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"I just came from Deep River, Ontario, and now I'm in this... DREAM place."
May 25, 2011 10:36 AM   Subscribe

David Lynch's 2001 film Mulholland Drive is the subject of dozens of interpretive theories. Roger Ebert decided it was impossible to figure out. Part of the mystery of the movie comes from how it was initially planned as a television pilot for ABC; Lynch combined pilot footage with a newly-devised ending to make the film. That pilot's script. The entire 90-minute pilot. If you can't be bothered to watch the whole thing, individual scenes after the jump.

Luigi's car; Diane's staircase; Meeting Mr. Roque; Adam calls his screenwriter; Adam's Japanese gardener; the police investigation; more hit man fumbles; an extended espresso scene; an extended mobster scene; how the pilot ended.

Other scenes are virtually identical to their film counterparts, but sometimes key lines don't appear which might hint at Lynch's film intentions.

This has nothing to do with Mulholland Drive, but here's David Lynch playing Gordon Cole in his show Twin Peaks, saying one of my favorite lines ever.
posted by Rory Marinich (140 comments total) 124 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wonderful. Mulholland Drive was my first taste of Lynch. Life has been so great ever since.
posted by serif at 10:40 AM on May 25, 2011


Wow some of those interpretive theories are working just so very hard to make normal concrete sense out of a David Lynch movie.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:42 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks! I still can't decide whether I like or dislike the actual film, but I do know that I LOVE almost every scene in it.

Downloading the pilot now... can't wait.
posted by lesli212 at 10:43 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd like to add that I'm still a little in a state of shock that 1) scenes from the deleted pilot exist, and 2) the entire pilot exists as a whole. I knew about the script, but had no idea that anything from the original TV show existed; I'd never heard that there was from even obsessive Lynch fan sites.

So, uh, see you guys in 90 minutes.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:44 AM on May 25, 2011


You're welcome.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:44 AM on May 25, 2011


Oh yeah, and props to shakespeherian for engaging me in weeks-long MeMail discussions about David Lynch, without whom the TV pilot would have never come up.
posted by Rory Marinich at 10:46 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


You may leave your pile of favorites by the door. I'll pick them up on the way out.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:47 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh God I hate this movie. Holy fucking shit it's so bad.
posted by chunking express at 10:52 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh God I hate this movie.

Then perhaps this isn't the thread for you.
posted by hippybear at 10:55 AM on May 25, 2011 [51 favorites]


I disagree. Mulholland Dr. is almost certainly my favorite film, hands-down, although I can certainly understand not liking it. I don't think everyone needs to like everything I like, but I do think it's pretty damn good.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:55 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised people have such a hard time with Mulholland Drive, or rather I'm surprised people are even looking for meaning. Mulholland Drive is a textbook example of postmodern film making. It's If on a winter's night a traveler in Los Angeles. It's a movie about watching movies in the same way IOAWNAT is a book about reading.
And yet the movie still plays--like a movie. Every individual sequence is satisfactory and effective in and of itself. It's just that they resist efforts to make them neatly add up. Often we seem to watch fragments of other movies, or threads of this one never completed.(Ebert)
Mulholland Drive has no overarching meta-narrative by design. That's rare in movies, sure, but it's quite common in other forms of art, especially PoMo fiction of the last 25 years or so. Read the first paragraph about Postmodernism on Wikipedia (for Christ's sake) and tell me if that doesn't do a better job describing Mulholland Drive than all the non-ink spilled in Salon, etc:
Postmodernism is a movement away from the viewpoint of modernism. More specifically it is a tendency in contemporary culture characterized by the problem of objective truth and inherent suspicion towards global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. It involves the belief that many, if not all, apparent realities are only social constructs, as they are subject to change inherent to time and place. It emphasizes the role of language, power relations, and motivations; in particular it attacks the use of sharp classifications such as male versus female, straight versus gay, white versus black, and imperial versus colonial. Rather, it holds realities to be plural and relative, and dependent on who the interested parties are and what their interests consist in. It attempts to problematise modernist overconfidence, by drawing into sharp contrast the difference between how confident speakers are of their positions versus how confident they need to be to serve their supposed purposes.
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:56 AM on May 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


I've often thought about how the room for Rabbits is a blue box...
posted by hippybear at 10:58 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I will have to look into it some more to be absolutely sure, but my impression of David Lynch from what I've seen over the years is that he might be a little weird.
posted by theredpen at 11:01 AM on May 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


I was just thinking I needed a Badalamenti fix.
posted by Ardiril at 11:02 AM on May 25, 2011


I'm a huge fan of Lynch, but Mulholland Dr. just left me cold. It felt like something cobbled together from a pilot. Perhaps if I hadn't known that context going in, I would have felt differently.

I, too, had no idea an actual cut of the pilot was around. Thanks for the link. And, considering I haven't watched it since it was in theaters, I really should revisit the final film. Great post!
posted by brundlefly at 11:02 AM on May 25, 2011


Regarding interpretive theories (stolen from my aforementioned Memailing with Rory) (here there be spoilers):

So the thing is is that Mulholland Dr. is on some level a critique of Hollywood and the film industry, and I think that there's a lot of interesting stuff going on in it around the idea of authenticness and how reality is conveyed in film and how audiences read a film, and how different cues and implications mean different things even though on the surface they don't mean that at all-- the whole film is Club Silencio, in other words, directly telling you that it's fake but your expectations force you to ignore that and believe that the fakery is real: which is Hollywood itself, after all.

The common understanding of the film is that it's the story of this woman named Diane from Deep River Ontario who comes to Hollywood to become an actress, tries out for The Sylvia North Story, and loses the part to Camilla Rhodes, with whom she begins a romantic affair. Camilla helps Diane get bit parts, but eventually she starts seeing the director Adam Kesher on the side, and then tells Diane that they have to break up. Diane is distraught, then Camilla invites her to a party, Diane thinks it will be special and magical, and then Adam and Camilla announce they're getting married, so Diane is so upset she hires a hit man to kill Camilla. He tells her once Camilla is dead Diane will find a blue key left in her apartment. Diane goes home and has a dream which constitutes the first two hours of the film, then wakes up, sees the blue key, goes insane with guilt over what she's done, and kills herself.

So: I find this explanation unsatisfying. One of the arguments for this explanation is that the last half-hour of the film is far more naturalistic, in dialog, acting style, makeup, etc. But I contend: The naturalistic acting portrayed in the last half-hour of the film is prefigured by a single scene of naturalistic acting in the first two hours, and that scene is one in which we are told, point-blank, Now We Will See Some People Acting. When Betty goes to her audition, we're blown away by how good she is, but it's obviously fake: there are people sitting around watching her, she's holding a copy of the script, etc. But then, later, after the camera dives through the rabbit-hole box that appears at Club Silencio, when we see Naomi Watts giving just as compelling a performance, simply because the movie-making people aren't on the screen in front of us, we assume that the layers of fiction have lessened: Why? I don't think the film doesn't want us to consider this question. In hindsight, this shift is very reminiscent (or prescient, I suppose) of Laura Dern's shifting characters in INLAND EMPIRE: At some point she seems to become a character from a movie.

Additionally, there's the issue of 'realism.' Yes, the acting in the first two hours of Mulholland Dr. is arch and thin, but this was never an indication in, say, Blue Velvet that what we were seeing wasn't real. As well, the narrative of the first two hours is linear, progressing in a single direction (with a few detours) through time, whereas the last half-hour is marked by jump cuts, flashbacks, disjointed editing, etc. At one point, Diane is at the party at Adam's house and she's looking down, intensely, and a clattering makes her jump-- and there's a cut, and suddenly she's sitting at Winkie's, where a busboy is cleaning up the tray he dropped. We as viewers of contemporary cinema have learned to read these sorts of edits as clever, and realistic, but they actually make no sense-- was Diane remembering the party while sitting at Winkie's, and thus we were seeing her memory? Then why is memory-Diane startled by the crash at Winkie's? This would indicate that even in the so-called 'real' last half-hour of the film, different levels of fiction exist. How are we to demarcate them?

And speaking of levels of fiction, what are we to make of the actual-seen existence of the monster behind Winkie's, placing the rabbit-hole box in a brown paper bag, out of which tiny old people walk in sped-up motion, who eventually crawl under Diane's door and chase her down a hall? A hallucination, maybe, and yet it's presented as reality in the so-called 'real' portion of the film. Which reminds me: Immediately after Diane shoots herself, her bedroom fills with smoke, and lightning (?) flashes illuminate the smoke in a way that directly recalls (and then dissolves to) the stage at Club Silencio. Whereupon we see, finally, the blue-haired woman at Club Silencio, who tells us: Silencio. Which reminds us: It is all an illusion.

Mulholland Dr. is, on a strictly narrative level, I think, more of a mobius strip/diptych than a dream-nested-in-a-film. It's two worlds that have dreamed each other, and which knot in the center, at Club Silencio. It's more INLAND EMPIRE than it is The Usual Suspects, and I think INLAND EMPIRE is as complicated and multi-layered as it is because Lynch got tired of people coming up with easy explanations for Lost Highway and Mulholland Dr.

On a thematic level, though, I think Mulholland Dr. is very much an exploration of how stories are told, and why we are so willing to believe things which we will state with assurance that we don't believe them-- it is about, in several ways, that feeling of panic we have when Rebekah del Rio falls over and the song keeps playing.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:06 AM on May 25, 2011 [55 favorites]


I'm bummed that they didn't actually make it into a series.... I definitely dug the movie, and a second David Lynch television sereis (ie, long-form Lynch) would have been fantastic.
posted by kaibutsu at 11:07 AM on May 25, 2011


I am so glad to find that Ebert's reaction is like mine. I don't care to be validated; I didn't want to be disappointed in Ebert.

It's a good movie, and it doesn't make sense. That it can be both is a good thing. The Ebert article does articulate some things I had perhaps noticed but hadn't brought to mind.

I like David Lynch because of the ambience and texture of the scenes he sets up. I am a little disappointed when they don't add up to a narrative, but I don't like the movie any less. I just wanted to like it more.

Lynch directs movies like some chefs create "fusion" cooking. Traditionally unrelated elements put together, sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.

I also loved Lost Highway.
posted by Xoebe at 11:08 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


spoiler... sort of, being just my own take on it

My interpretation was that the movie is principally the dying imaginings of one of the characters as a bullet goes through her head. In this re-imagining of things as they happened, she has cast herself as the other main character.
posted by Zed at 11:10 AM on May 25, 2011


Scott Tobias of the AV Club described Lost Highway as 'the punk rock Mulholland Dr.'
posted by shakespeherian at 11:10 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I love this film. I saw it in the theater. It has one of the strangest masturbation scenes ever. Thank you, Mr. Lynch
posted by cjorgensen at 11:10 AM on May 25, 2011


Off-topically, the wonderful thing about the Wikipedia definition of postmodernism is that it could easily describe many pillars of the modernist canon. Ulysses, for one. But I suppose that's an outcome of the fact that we've thrown such diverse works and currents into the modernist tent.
posted by cobra libre at 11:12 AM on May 25, 2011


It's interesting how much more sense some of these scenes make as a TV pilot. The transition from "Rita" to Betty to the hit man to Adam work when you have commercial breaks every 7 minutes.

Also the changes in editing are neat to see. Some people see Lynch films with their unusually stark editing and assume that it's due to incompetence or Lynch not "getting" basic narrative or something; watching these side-to-side it's interesting how some of his scenes suddenly flow much more easily (versus in the movie, where there's a lot of slow silent alienating starkness). "Rita"'s fleeing the scene is so much faster; when Betty explores her house there's a tinkly pretty soundtrack, versus in the movie where there's virtually no sound at all for those minutes.

As much as I love the movie, I kind of wish this had been made into a TV show instead, from the 20 minutes I've gotten into it. I'll take a long delicious narrative over just about anything else in the world, and I'd have loved the basic elements of Mulholland Drive turned into a dozens-hour serial.

(I like too how the grainyness of the pilot makes everything look like a cheap soap opera, and how somehow that look perfectly fits.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:13 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dune was my first taste of Lynch. Also, my last.
posted by adamdschneider at 11:16 AM on May 25, 2011


A confession: I watched Mulholland Drive really enamored with the Lynchian Psycho Noir styling and storyline. It's a dreamy and tense movie that has the kind of atmosphere few directors are capable of pulling off. But the adolescent part of my brain spent most of the time thinking, "Gee, wouldn't it be awesome if there was a hot lesbian scene between these totally hot women? Yeah, that'll never happen."

Mr. Lynch, it's like you read my adolescent mind!
posted by quadog at 11:17 AM on May 25, 2011


I always thought it was a relatively simple story: It is about a lady who goes to hollywood, whose dreams of success are interwoven with the reality of failure.
posted by dobie at 11:20 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


shakespeherian: that's the most compelling thing I've read about Mulholland Drive. Seriously. Thanks for articulating why the 'accepted explanation' feels so thoroughly unsatisfying to me.
posted by naju at 11:21 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


To summarize: David Lynch is a huge troll who started to believe in his own provocative faux-pretentious nonsense but then manages to satirize it anyway. And if you like that sort of thing I would be honored to have a beer with you.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:25 AM on May 25, 2011


Mulholland Drive was my first taste of Lynch, and it has really stuck with me. I have recommended the movie to others, and I am definitely due for a rewatch. It made sense of Lost Highway for me, acting as a Rosetta Stone.

But damn if Rabbits is not one of the scariest things I have ever seen. And Inland Empire messed me up for a week.
posted by X-Himy at 11:26 AM on May 25, 2011


I have always felt that Lynch is surrealism for the mall crowd and Mullholland Drive did nothing to change that. I guess he's worthwhile if you go on and watch Jodorowski afterwards.

That being said, he seems to have one of the better eyes of any director in Hollywood, and his movies are always a visual treat.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:32 AM on May 25, 2011


Love Lynch. Love Mulholland Drive. Love this.

Will probably watch INLAND EMPIRE again tonight as a result of this thread.
posted by hermitosis at 11:32 AM on May 25, 2011


Dune was my first taste of Lynch. Also, my last.

Wow, then you have a whole lot of great stuff ahead of you!
posted by interrobang at 11:33 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


adamdschneider: "Dune was my first taste of Lynch. Also, my last."

Really? I probably like Dune more than most, but you're missing out on some amazing movies.
posted by brundlefly at 11:37 AM on May 25, 2011


David Lynch is a huge troll who started to believe in his own provocative faux-pretentious nonsense but then manages to satirize it anyway.

I didn't see any indication it was supposed to be satire. I like a lot of Lynch's stuff, and I love quirky, thoughtful, bizarre movies. But Mulhulland Drive was just too empty and gratuitous for me.
posted by antinomia at 11:39 AM on May 25, 2011


You have to figure that at some point, some artists just admit to themselves that their work just doesn't make sense. That it's literally un-interpretable.

Television is notable for this, because of its nature as a theoretically unending commercial product. Lynch is a telling example. Laura Palmer was killed by her father. Literally everything else in the series is a red herring or characters entering into new, unrelated areas. There's no point, for example, in discussing a character like Windom Earle within the context of anything else in the series.

LOST is another example. I honestly think that its writers/producers deliberately, on purpose, had NO end in sight when they started. You can't say they changed over time, or diverted from some path. Because there was no path to start with.

Battlestar: Galactica's reboot. Same thing. We tell you the Cylon's have a plan. But we, as writers, don't know what that is. Not only don't we know, we're actively not trying to arrive at one.

This may be the secret to good television writing. Open two doors for every one you close. Don't ever even try to finish the story.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:40 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


My attitude about Mullholland Dr. is similar to Barton Fink, both of which have a lot of possibly tortured theories bandied about. They both give you a little bit of philsophical resonance, some haunting images, and a whole lot of sheerly hilarious gonzo fun, and in way it's wrong to expect more, and I think the right approach is to just let the themes and images sift around in the mind and find their place without pressing too hard or too insistently for coherence or literal nailed-down meanings. This is not the same thing as finding them sheerly incomprehensible, though.

Big ups to Shakeshperian's write-up...totally dead on. I've always thought that it must have been by design that the dream analysis would seem superficially correct, but still fail to account for a few crucial elements.
posted by anazgnos at 11:43 AM on May 25, 2011


Jesus, CPB. Maybe a Twin Peaks spoiler alert for those who haven't seen it yet?
posted by naju at 11:43 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I have always felt that Lynch is surrealism for the mall crowd
posted by lumpenprole at 11:32 AM on May 25 [+] [!]


Epony-I don't even know what.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:46 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you kidding me? It's 21 years old. It's old enough to drink.

There's got to be some kind of end-date on spoilers, right? Especially in a thread discussing interpretations of the works of that very artist.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:46 AM on May 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


Non-linear narrative is fine with me in a non-gimmicky context, but I need a clear narrative to enjoy a movie. I spend plenty of my actual life saying "what the hell is happening, here?" I don't want to do it when I watch a movie.

I appreciate the concept of finding new ways to tell a story beyond the established convention, but (for me) removing clear narrative goes beyond remodeling the structure of storytelling and knocks out a load-bearing wall. I've enjoyed some other Lynch films that I've seen but I will never sit through Mulholland Drive again.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:47 AM on May 25, 2011


(I love Dune)
posted by adamdschneider at 11:48 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I liked INLAND EMPIRE much more than Mulholland Drive. Oddly enough, this may have something to do with the fact that I watched INLAND EMPIRE on a better sound system than Mulholland Drive.

I was apprehensive about watching a movie shot on DV, because I loathe DV. And then I heard the six-channel drone with the opening titles and immediately relaxed... which is an odd reaction to have to the opening titles of a David Lynch film, now that I think about it.

But yeah, I should revisit MD when I get a chance.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:50 AM on May 25, 2011


There's got to be some kind of end-date on spoilers, right? Especially in a thread discussing interpretations of the works of that very artist.

You'd think that, right? But then you'll find people vehehent that their potential virgin experience of a widely-read famous 120 year old short story has been sullied forever!
posted by anazgnos at 11:51 AM on May 25, 2011


This is probably my favorite film too, but one of the reasons for that is that it works. It's a puzzle film, and it's solveable -- without, in my view, stretching too much.

It's not that complicated. Girl wins jitterbug contest and goes to Hollywood intending to make it as an actress. Finds it to be an oppressive, unforgiving, unfair place. Starts dreaming/imagining that a conspiracy is afoot to keep her from getting the plum roles. Falls in love with more successful actress Camilla, but is consumed by jealousy. Snaps and kills herself.

There's more, but that's the gist of it. And while it plays, it is completely singular and completely brilliant.
posted by eugenen at 12:00 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have watched Mulholland Dr. a half-dozen times in the last ten years. It is always a dreamlike experience and I am no closer to grasping the theme than the day I saw it for the first time. The only thing I am certain of is that Llorando is the four most accessible moments of David Lynch ever. Or maybe not.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:01 PM on May 25, 2011


My attitude about Mullholland Dr. is similar to Barton Fink

Ooh, can we have a Barton Fink thread too? Because I love Barton Fink.

And also Chet!
posted by shakespeherian at 12:06 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


One of the few films that I explicitly recall the experience of first viewing in the theater: we saw it because Amélie was sold out. We were both bewildered yet strangely entertained, and of course we loved it so much that we had to convince several strangers waiting in line for the next Amélie screening to see MD instead...
posted by sharkitect at 12:08 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Honestly, Mulholland Drive is to me probably the most comprehensible David Lynch movie I've ever seen. I feel like every movie he has tried to make was just leading up to that masterpiece. My interpretation, though, is why I feel that way - so I imagine if I didn't find my own interpretation compelling, I'd feel differently. But I see the film is a very classic Freudian tale about the id, ego and superego.

It's been years since I've seen it, so as I wrote those words, I just realized I can't remember anything else about that.

But on a different note - Naomi Watts. Wow. Before that movie, I had no idea she was a genius actress. She is a great Hollywood legend as far as I'm concerned - like old school. She was great in it. And man is she ever gorgeous.
posted by scunning at 12:10 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


NO HAY BANDA! There is no band...

I can't tell you if I got the movie, but god, that Club Silencio scene has stuck with me to this day. Haunting.
posted by jng at 12:10 PM on May 25, 2011


Dune was my first taste of Lynch. Also, my last.

That's like eating a shit sandwich then swearing off sandwiches.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:11 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh God I hate this movie.

Then perhaps this isn't the thread for you.


I hate it too. But I jumped into the thread to get some insights on it.

After I saw it (the film, not the thread), I finally understood why people might hate a lot of the experimental music that I love so much. It's easy to see why someone could hate this film if they are expecting something that has a more traditional structure and/or maybe a more coherent sense of... (comment ends abruptly).
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:17 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


because Lynch got tired of people coming up with easy explanations for Lost Highway

WAIT.
There are easy explanations for Lost Highway? I felt like I pretty much "got" Mulholland drive on the third time through. (The interrelations, the sense that neither is a perfectly true reality defining the other, etc) But I have no clue about Lost Highway.
posted by Theta States at 12:17 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Blue Velvet, Straight Story, Elephant Man,Dune and Wild at Heart are all pretty comprehensible. But of the Lynch oeuvre MD actually seems to have a meaning instead of a being a dream reality where some sort of alien terror writhes just below the surface.

There are parts of Inland Empire that still hurt my brain, at least for me it is almost as reality warping as Syndoche New York
posted by Ad hominem at 12:19 PM on May 25, 2011


Mark Frost discussed working with Lynch, and you got the sense that the studios had put the two together because Frost had a strong narrative sense -- he came out of teevee writing and stage plays -- but he made spooky thrillers. So maybe the studios thought they might be a good match, and Frost could provide some form to Lynch's work. Frost complained that Lynch didn't really care about story at all. left to his own devices, it's all mood and ambiance, but for its own sake.

It's worth remembering that, and remembering that Mullholland Dr. was originally conceived as a sequel to Twin Peaks, with Audrey Horne moving to Hollywood. In some ways, this is what Twin Peaks would have been without Frost shaping it, adding in elements of a traditional detective narrative. I always keep that in mind what I get the urge to try and understand the movie, to try to say, "Oh, here's the key that unlocks Mulholland Drive, and now the whole movie makes sense." There likely was no actual answer when Lynch conceived of it. He likes when people suddenly become different people in his movies. It doesn't mean that one part of the narrative is true and the other a dream, or one is the real Betty Elms and one was a fantasy. They're both Betty Elms.

And I always assumed that had this been a Twin peaks sequel, Audrey would have been Betty Elms. But now that I think about it, that doesn't make sense. Audrey wasn't an innocent. She was far from naive. No, Audrey would have been Rita, the dark-haired woman in trouble, with brain damage from a car accident.

Which, come to think of it, was exactly the character played by Sherilyn Fenn, the original Audrey Horne, in "Wild At Heart."
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:21 PM on May 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


But I have no clue about Lost Highway.

The idea is that Fred Mason's wife was mixed up in porn and the criminal underworld and had been sleeping around quite a bit and when he finds out he kills her, gets arrested, then while he's in the electric chair he has a psychogenic fugue which consists of the second half of the film in which he imagines himself as becoming a more innocent person, freed from jail, who gets Rosanne Arquette to cheat on the mobsters with him instead of vice-versa, but then it all falls apart ('You'll never have me!') and he recalls who he is, a terrible person, just as the electricity surges through him.

See my longish comment above for my feelings on the adequacy of this explanation, though.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:24 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


See my longish comment above for my feelings on the adequacy of this explanation, though.

Yeah, I've never been satisfied with that answer either. I think it's mostly Barry Gifford who offered hints of that explanation, and I think it was the way Gifford explained it to himself. I prefer to think that the middle section is just another narrative, an alternate starring some of the same characters in slightly different roles, but equally valid.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:26 PM on May 25, 2011


Are you kidding me? It's 21 years old. It's old enough to drink.

There's got to be some kind of end-date on spoilers, right? Especially in a thread discussing interpretations of the works of that very artist.


There probably should be. Me and the SO are finally trudging through Twin Peaks though. We're finally getting to all this BOB/Giant/Owls bullshit and I'm glad to know that's it's not supposed to make any sense anyways.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 12:28 PM on May 25, 2011


This may be the secret to good television writing. Open two doors for every one you close. Don't ever even try to finish the story.

Well, that's the secret to good network series writing for American television.

Networks like HBO and Showtime have done pretty well with creating series that are designed with a beginning, middle, and end (even if they don't always carry the series until that end point is reached).

Also, see: BBC programming. The UK version of The Office, Life On Mars, Psychoville... There are many examples of stories designed with an ending.
posted by hippybear at 12:29 PM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mostly I just have a hard time seeing the guy who made Eraserhead suddenly feeling compelled to make a less-explained Identity-- twice.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:29 PM on May 25, 2011


(I love Dune)

Me too.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 12:35 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


In fact, now that I think of it, Lynch's idea for Mulholland Drive when he pitched it was nothing but "Woman with memory loss from car crash wanders up to Hollywood house." Both Mark Frost and Sherilynn Fenn have said this was intended as a Twin Peaks sequel. Audrey would have to have been Rita.

Now I have to watch it again imagining this to be the case. I'm just going to pretend Rita is Audrey Horne and see how it works.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:39 PM on May 25, 2011


Well put upthread, shakespeherian.

It sounds lame or whatever, but Lynch is an artist that uses filmmaking as his medium. He's extremely knowledgeable of convention and the Hollywood style and the way narratives work, but he subverts these things purposefully because he's not looking to "tell stories" per se. When people try to "make sense" of his films—besides more straightforward stories, like say, The Straight Story—they're sort of missing the point.

Inland Empire really nailed this point home for me.
posted by defenestration at 12:41 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I loved Mulholland Drive when I saw it. I went to see it with a friend, and when the credits rolled we just looked at each other with big grins and gave each other the thumbs up.

I was lucky enough to be at the University of Colorado's 'Conference on World Affairs' when Roger Ebert went through MD in his "Cinema Interruptus" series. Basically, it's projected in a large hall from a dvd player, and Ebert (and anyone in the audience) can stop the film at any frame for a comment and discussion. It took five long sessions to get through the whole film I think, and the place was packed for the whole time. This was definitely one of my best film experiences.
posted by carter at 12:44 PM on May 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ack, 72 minutes into the pilot, Megavideo throws a 30-minute time-bomb at you. How am I going to kill 30 minutes?
posted by Ardiril at 12:45 PM on May 25, 2011


That sounds rad, carter. As I recall, Ebert's review of Blue Velvet was pretty scathing.

I love me some Blue Velvet.
posted by defenestration at 12:48 PM on May 25, 2011


Mulholland Drive is to me probably the most comprehensible David Lynch movie I've ever seen

For those of you who don't "get" Lynch, I strongly encourage you to go rent A Straight Story. It is all the greatness of Lynch as a filmmaker (in the purest, most cinematic sense of the word) without the complex plot/noir/surealism elements. I believe it's one of the best movies ever made about America, and it really showcases Lynch's gift for making beautiful images while telling a straightforward, heartfelt, slightly offbeat story (with a happy ending, even).
posted by anastasiav at 12:51 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I still think Naomi Watts was flat out robbed not to win an Oscar for Mulholland Drive never mind not even being short-listed... for the audition scene if nothing else
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:52 PM on May 25, 2011


As I recall, Ebert's review of Blue Velvet was pretty scathing.

I think Ebert got to pick the films for Cinema Interruptus. Ebert was sceptical at times of MD, but he had a lot of respect for Lynch's craft and skill as a director. There were scenes in the movie that blew him away. There was a very good dynamic between the audience and Ebert. It was like being in a seminar with a thousand film buffs, beng led by Ebert.
posted by carter at 12:53 PM on May 25, 2011


Actually this is referred to in Rory's link in the main post.
posted by carter at 12:55 PM on May 25, 2011


No, Audrey would have been Rita, the dark-haired woman in trouble, with brain damage from a car accident.

Which, come to think of it, was exactly the character played by Sherilyn Fenn, the original Audrey Horne, in "Wild At Heart."


Whoa, I love Wild at Heat, and never realized that was Fenn, or the MD connection. My head asplode! That's actually one of the reasons I love Lynch's work so much - the various inter-relations and crenulations of plot that suddenly mesh and unfold like a DMT chrysanthemum.

Oh God I hate this movie. Holy fucking shit it's so bad.

You remember that person that told you 'opinions can't be wrong'? He lied to you, because that opinion of yours is wrong as all get-out.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:55 PM on May 25, 2011


Wild at HEART. Wild at Heat was the Spice Channel porn knock-off.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:56 PM on May 25, 2011


I just got home from my summer Lit class, The American Motion Picture. It's your typical film class made up of kids who want an easy A for watching films all semester. Today we watched Blue Velvet. Before he started it I mentioned that it was one of my favorite films. We took a break after the film ended and I went to the bathroom. As I sat in the stall two girls came in talking about how I must be a freak if I like movies like that. When I emerged from the stall I simply put on my sweetest smile and watched them try to awkwardly backpedal. I wish I had thought to hold my hand up to my face and pretend to be breathing through a gas mask.
posted by MaritaCov at 12:59 PM on May 25, 2011 [18 favorites]


Was it someone here who had proposed that there was a narrative about alcoholism and abuse submerged within The Straight Story?
posted by anazgnos at 1:00 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


As I recall, Ebert's review of Blue Velvet was pretty scathing.

Ebert really took issue with Isabella Rosselini's treatment in the picture and felt that Lynch hadn't 'earned' showing her is that terrible state she's in when she shows up on Jeffrey's lawn. I think it wasn't until Mulholland Dr. that Ebert figured that Lynch is doing a different kind of thing with movies than he expected, and I wonder how he feels about lue Velvet now.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:01 PM on May 25, 2011


I've still not got around to watching Lost Highway.... and I kinda fear to because that'll be it then, and I'm not sure that I want to have no more Lynch out there (well there's oddities like DumbLand I've not see all of but I'm not sure that counts)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:02 PM on May 25, 2011


Then perhaps this isn't the thread for you.

But I like cinema and David Lynch.
posted by chunking express at 1:05 PM on May 25, 2011


Was it someone here who had proposed that there was a narrative about alcoholism and abuse submerged within The Straight Story?

Yep.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:06 PM on May 25, 2011


Dumb Land is awesome. Lynch does all the voices. It is a treasured piece of my Lynch collection.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:06 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Any theory about a Lynch film that hinges on "and this part is a dream/hallucination/fantasy" irritates me, because I strongly feel that a key part of Lynch's cosmology is that dream/fantasy worlds are real. Like really real, not just psychologically meaningful and therefore real. It's explicit in Twin Peaks, and I think implicit in his other works.

Also, get me drunk and I'll explain my theory about how Henry from Eraserhead is actually an angel. Possibly from space. But you have to get me really drunk.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:07 PM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I just realized that thread I just linked to contains one of what was about a year's worth of Watership Down jokes from yours truly. Man, I forgot about that streak. I kind of miss it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:08 PM on May 25, 2011


Lynch has talked about some of this stuff. I think Lost Highway is pretty clear if you just watch it for what it is: a man whose wife is cheating on him murders her, and then regrets it so much that he actually turns into someone else to try and escape what he's done. This is what Lynch says about it:

At the time Barry Gifford and I were writing the script for “Lost Highway,” I was sort of obsessed with the O.J. Simpson trial. Barry and I never talked about it this way, but I think the film is somehow related to that.

What struck me about O.J. Simpson was that he was able to smile and laugh. He was able to go golfing with seemingly very few problems about the whole thing. I wondered how, if a person did these deeds, he could go on living. And we found this great psychology term — “psychogenic fugue” — describing an event where the mind tricks itself to escape some horror. So, in a way, “Lost Highway” is about that. And the fact that nothing can stay hidden forever.


I'd say the important part is "in a way." It's not an actual psychogenic fugue, because it's a movie and Lynch has the freedom to make it more than that. (On preview, it is as Lentrohamsainin says).

I think Lost Highway is his most underrated film. The first twenty minutes are masterful.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:09 PM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


No, Audrey would have been Rita, the dark-haired woman in trouble, with brain damage from a car accident.

Which, come to think of it, was exactly the character played by Sherilyn Fenn, the original Audrey Horne, in "Wild At Heart."
You learn well, grasshopper.
posted by Ardiril at 1:11 PM on May 25, 2011


Lynch's most underrated film is 'The Cowboy and the Frenchman.'
posted by shakespeherian at 1:12 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's the fuller analysis of The Straight Story as one of an abusive alcoholic, from Film Quarterly.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:13 PM on May 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Mulholland Dr. is, on a strictly narrative level, I think, more of a mobius strip/diptych than a dream-nested-in-a-film. It's two worlds that have dreamed each other, and which knot in the center, at Club Silencio.

I think that's the single best sentence on the topic of this movie that I have ever read
posted by tyllwin at 1:14 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lynch's most underrated film is 'The Cowboy and the Frenchman.'

I'm not sure whether you're speaking in jest or not, but... OH HELL YES!

I love reading everyone's discussion, debate, and theories on Lynch work, but for myself, I prefer to mostly just take in his films as experiences. My analytic mind still looks for connections and symbols and explanations, but I do my best to keep it at arm's length and just let the film wash over me.
posted by owtytrof at 1:20 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I strongly feel that a key part of Lynch's cosmology is that dream/fantasy worlds are real.

Paying attention to when people fall asleep (or simply yawn) is vital. Lynch is a master at showing you someone explicitly falling asleep, and then cutting to a scene that makes you completely forget that plot element. Even when you know it is coming and watch for it, you can sometimes miss it. His films just flow that way, bouncing from one eddy current to the next.
posted by Ardiril at 1:22 PM on May 25, 2011


No seriously 'The Cowboy and the Frenchman' is just fucking fantastic. I think I quote Slim (who is almost stone deaf on account of two thirty-odd-six rounds which went off a little too close when he was thirteen and a half) far more than is prudent in day-to-day life.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:27 PM on May 25, 2011


Dammit boys. What the hell is that thing?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:29 PM on May 25, 2011


Trailed him for ten days... was always
curious... kept tossing out snails.

Scared me.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:36 PM on May 25, 2011


Here's the fuller analysis of The Straight Story as one of an abusive alcoholic, from Film Quarterly.

I'd really enjoy this, except for the fact that Lynch is telling - explicitly telling, down to filming along the identical route that Straight took - a true story, about a real man, whose family he interacted with every day. Perhaps the family and community are trying to lionize him, but there is very little in the public record about the real Alvin Straight to support this reading of the historical figure. Which is not to say that I don't feel like there is truth to what the Film Quarterly (and other writers) see. I just wonder if its a case where we expect to see something deeper because its a Lynch film, when he's really only telling the story you see on the surface.
posted by anastasiav at 1:38 PM on May 25, 2011


thirty-odd-six

Thirty ought six. .30-06. They are pretty loud.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:41 PM on May 25, 2011


Or aught, according to Wikipedia (although they list ought as an alternative in the page for names for the number zero). Either way, yes, loud.
posted by adamdschneider at 1:43 PM on May 25, 2011


That is what I meant, and would have said were it not for the dumbness. Thank you.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:44 PM on May 25, 2011


The Cowboy and the Frenchman (which I'd never heard of till just now)
posted by Rory Marinich at 1:55 PM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Does anyone know how to restart Megavideo?
posted by Ardiril at 1:59 PM on May 25, 2011


I think Lost Highway is every bit as good as Mulholland Drive. They're freaky cousins, dreams from the same night.
posted by Sebmojo at 2:03 PM on May 25, 2011


Years ago in college I had this stoned epiphany at like 2am where suddenly I was flush with the understanding of what the hell is going on in Lost Highway. The double Patricias, the video, the explodey house... I understood everything. It was all so clear.

Then I passed out, and when I woke up it was all gone and I really wanted pancakes.

(I love Lynch movies -- Wild at Heart is my favorite -- but I'm not sure most hold up to seriously pondering their meaning.)
posted by jess at 2:07 PM on May 25, 2011


I've still not got around to watching Lost Highway.... and I kinda fear to because that'll be it then, and I'm not sure that I want to have no more Lynch out there (well there's oddities like DumbLand I've not see all of but I'm not sure that counts)

I recently had a dream where there suddenly existed something like 3 new full-length David Lynch movies. How had I not heard of them? It was ecstatic until I started watching the first one, and then it got confusing and scary and real life and the movie started blending in to one another.
posted by treepour at 2:11 PM on May 25, 2011


I recorded an MP3 audio commentary about Mulholland Drive, back when that was still a novel concept. It's been awhile since I last heard it, but I think it holds up, and could be listened to strictly as audio if you don't want to go through the trouble of syncing.

I'm very excited to watch this pilot.
posted by blueshammer at 2:13 PM on May 25, 2011


It was ecstatic until I started watching the first one, and then it got confusing and scary and real life and the movie started blending in to one another.

So, basically, it was a David Lynch movie.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:14 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


An old trope about watching movies in a dark theater is that it is much akin to dreaming. In fact, in was probably the original Surrealists in the 20's who most enjoyed this comparison. Luis Bunuel, of course, was the master of Surrealist film, and David Lynch, to me, is another great Surrealist.
Surrealism eschews any conscious message, narrative, meaning, or even aesthetic coherence, preferring to adhere to the world of dream logic. There is enough meaning in other films and other broadly narrative art forms that I am more than happy to settle back in the theater seat and just immerse myself in Lynch's films. (Lynch is a little incoherent about explaining his methodology, but that is better than being deliberately obscurantist.) Of course, some people have always liked searching for meaning in their dreams...
posted by kozad at 2:55 PM on May 25, 2011


I liked INLAND EMPIRE much more than Mulholland Drive. Oddly enough, this may have something to do with the fact that I watched INLAND EMPIRE on a better sound system than Mulholland Drive.

Ha, same here. I watched MD on my laptop, and I watched Inland Empire at the cinema one afternoon. It was an amazing experience, like being sucked into another universe for three hours. Pure cinema, like, cinema about what cinema can do to you. It wasn't just the difference in sound system, no, but maybe if I'd seen Mulholland Drive in a proper cinema I'd have enjoyed it more. Hmm.
posted by bitteschoen at 2:59 PM on May 25, 2011


This may be the secret to good television writing. Open two doors for every one you close. Don't ever even try to finish the story.

Also, this is why the X-Files eventually got really annoying.

I'm incredibly ambivalent about Mulholland Drive. I was fascinated when I watched it, but I don't think I'll ever see it again. This: "Every individual sequence is satisfactory and effective in and of itself. It's just that they resist efforts to make them neatly add up." sums it up for me, plus the ending hurt too much. The whole thing falls into that category of "I'm glad I did it once, but NEVER AGAIN." (See also: Naked Lunch, book and movie; driving from WA to WI in August in a car w/out AC.)

I also love the soundtrack of Lost Highway but couldn't get into the movie at all. Liked Wild at Heart a lot, adored Twin Peaks, enjoyed Dune, hated Eraserhead.
posted by epersonae at 3:00 PM on May 25, 2011


@bitteschoen, et al: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKiIroiCvZ0
posted by blueshammer at 3:01 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


carter: "I was lucky enough to be at the University of Colorado's 'Conference on World Affairs' when Roger Ebert went through MD in his "Cinema Interruptus" series. Basically, it's projected in a large hall from a dvd player, and Ebert (and anyone in the audience) can stop the film at any frame for a comment and discussion. It took five long sessions to get through the whole film I think, and the place was packed for the whole time. This was definitely one of my best film experiences."

Quit rubbing it in jerk! Seriously, that sounds awesome.
posted by scunning at 3:03 PM on May 25, 2011


This Reverse Shot article has some excellent thoughts on INLAND EMPIRE. In particular, the Upanishad quote it mentions:

We are like the spider.
We weave our life and then move along in it.
We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives in the dream.
This is true for the entire universe.

was the quote that Lynch made it a point to recite at the Chicago premiere of the movie (which is where I first saw the movie.) I really do think it's a major key to coming to grips with IE, which I consider to be the most moving and meaningful of Lynch's films.
posted by naju at 3:04 PM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've never seen Mullholand Drive or any scenes from it but here is what I am gettng from the comments here:

The first two hours of the movie (mainly taken from the pilot) mostly portray a linear narrative - a movie in the conventional sense - and are therefore understood by most of the audience to represent reality. However, David Lynch would like to clue you in via more naturalistic acting that ACTUAL reality doesn't have a plot or any greater meaning. The true reality of the universe is that is it made up of barely related events that occur for no real reason and to no real end. As human beings, we construct narratives to organze our experiences of the arbitrary universe, but these narratives are false.

Kind of the point Douglas Adams makes in the Hitchhiker's series: a fundamentally depressive point of view but one that might nevertheless be closer to the truth than most of us would like to admit.

People who have seen the movie, how did I do?

P
posted by subdee at 3:55 PM on May 25, 2011


This is a bit off subject, but my secret Hollywood dream is to get a greenlight for a show about Chet Desmond, Chris Isaak's FBI agent from the first twenty minutes of Fire Walk With Me. Because what happened to that guy?
posted by Bookhouse at 4:01 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I hadn't watched Blue Velvet for many a year, and beyond the ear and Hopper huffing, I'd forgotten all about it.

My date and I watched it this weekend. He said that he'd first seen it with his parents on a VCR, and they'd bailed at the rape scene. I was like, rape scene, I don't remember that.

And then at the beginning of said scene, Hopper huffs and then keens/screams/moans DADDY WANTS TO FUCK and I was like oh. Yeah. Not a family-friendly movie, is it.

And MD is awesome.
posted by angrycat at 4:30 PM on May 25, 2011


I was lucky enough to be at the University of Colorado's 'Conference on World Affairs' when Roger Ebert went through MD in his "Cinema Interruptus" series.

Carter: I too was at that screening. CU class of 02; go Buffs. It was a blast.

One of the things I took away from it was that a lot of films suffer from being paused and restarted over and over, but that Mulholland Drive gains. It's as if each scene is a completely internally coherent scene from a completely internally coherent movie, but they're all different movies. The problem with tying it all together is that each scene is so suffused with its own meaning and so overdetermined that no single "explanation" can accommodate every detail.

When I watch it, I think that's what the blue box means - it's the extra detail that your explanation can't explain.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 4:46 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The way to get around the Megavideo timer is to pause the video until it fully loads, disconnect from the internet, and then play it.

As for Mulholland Dr, it's probably my favorite of Lynch's. Really shook me to the core how deftly he portrayed the psychotic, hurricane-like power of romantic love.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:48 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


And to continue my flight of fancy...

That the point of the movie is to reveal the falseness of narrative and also fits in with the meta-story of the movie, which is that David Lynch made a well-constructed TV pilot that followed all the arbitrary rules of writing for television, only to see it arbitrarily rejected for arbitrary reasons by arbitrarily-chosen network heads.

Okay, I promise to stop speculating now, XD.
posted by subdee at 4:49 PM on May 25, 2011


At the time Barry Gifford and I were writing the script for "Lost Highway," I was sort of obsessed with the O.J. Simpson trial. Barry and I never talked about it this way, but I think the film is somehow related to that.

What struck me about O.J. Simpson was that he was able to smile and laugh. He was able to go golfing with seemingly very few problems about the whole thing. I wondered how, if a person did these deeds, he could go on living. And we found this great psychology term -- "psychogenic fugue" -- describing an event where the mind tricks itself to escape some horror. So, in a way, "Lost Highway" is about that. And the fact that nothing can stay hidden forever.*
this was always the key to both movies for me. both killers create an inner fantasy that will allow them to live with themselves, but in each case reality finds it way into the fantasy and can't be dismissed, and it all falls apart.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 5:09 PM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Any theory about a Lynch film that hinges on "and this part is a dream/hallucination/fantasy" irritates me, because I strongly feel that a key part of Lynch's cosmology is that dream/fantasy worlds are real. Like really real, not just psychologically meaningful and therefore real. It's explicit in Twin Peaks, and I think implicit in his other works.

The only way any of Lynch's stuff makes sense to me is as a kind of dream of the 1950s....all throughout it, there are constant collisions between an ideal world, a 50s world, and a darker underbelly which is more contemporary. Cooper as the perfect 50s Gman with the slicked back boy scout hair; a quarterback, the motocycle rebel. A jazz musician, a jitterbug contest...you see it at the edges, the clothes, the settings, it's all totally American but yet just a little bit off, with that 50s gloss. Coffee and cherry pie. Blue Velvet. The films obey a dream logic...
posted by Diablevert at 6:11 PM on May 25, 2011


fallacy of the beard, that's also very reminiscent of Twin Peaks. Particularly that great scene when they (spoiler!) pull Leland's car over and he has Maddy's body in the golf bag... obviously the show predates the Simpson business, but I think that idea of "psychogenic fugue" infuses a LOT of Lynch's work.
posted by Judith Butlerian Jihad at 6:30 PM on May 25, 2011


Ah shit, don't make watch MD again. I finally got a grip on Donnie Darko, I don't need to make my brain start hurting again...
posted by MikeMc at 8:37 PM on May 25, 2011


When a seven year old explains a story that makes no sense by saying 'but it was all a dream' you send them back to their desk and tell them to try harder. When David Lynch does it you call him a genius and spend decades rationalising its deep and profound insights into the nature of artifice and reality. There's a reason his career declined from 'major hollywood director' to its current sorry state and that reason is he made films as badly cobbled together as this one.
posted by joannemullen at 8:48 PM on May 25, 2011


There's a reason his career declined from 'major hollywood director' to its current sorry state and that reason is he made films as badly cobbled together as this one.

Unfortunately, you're entirely wrong.

Awards received:

Best Director -- Cannes Film Festival
Best Film, Best Actress -- National Society of Film Critics
Best Film -- New York Film Critics Circle Awards
Best Director -- Los Angeles Film Critics Association
Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress -- Chicago Film Critics Awards
Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Breakthrough Performance -- Online Film Critics Society
Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture -- ALMA Awards
Best Editing -- BAFTA Awards
Best Cinematography -- Independent Spirit Awards

Awards nominated:

Achievement In Directing -- 74th Academy Awards
Actor of the Year (Female), Composer of the Year, Director of the Year, Movie of the Year -- AFI awards
Best Film Music -- BAFTA Awards
Palme d'Or -- Cannes Film Festival
Best Motion Picture (Drama), Best Director (Motion Picture), Best Original Score, Best Screenplay -- Golden Globe Awards

That's an awful lot of industry insider and outsider praise for a "sorry state" director and his "badly cobbled together" film.
posted by hippybear at 9:07 PM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


In fact, the reason his career is where it is now is entirely his choice. He's been doing a lot of online work, including a lot of really interesting stuff from his website which is where Rabbits first appeared. His Interview Project is well worth checking out. Inland Empire (his only feature film since MD) was widely praised. He's been involved in doing films for Dior and doing a live online concert for Duran Duran.

I'm really not sure what you're even talking about when you say his career is in a sorry state. It's exactly where he wants it to be, and he seems to be more content and doing more things in more contexts than he's ever done in his life.
posted by hippybear at 9:11 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The funny thing about the nonsense endings of Lynch's later films is that you find the same kind of thing coming out of other filmmaking milieus going back decades, and it just seems to be taken for granted...as far as influences on Lynch go, I defy anyone to tell me what happens (and why) at the end of El Topo or Week End, and -- to point to contemporary films that bear clear resemblance to Lynch -- Ichi the Killer and Tokyo Decadence are, if anything, more baffling in their last acts, and neither of those are really trying for art house status. If he'd never done "Twin Peaks," would people really be expecting Lynch to deliver conventional narrative?

That said, INLAND EMPIRE is not Godard or Jodorowsky, and it's not even Miike, whose Lynchian leanings are balanced out by a Corman-esque irresistible impulse to keep the audience giddily entertained no matter what. (I think INLAND EMPIRE is inferior to Murakami's film, too, but I'm more open to opposing arguments about that one.) INLAND EMPIRE is a big sloppy self-indulgent mess, David Lynch throwing a party for all his friends to which we're invited to kinda stand outside and look in, even though we don't have anyplace to sit and the party is three and a half fucking hours long. It's a series of home movies that should never have been released for public consumption; a million hours of DVD extras cut into something sort of like a movie, but longer and more boring. I believe that Lynch had the time of his life making it, and that's great, but what's there for anybody else?

To get back to Mulholland Drive, I think Marisa nails it:

Really shook me to the core how deftly he portrayed the psychotic, hurricane-like power of romantic love.

The movie doesn't really need to make literal sense, because what it's about is conveying passion. A plot's nice and everything, but the film exists as a support system for the amazing audition sequence, for Rita and Betty's trip to the nightclub, for Naomi Watts to say, "I want to with you -- I'm in love with you." I don't think there's a sexier movie. This is it. If you're looking for the logic in it -- and I mean, I have, before I realized that wasn't the point -- you're not getting it. That's not what the movie's even about.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:42 PM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


joannemullen: When, where and how "it's all a dream" occurs is the issue. Generally, an indication that what follows may include dream elements is ok.
posted by Ardiril at 10:03 PM on May 25, 2011


Lynch has never claimed any of his movies were just a dream, but now I understand why online criticism is in the sorry state it is now.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:06 PM on May 25, 2011


Just came across this, doing some googling after re-watching the "Llorando" scene. From the singer's (Rebekah Del Rio) site:
The sad part about this is that every time I sing this song, especially the version from “Mulholland Drive”, I am crying inside, dying over a love lost and hanging on every word as if the experience happened yesterday... “then I saw you last night”... “you wished me well, you couldn’t tell”... “que estava Llorando”. It’s real when I sing it because the pain still lives inside of me.

When I met David that fateful morning I was not aware that he was recording my voice. I sang with all of my heart and soul and I left very shortly after. Little did I know that the recording would haunt David to the point of writing a special part in his then pilot, “Mulholland Drive”. It was such a thrill to receive the phone call from my faithful friend and agent, Brian Loucks at CAA while I was struggling in Nashville to say that David wanted me to fly to L.A. and film my part.

It was my first movie... my first trailer… my first 15 hour day on a set. Whew!!! Actors work really hard. I developed a whole new respect for the art and the actor. It was long hard work but I loved every minute of it.

When I heard that the pilot had been cancelled, my heart fell to the ground. I was not going to be the next Vonda Shepard to this fabulous, freaky series. Boohoo. But I was no stranger to loss/disappointment. My record was never released and I had to start all over again. And that I did…

So The Pilot grew up to be a Movie!!! And Rebekah Del Rio was in like Flint! I was going to be in my first Movie... just me and my pipes... not a band scene, or a passing by scene but me all by my lonesome singing my favorite song and crying and looking miserable. It was so exciting.

I was so thrilled the first time I saw the Movie. I sat next to David and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the screen or my mouth closed. I was so intrigued and frankly quite confused for even I, who was in the film, wasn’t exactly sure what the story was about. Honestly, I had to see it 6 times before I figured it out. I saw it in different theatres just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. It is truly "a love story in the city of dreams"... dreams being the operative word here. I can’t give it away or my interpretation of it but I can say that it is so real and surreal at the same time... truly a masterpiece and one of my favorite David Lynch films.
posted by treepour at 10:43 PM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mulholland Dr. is, on a strictly narrative level, I think, more of a mobius strip/diptych than a dream-nested-in-a-film. It's two worlds that have dreamed each other, and which knot in the center, at Club Silencio.

After I read this, I immediately thought of the red room (and maybe the roadhouse?) bringing together Twin Peaks and the Black/White lodges. So this...

Mullholland Dr. was originally conceived as a sequel to Twin Peaks

... seems to fit pretty well.
posted by harriet vane at 11:30 PM on May 25, 2011


Man, so watching the pilot is fascinating when you know how the movie turns out. Especially because, as the clips hint at, there's no indication that any of this is a dream, so we take Betty's character at face value instead of trying to interpret her world as a dreamlike fantasy.

Here are the scenes which were left out of the pilot:

— no creepy old grandparent-types
— no "I had a dream" sequence at Winky's (which, curiously, means the end of the pilot stands alone)
— no Silencio
— no lesbian love scene
— no "something terrible is happening" (I forget that woman's name)

So clearly the missing scenes completely eliminate the Diane/Camilla love thing, and also eliminate all of the hints of Betty's false identity. The result is more intriguing, I think, partly because you start looking at all these quick one-off characters and wondering what more they have to offer (I really want a TV show that involves Cookie and Adam's secretary and Mr. Roche and Gene!), and partly because some sequences that I assumed were Lynch quickly backpedaling to bring character lines to a closure were actually in the pilot, and the scenes I thought would have been there from the beginning aren't at all.

For instance, the scene with the monster in the dumpster, playing with the blue cube, with the old people coming out. I thought that must have been a quick scrappy way to bring the monster scene in the beginning to a close. But it turns out that scene was there from the beginning, and there never was a scene with that guy having a heart attack. The blue cube and the old people were added to that scene after it was shot. So who was that monster supposed to be in the context of the film?

I also love that the pilot contained the audition scene as well as the "I told every little star" scene, which are two of my favorite scenes in cinema. (The audition scene I think should be required watching for any aspiring actor.) Without Betty-as-Diane, that sequence suggests that Betty's actually going to show some real talent as an actress; it's not a fantasy, she actually does contain that hidden talent. Plus of course she and Adam are going to get involved, since now Adam's lost his wife. The addition of the scene with Wilkins, the screenwriter (whose dog craps outside Betty's new house) suggests that he'll be the connection between the two characters.

So now in this pilot you've got a direct set-up of Betty and Adam versus the Hollywood Machine (Roche, the Cowboy, Camilla, the Castigliani brothers), and a few wild cards: Rita, the beautiful girl with no past; that goofy hit man who sucks at everything; Diane Selwyn, who's just been murdered; and the monster. You also have the adorably bumbling detectives (seriously, look at that deleted scene with them talking to each other), who are looking for Rita but we assume are searching for the victim of a crime, not helping the Hollywood Machine snuff out one of its targets.

Goddamn I wish I could have seen this turn into a TV show. It would have filled my LOST requirements two years before LOST came out. (Maybe a final season where everything turns out to be a dream after all? And the whole season makes all these connections, LOST-flash-sideways style? Squeeeeee.) Plus Rebekah Del Rio says she was filmed for the pilot, so presumably the Club Silencio scene, which is the only sequence I'd deeply miss of the ones not in the pilot, would have come back, meaning our only real loss would have been that awesome double-back Winky's sequence. I'd trade that for even a 7-hour 6-episode show done Twin Peaks-style. Ugh, David Lynch, change your mind and come back to television!
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:15 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


By the way, my favorite MD conspiracy theory is the one that argues that if the first two hours are a dream, you can construct a complex psychological profile of Diane from how she puts this world together. The fact that she turns into a marvelous actress when faced with Woody Katz/"Dad's best friend" suggests that she's not acting, she's recalling something similar that happened to her as a child. The dialogue between Gene and Adam suggests that she too was blamed as a child for an incident of sexual molestation.

The entire Club Silenco sequence — in which there's distinct grunting sounds coming from the MC as he stares right into Betty's eyes — suggests not that Hollywood/cinema is an illusion, but rather that when a child is hurt this way, our silence creates this sort of discrepancy where real things stop seeming real, and the world stops being trustable. And that sequence of phone calls — especially the one to the creepy apartment where the phone is the only fancy thing and has its own standalone light — suggests that Diane became a prostitute in LA when her jitterbug money ran out, and possibly even that Camilla had a part in putting Diane there.

What's interesting is that if you watch the movie this way, there's nothing whatsoever to discourage this interpretation, and suddenly a lot of lines start making a lot more sense (like the Cowboy's "Hey pretty girl, time to wake up"). Also, this interpretation falls pretty perfectly in line with the themes of Lynch's older work, especially Twin Peaks which is all about incest and prostitution.

The pilot reinforces this, both by completely eliminating the jitterbug tangent, and by removing the scene with the two older people at the beginning with Betty. In the rape theories, these older people, who you can see holding Betty next to the jitterbug contest, are her relatives (why else would they travel from Canada with her?), but that creepy smiling sequence suggests that their kindliness is just a facade like everything else in the movie. And their appearance at the end of the movie as ghosts, followed immediately by the woman in blue, reinforces the idea that what ultimately gets Diane isn't her love for Camilla (which in this theory becomes a desperate need for attachment stemming from her childhood assault), but the lack of support she received from the world around her when she was hurt that led her to go insane.

And it complicates Lynch's hero-victim-villain dynamic which is present in almost all his films. In Mulholland Drive without the theory, Diane is a hero-then-villain-then-victim; first she saves Rita, then she kills Camilla, then she kills herself out of desperation. With the theory Diane's even more convoluted: she goes right from being a victim to being a villain, which is an even more tragic arc, and she invents the hero-her in a last-ditch effort to save herself. It's the equivalent of if in Twin Peaks, Laura Palmer (who's all victim all the way) turned her rape into an excuse to murder Bobby or James.

(We're all in agreement that Camilla in the last half hour of the film is a little wretched, right? Inviting her ex-lover to a party and "surprising" her just to announce her engagement, then kissing an irrelevant blonde actress while staring right at her? That borders on cruel.)
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:15 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, get me drunk and I'll explain my theory about how Henry from Eraserhead is actually an angel. Possibly from space. But you have to get me really drunk.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:07 PM


Oh it's a date!!!
posted by Theta States at 7:26 AM on May 26, 2011


i don't think the dream aspect resolves the mysteries altogether; i think it's a neat hook for theorizing about them. one of the things i really love about mulholland dr is that when you watch the second part of the movie, you see how these little elements of real life--the cowboy, for instance--found their way into the dream/fantasy, just like odd elements of our daily life that we barely pay attention to find their way into our own dreams.

but then the earlier part of the film becomes more than simply a dream considering how much diane tries to reinvent herself by way of hollywood cliches.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 7:45 AM on May 26, 2011


My first experience of Lynch was Lost Highway (in the theater) and I loved it. I think that colored my later experiences with Lynch, in that I realized it was ultimately fruitless to try to pin down a meaning, although it could be fun to try. I never tried to make sense out of Mulholland Dr. But it was one of the most intense film-watching experiences of my life.

I watched it alone, on video. It was so incredibly suspenseful to me because Lynch makes it clear early on that anything can happen at any moment, and you might be assaulted by disturbing imagery at any time. I actually watched the whole movie curled up with my knees to my chest because it disturbed me so much. So, I really couldn't think about the film, all I could do was feel in reaction to it. It was a really unique experience.

I've only ever watched it that once, both because it wasn't exactly an experience I was eager to repeat, and because I'm afraid that if I watched it again, I wouldn't have that experience.
posted by threeturtles at 7:47 AM on May 26, 2011


I've only ever watched it that once, both because it wasn't exactly an experience I was eager to repeat, and because I'm afraid that if I watched it again, I wouldn't have that experience.

i loved the second viewing as much (and the several afterward) because your perspective on the first part of the movie changes once you watch the second part, and it's neat to watch it with those new lenses.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 7:55 AM on May 26, 2011


Yeah, I'm seriously considering having a big Lynch-fest soon after this thread. I definitely want to watch Lost Highway again.

Also, I adore the Straight Story, but I'm reluctant to give credence to conspiracy theories about it. I take Lynch at his word, that it is, in fact, a straight story. It doesn't need any additional theories to make it make sense or to make it powerful. The scene that always plays itself over in my mind is the one with the lady who hits the deer and talks about how unfair it is that she is always killing deer when she loves them. Probably because there's a lot of deer around here I have to try to avoid. But there's just so much depth to that film without needing to add any additional data.
posted by threeturtles at 8:25 AM on May 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also love that the pilot contained the audition scene as well as the "I told every little star" scene, which are two of my favorite scenes in cinema. (The audition scene I think should be required watching for any aspiring actor.) Without Betty-as-Diane, that sequence suggests that Betty's actually going to show some real talent as an actress; it's not a fantasy, she actually does contain that hidden talent.

i read it more as her idealistic re-imagining of her talent. when we (or i, anyway) envision myself in that kind of situation, in the fantasy i have the talent and confidence to pull it off; but in real life it's just not there. consider how diane is at the dinner party in the late part of the movie--she doesn't have nearly the amount of confidence we would expect in someone who could pull off that audition.

arggh now i'll be thinking about this film all day and end up doing yet another lynch weekend.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 8:32 AM on May 26, 2011


Ok, now that I've actually read the Straight Story theory that was linked, I have to respond to it.

This whole article is problematic for me. It strikes me as a strawman argument from the beginning. He says that critics have assumed that the film is about a good man and the good people he meets on his bucolic journey. He refutes this by mentioning moments throughout the film that hint at, either by omission or by straight stated fact, that there is more to Alvin's past than just a story about a good man. He develops a theory about what exactly he has done to have to make amends for. He concludes that because there is a deeper emotional journey going on, that the Story is not Straight.

I think this is misinterpretation of film in general. I agree that there is more going on in The Straight Story than the strict surface of events. I agree that the events and statements do have meaning, and at times a darker meaning. But I submit that that is true for most serious films. The incident with the deer is an obvious example of a seemingly random occurrence that has a deeper meaning. Whether you take it as meaning that the woman was driving recklessly and therefore caused the accident and is not taking responsibility for it, or that in general, we end up doing a lot of harm to the world that we don't intend, I think it's pretty impossible to interpret that scene as anything but a metaphor. Same with the encounter with the pregnant girl and the bundle of sticks story. Is it telling that he reinforces the importance of family to her, when his own family has been estranged? Of course it is. It's not accidental, of course. It underlines his purpose in his journey (to make amends for the breach in his family) and emphasizes that he is aware of his own problems and want to keep others from similar mistakes.

But none of these "deeper meanings" mean that this is not a straight story. As is obvious from this thread, a "normal" Lynch movie doesn't have one simple explanation that covers and explains everything. His usual films are told through filmic absurdities and symbols that are impossible to fix to a certain meaning. If you can look at the Straight Story and come up with an explanation that is directly implied by the film's symbols and story, and all your bases are covered, by definition it isn't a normal Lynch movie. The story is deep, complex, and meaningful, but it is straight. The accomplishment of the film to me is that Lynch manages to get the same depth of feeling, atmosphere, and meaning in this film, without using his normal techniques. He is using the normal language of Hollywood or indie films to tell a story.
posted by threeturtles at 9:09 AM on May 26, 2011


David Lynch seems to think that there is an explanation to the movie:

(from the insert to the DVD)
David Lynch's 10 clues to unlocking this thriller:

1. Pay particular attention in the beginning of the film: at least two clues are revealed before the credits.

2. Notice appearances of the red lampshade.

3. Can you hear the title of the film that Adam Kesher is auditioning actresses for? Is it mentioned again?

4. An accident is a terrible event... notice the location of the accident.

5. Who gives a key, and why?

6. Notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup.

7. What is felt, realized and gathered at the club Silencio?

8. Did talent help Camilla?

9. Note the occurrences surrounding the man behind Winkies.

10. Where is Aunt Ruth?

And from Lynch on Lynch edited by Chris Rodley:

"Well, one night I sat down in my chair to meditate and whoosh -- the whole thing came to me, and I saw it! These ideas came in from six-thirty to seven and I saw a way forward based on these ideas. They were like a gift -- a blessing. So I wrote some more stuff, and all the pieces that went before fitted into the new idea, and the new idea married what went before but altered what went before."
posted by brevator at 9:17 AM on May 27, 2011 [5 favorites]


Regarding those clues, also from Lynch on Lynch:

(Lynch speaking:) Here's the way that happened. The French distributor was part of Canal + and I'd talked to them more than I would talk to the American distributor, even though the movie came out in America first. So one day Pierre Edelman calls me and says, 'David, weren't thinking about some sort of thing where we do then clues to the meaning of Mulholland Drive', and I said, 'Pierre!' you know [laughs], 'but just for the heck of it, let me think about it.'

They had to be genuine clues, but they also had to be pretty obscure. So, if you had a certain take on the movie, the clues would be obvious and if you had another take on it, they'd make you think and maybe you'd see it again in a different way. They said it kind of worked, so I guess that's why they made their way to England. I'm against that kind of thing, but they were pretty abstract kind of clues.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:55 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nice find...now I can reimburse in M. Drive and pick up where I left off...hopelessly drowing in Lynchville.
posted by Dunvegan at 8:21 PM on May 27, 2011


a very strange thing i happened across this week, and i don't remember seeing it in stuff i've ready about mulholland dr. the opening scenes from the film echo scenes in john carpenter's escape from l.a..

when snake is walking through l.a. he hits mulholland dr, so (1) there's the close-up shot of the sign. (2) there are flashing lights on the sign, in MD from the car lights on the sign, in EfLA from lightning. (3) there's a shot of two cars racing wildly down the street, in EfLA with guys hanging out of the cars shooting at each other, in MD with teens hanging out of the cars screaming. and (4) snake and rita both walk off mulholland dr via a downhill path that looks similar.

i could see it as just coincidence, but #3 is a pretty heavy one, i think.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 7:47 PM on May 28, 2011


Can someone reference the clues from the DVD cover and provide relevant details about each one pretty please? I had noticed that on my DVD as well, but never focused on finding each of their relevance...
posted by Theta States at 6:02 AM on May 30, 2011


Not sure if anyone is still following this thread or not... but apparently David Lynch is planning to open a Mulholland Drive-themed club in Paris called Silencio.
posted by hippybear at 3:43 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


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