The Chinese box narrative construction is a favorite of David Lynch. Avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren first used it in Meshes of the Afternoon
, also set on a winding Hollywood road. We enter a maze through 'Mulholland Drive', traipse down the hill and into the story. Among the accoutrements is a black handbag with what looks like a million dollars and a key to a metallic blue box. We know the film will revolve around this and end up with us traipsing up the hill back on to Mulholland Drive, setting right whatever needs to be set right again. In the DVD version you are locked into the story with no way out. No chapter and verse, just the whole Lynch enchilada.
The thing about David Lynch’s films is that they’re not hard to understand at all. You just have to sit through a host of his personal demons, such as being tortured by Roy Orbison songs, dwarfs in theatrical rooms, grotesques, decaying bodies, show artists with pale faces, smeared mascara and track marks, cowboys, fast food joints and lots of ‘good cups of coffee’ to wash it all done with. Not least a soundtrack that looks like someone hooked up a tape recorder to a cement truck or left the electric organ on with a stuck key.
Mulholland Drive is a (queer )homage to Hollywood and most directors get around to doing one at some time in their career. For Maya Deren it was her first film, a critique of narrative movie making. For Lynch it’s a reliance on recycled plots. At its Cannes debut where Lynch scored a directorial award, he said the relationship Laura Elena Harring and Naomi Watts "has to do with feelings" but in as far as recycled die- hard lesbian films go, he makes sure a man comes in between them, a plot agency designed for voyeuristic excitement.
The story may seem complicated but its not. Its down the rabbit hole and up again. The question is does the journey leave you with anything. It’s to Naomi Watts’ credit that the film works at all; she transforms from naive star struck girl to a tough junkie and plays a wide gambit of characters in a little over two hours. Less talented is the buxom Rita (Laura Elena Harring) who steals scenes from Betty as an airhead bimbo, the ding-a-ling girlfriend up for grabs that has always made Hollywood go round.
For Movie Magazine International this is Moira Sullivan, Stockholm Sweden.
© 2003 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 1/03
USA, France 2001