mulholland drive(2001)
director: david lynch
naomi watts, laura elena harring, justin theroux, ann miller, dan hedaya

. Criticizing a David Lynch film for a lack of narrative logic has always been a pointless exercise, and his latest film, Mulholland Drive, spirals ever further out into the dream world Lynch has inhabited since Eraserhead.

In the first scenes of Mulholland Drive, we meet a young woman (Laura Elena Harring) suffering from amnesia after a car accident on the street of the title. We’ll know her as Rita for much of the film, though her name and identity are merely the first in a barrage of red herrings Lynch uses to unhinge his double-jointed plotline. Shortly afterwards, we meet Betty, the kind of preternatual innocent (from small town Ontario, no less!) that Lynch loves to brutalize. 

Yet even Betty (played by Naomi Watts with more subtlety than we’re used to in a Lynch film) is not what she seems, and by the time we’ve met the incompetent hired killer, the powerful and vindictive dwarf, the witch in the upstairs apartment, and the hideously scorched homeless man, it’s to be assumed that the film will end in a very different place from where it started.

For the first hour or so, it’s easy to resist entering Lynch’s world, since, typically, most of his characters are motivated by near-hysterical extremes of naivete, anxiety, perversity or sheer evil. In Lynch’s more successful films -- Blue Velvet, principally -- you’re drawn in, seduced by his striking imagery and compelling strangeness. In his failures -- Wild at Heart and Lost Highway come to mind -- it’s all just so much stately psychopathic playacting.

Thankfully, Mulholland Drive is closer to the former than the latter. At the point where the story we’ve been following with increasing dread suddenly and vertiginously implodes -- you’ll know it when it happens -- the viewer will be tempted to try and tie all the loose ends together, in much the same way that this year’s art house hit, Memento, has prompted repeated viewings and interminable online speculation. Be advised, though, that it’s a pointless exercise with Lynch’s film, much as trying to re-tell your dreams, even minutes after waking, is ridiculous and diminishing.