This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Xtwelve’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
“See I told you there was nothing to be afraid of“ 👀
I go into this review knowing it’s kind of a futile effort to try and analyze Mulholland Drive at this point, and I’m not even talking about the fact they’re already are so many vastly superior reviews that exist on the website alone, just that nothing really should or needs to be said, it’s a Lynch film that all but explains itself and thereby says all that need be, but I’m still here, regardless. Mulholland Drive is another in the long line of Lynchian epics, that well, feel epic, if solely because why in the world would this two-and-a-half-hour sprawling, nocturnal, surrealist, mystery thriller, if we were dealing with a normal person, to which we certainly aren’t, be the qualified way to tell a simple lesbian love story? Anyhow, on that note, I am once again glad he was the one to helm the project because this is nothing short of a masterpiece, but weirdly only because it started on in no way being one.
And yes, I am talking explicitly about the first, I guess we’ll say “dream portion” of the film, about which, while I can respect it in hindsight (the same thing for the concept, not just the execution of it being a “it was all a dream” twist. It seems everyone else is giving it a lot of credit and saying it gets hated on solely because of the bad rep such twists have been imbued with by lesser films, which is true, but only to an extent, because, well, in my opinion, the fact it’s all a dream remains stupid, made less stupid by the way it reflects the actual state of Diane’s psyche and is the only reason for that ending to be as great as it is, sure, but it still is stupid) for how those magical final thirty or so minutes depend on it to even be such, it is not a David Lynch movie.
It’s basically a pleasant (for the most part because obviously as the dream becomes a nightmare after the first hour or so that changes real fast) comedical farce of his style in every way, but in big, bold ways itself, something so averse to the shadowy, almost mastermind way he usually picks the least obvious, but yet the most effective way to inject horror at the end of pivotal scenes (yeah, this would be a really weird film to watch as your first Lynch, it almost wouldn’t work in my opinion). And I guess for a few more examples similarly in a David Lynch movie dop-wop shouldn’t be making us feel cozy inside, when someone smiles it definitely shouldn’t feel warm, we should actually be crawling out of our skin, the melodrama shouldn’t feel forced and clunky in a way anything other than charming, it shouldn’t be overacted (yep, Naomi Watts, not only became one of my favorite actresses through this film but also delivered the only intentionally bad performance that I’ve felt I could aptly judge as having so many layers it really is mastery, hell, the fact it feels as if she’s reading off a page is a metaphor in and of itself), the story should match the level of drama the story rises to (think like Twin Peaks), yet it all is.
And those are just exaggerated examples that get to the heart of the strategy he had when crafting the first act, in that regard, it’s almost a way of stringing the audience along, the main mystery you want solved is why this film, at face value, seems like such a departure from what you were expecting (I’ll get into this more in a second but the fact he tells things in straightforward and sort of obvious structure here replaces his usual head-scratcher of “What is going on?”, for the less effective “Why is this going on?”, probably the first thing that clued me off something was different), and as it unravels it’s probably more entertaining than anything else the man has ever made.
Everything, in a true stroke of brilliant is told linearly in the dream world, even though that would be a departure from how a dream may actually operate not to mention could have been utterly mined by a horror mind like Lynch’s, he sacrifices that chance so he can do the more powerful thing of making you feel like you actually for once are understanding a David Lynch film through and through, like you know where things are going because of how obvious everything appears from a plot perspective (one of the many jabs at corporate Hollywood he makes throughout, maybe my favorites being such cliche as “Something tells me this guy is connected with what’s happening...” to add to the general feeling of mainstream accessibility and to an extent sellout-ism the dream world already had simply by not being 100% Lynch, made maybe more potent by all that ABC debacle during production) the tiny, but more “Lynchian” stylistic interjections like the old couple and Club Silencio (the exception being the mob stuff, while that is classic Lynch it is actually important to what’s being said) existing solely to remind you that you are in fact watching a film of his (not to say he doesn’t include and take the opportunity to excuse some of his other weirdness because it’s a dream and for once it can be justified to have a jump scare, scarecrow man behind a dumpster at a Denny’s equivalent though).
So, all that to say, because the dream reads pretty straightforward structurally, that’s mostly why when we return to the real world the unconventional time and place skips (the best editing in cinema history, prove me wrong) hit even harder and more confusing than without it. I mean, it’s just a bonus that we get so many subtle details that are quite literally the inverse of the way they were in the dream, like that fabulous bedroom transition and the switched name-tag in Winkie’s (though, the film is really obvious with how it frames stuff like that, like painfully obvious. For example with how the camera drifts to focus on the ashtray that’s still on the coffee table in Diane’s cottage the time she gets rejected by Camilla for sex, seemingly just so that we know where this moment is happening contextually within the plot, and that annoys me), and like back to the editing for a second it is also a subversion of previous visual motifs, like for example the name-tag scene at the end is reversed in what profiles are used, from what perspective, and in what sequence when compared to the earlier one, and I guess I same idea can also be extended to when we revisit the man behind the dumpster, jump scare, no jump scare, different angles, it’s a bit of a stretch but, more importantly, the point I’m trying to make here is how the first “act” is all about establishing rules, a false sense of security, etc, and then tearing all that down later.
Just for some other quick points, I love how Lynch and I won’t act like the cast doesn’t have a big part in this as well, pulls secondary emotion through the leads, like Naomi crying at the club or her fleeting eye-contact with Adam on set all make you feel a similar side of sadness or flirtatious excitement, it is a great reinforcer to how the dream is tailor crafted to be Diane’s world where all anyone, even the audience wants to do is fascinate themselves and empathize with. But, well, there’s also a few things I want to complain about that don’t really matter, just like why does David Lynch choose to use such shitty effects all the time? I get it can be horrifying when done right and yeah, it’s also so something that would be part of his style I don’t expect any less anymore, but when certain things look drawn over the screen in MS Paint or just physically dangled in front like this is some nine-year-olds stop motion feature it is still averse to the one thing I tend to think he values over all else, in that of complete and total immersion within the world’s he creates.
Anyway, as much as I love his sound design I also hate how much he loves to do rises and falls with it, it just feels like a cop-out when he builds the wall of sound up so much you feel actively uncomfortable, to then only stay in that state of oddity for less than a second before things are silent and watchable again, like I said, I don’t know. Oh, and the art direction for that key to the soul, subconsciousness box thing was awful, it took me easily five minutes to match the hitman’s key to the one Rita had solely because of how much they differed in circumference and were, at least in a few shots, clearly not the same prop (though, tell me if I am an idiot and missing something here).