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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

New on Video: Hollywood Is Hell in Mulholland Dr.

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2015 at 2:30 PM


I miss David Lynch as a filmmaker. He’s never been just a filmmaker, of course; he started out as a painter and has always been involved with music, but for much of my life he’s been my favorite director. My first girlfriend and I bonded over the initial season of Twin Peaks in June of 1990, and then reconciled over Wild at Heart  in August. (It was an intense summer.) The problem is that while he’s been productive in other ways, Lynch hasn’t made an actual movie since 2001’s Mulholland Dr., which the Criterion Collection is releasing on Blu-ray on October 27.

For me, Mulholland Dr. is the end of a classical period that began with the little-loved Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, which I saw four times in the theater. (Other films which are considered notorious financial flops in spite of me having paid to see them multiple times during their initial theatrical runs include Cabin Boy, Big Trouble in Little China, and more recently, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Hey, I tried my best.) Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart are excellent (and I’ll defend his version of Dune against all comers), but it wasn’t until Fire Walk With Me that it felt like he was making movies just for me — that is to say, movies which evoke the dreamy tone of his masterwork Eraserhead.

(Not from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.)
  • (Not from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.)

This classical period continued with 1997’s Lost Highway, took a brief but pleasant diversion with 1999’s The Straight Story, and culminated with Mulholland Dr. While Lynch has continued to make movies since then, he has yet to make another narrative feature on 35mm film. I wanted to like 2006’s Inland Empire, but in the end, it was an overlong exercise with a lousy digital video camera that has no purpose or point. Digital video in and of itself is fine, but the model he used produced uniformly muddy images, and in the final, 180-minute version he allow improvised scenes to run for waaaaaaay too long. I’d hoped watching Lynch's personal print at the Roxie a few years back would change my opinion, but I still found it to be an interminable eyesore. If it had been all rabbits, my opinion might be different, though.

More recently, he made a Duran Duran concert film. And why not?

But he hasn’t made a proper narrative film since Mulholland Dr., which itself was originally intended to be a television series pilot. (Good heavens, I think that means The Straight Story could qualify as his true final film. Who knew?) Like his best films dating back to Eraserhead, it’s a dream of dark and troubling things, as naïve young Betty (Naomi Watts) arrives in Hollywood looking for stardom, only to discover that it’s a particular form of Hell. There’s even a flyer to that effect on the edge of one shot.


Everything that I love about David Lynch films is on display in Mulholland Dr., all the tropes and obsessions from his career up to that point: ominous drone-y music, visual and verbal non-sequiturs, red curtains and harsh key lighting, and bursts of absurd humor.

Club Silencio alone is a contender for the best scene in any of his movies, and a mission statement for not only his work but all art. (Rene Magritte would approve, I’m sure.)

As I mentioned, it was originally intended to be a television pilot, so the first 90 minutes of Mulholland Dr. introduces many characters who soon disappear from the story. Not to creep on Michele Hicks, who’s gone on to do great work in The Shield and Mr. Robot, but I have to admit, I would have liked to have seen more of her bespectacled Nicki. (It’s possible I have a type.)


There’s no question that Lynch was repeating himself by this point, which may account for why he stopped making proper feature films. He also swore off 35mm soon thereafter — and speaking of repeating himself, whether or not he’s shooting the new season of Twin Peaks on film or digital remains unclear at this point, though the IMDB hints at digital.

But I’m okay with David Lynch repeating himself, because it’s him repeating things I love. And I have great love for Mulholland Dr. Just beware the monster behind Winkie’s Diner.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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