Mulholland Drive (2001)

This is one of the (sadly) few films that commands multiple viewings. I won’t spoil any of the plot details but it’s one of those movies where everything comes together at the very end, practically forcing you to re-watch again and again. I first watched this when I was a pre-teen and rediscovered it last Spring Break. Since then I’ve seen it about ten times and I still discover new things every time I watch it.

When I re-watched it tonight, I found several new details: a woman asks her neighbor for her hold lamp back (possibly linking her to a web of crime), a man’s associated with a cup of coffee at a dinner party (which comes into play earlier in the film). At face value it may not sound like much, but this movie is a wild psychosexual ride through the dreams and desires of a young Hollywood hopeful. Every individual and every detail comes into play and manifests itself in intriguing and significant ways.

What I appreciate so much about this film, and its filmmaker David Lynch especially, is that it rewards multiple viewings. On the surface the movie is two unrelated mini-films, with a handful of cross-references, but you gather more clues and piece together more and more of the puzzle with each additional viewing. I can’t pretend I understand Mulholland Drive100% but I come closer every time I watch it.

Even taking aside the mesmerizing storytelling and unique structure, this movie is nonetheless entertaining and thrilling. It can best be described as a neo-noir thriller, though it is at times terrifying (with the scariest scene I’ve ever watched, I can’t even look at the screen) and heartbreaking. It also has what may be the healthiest and most honest love story I’ve seen at the movies.

What makes Mulholland Drive so exceptional is its metafictional self-awareness. At its core, it is a mystery involving two women, one grappling with amnesia and the other a rising Hollywood actress. It plays with all the standard Hollywood cues we’ve seen for decades: the femme fatale, the wide-eyed optimist, the cynical Hollywood elite, and many others; but the way the action plays out distorts the grasp you think you have on the story.

It initially clings to all the rules of Hollywood only to break them halfway through; the film hinges on a haunting scene at a nightclub where the emcee emphasizes that everything they are hearing is a tape recording; it is all an illusion. From this pivotal moment, all bets are off, as the film throttles in a totally different direction and plunging the characters into a gritty and seedy Hollywood underworld and an ultimately tragic conclusion.

This fantastic manipulation with the audience’s expectations and the immeasurable depth of the colorful Hollywood the characters reside in bring me back to this movie every month or so. I can never turn down another trip up Mulholland Drive.

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