Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Mulholland Drive

For the European theatrical cut of Twin Peaks, an extended version of the brilliant television pilot, David Lynch was forced to tack on an abrupt conclusion to two seasons' worth of carefully developed subplots and open-ended questions, most famously "Who killed Laura Palmer?" The assignment, impossible from the start, resulted in a frenetic, confounding final 15 minutes that slashed ribbons through the thick, dreamy noir atmosphere Lynch had worked so hard to establish. Staring down the same problems with his new film, Mulholland Drive, Lynch has near-miraculously salvaged a challenging, suspenseful, and (semi-) coherent narrative from the ashes of a rejected 1999 ABC pilot. Perhaps because the project would have never seen the light of day otherwise, Lynch seemed more inspired than he was with Twin Peaks to make something whole out of the patchwork of old and new footage. Though inherently a wounded duck, full of characters and subplots that drop in and out of the narrative and pacing that dissolves from leisurely television to the tautness of film, Mulholland Drive gives way to an internal dream logic that can only be described as Lynchian. At the very least, the first hour suggests the beginnings of one of the greatest TV series never produced, reconfiguring the light/dark dynamic of Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks for the surreality of present-day Los Angeles. Like Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern in Blue Velvet, Naomi Watts enters a corrupt and horrific adult world as a parody of born-yesterday innocence; she's a blonde aspiring actress from the backwater town of Deep River, Ontario. Shortly after arriving in Hollywood and moving into her vacationing aunt's apartment, Watts meets her Isabella Rossellini in Laura Elena Harring, a dark and mysterious brunette who has just fled the scene of a car accident and can't remember who she is. As Watts helps her new friend find her identity, they discover that the car crash is not the accident it appears to be, and the blue key in Harring's pocket may be a significant clue. Meanwhile, in a seemingly unrelated subplot, a slick, egomanical director (Justin Theroux) has his vision compromised by a shadowy cabal of financiers with sinister designs. Just past the halfway point, Mulholland Drive splinters off into the sort of free-floating psychotic excess that marred the latter halves of Lost Highway and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. While it's tempting to think that Lynch has simply lost control of his vision yet again, the film is so densely layered and seductive that it's hard to pull away completely, even when it stops making rational sense. Recognizing the futility of bringing material for an untold number of television episodes to a neat and satisfying conclusion, Lynch has done the next best thing, pushing the audience deeper and deeper into his subconscious tangles.


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