivity necessary to compose a complete and full picture. This is not a film that ends with all loose threads tied up with a bow, but a film that purposely leaves loose endings, which generates room for interpretation of the films events, similar to the equally as confounding Birdman Or (The Unexpected virtue Of Ignorance) released in 2014. As I watched the film, captivated by most of its aspects but completely befuddled by the seemingly impenetrable plot, I began asking myself questions I would revisit in time. Who is the grungy, grotesque man who spookily appears from around a corner as if he sensed someone approaching? Is he just a random piece of a large intricate puzzle, or is he the physical embodiment pure evil, fear, or death, or perhaps all three? Who is the cowboy, and what is the reason behind Kesher’s interaction with him? Is everything just inside Diane’s mind at films end? Unlike Birdman however, upon finishing my first viewing of Mulholland Drive in 2014 (months prior to seeing Birdman), and in the case of subsequent viewings in the time since my initial viewing, I reacted both poorly and foolishly toward the film. Rather than approach the ambiguous nature of the film at its end with the same open-mindedness and childlike curiosity as I did with Birdman some months later, I greeted it with frustration and disdain for not closing in similar fashion to Blue Velvet or Wild At Heart, for not allowing me the relief of a “Hollywood ending” with all loose ends tied, and for leaving me absolutely confused and underwhelmed.

What I discovered in later viewings was not the truth of the film and its hidden meaning, but that the more I dissected and analyzed the material, the more time I spent engaged in the mystery of the film, the more frustrated and confused I would become. Justin Theroux, who portrays Adam Kesher, has expressed the belief that people such as myself, who take the time to dissect the film as thoroughly as we have done, will only end up further frustrating ourselves, due to the lack of what he called “connective tissue”. Once I recognized this aspect of the film this morning watching a brief clip of Theroux discussing the mysterious nature of Lynch’s films, in particular Mulholland Drive, after a revisit of Mulholland Drive last night, I saw the light at the end of a vast dark tunnel. I saw that the power of the film lies in its inability to be interpreted, or as Roger Ebert put it in his review of the film (which later made its it way into his “Great Movies” list) “It was a tribute to Lynch that the movie remained compulsively watchable while refusing to yield to interpretation.” I could not have said it better myself.

A question has remained in my mind for the rest of today, the question of what do I think of the film now that I have freed myself of compulsively searching the depths of the film for its meaning and some semblance of a clear resolution? Considering that in viewings past, my issues were not with any other aspect of the film; not the performances, not the cinematography and startling imagery, not the dread ridden bleak atmosphere, not the music, or the sex sequences and unexpected violence; beyond the purposely ambiguous and open-to-interpretation nature of the puzzling narrative, and seeing as how that issue has been cleared up rather nicely as of today, I think that the film is possibly David Lynch’s finest film. His masterpiece. The film upon which all his other works will forever be compared to. I could also say that the impenetrable nature of the film, the unwillingness to yield to interpretation and modern cinematic standards, places the film upon a pedestal above most other films that thrive in surrealistic realms, though unlikely above but quite possibly on par with Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, The Wrath Of God, or Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo, both similarly mystifying, confounding, and surreal. Of course, these points are open to discussion and interpretation, and subsequent to change dependent on perspective.

All of this brings me back to my opening statements, and my final verdict on the film as a whole. I do not hate Lynch’s Mulholland Drive in any facet, nor do I like Mulholland Drive. I love it, and I want to see it again soon so I can once again become entangled in that mysterious dreamlike realm that seemingly inhabits one dark corner of Los Angeles. Or Diane’s demented imagination. Or both.

 

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