Lost on "Mulholland Drive."
April 16, 2002 5:02 PM   Subscribe

Lost on "Mulholland Drive." At a film festival in Boulder, Roger Ebert dissects David Lynch's masterpiece frame-by-frame and comes to the conclusion that, well, he doesn't really come to a conclusion. Or does he? Meanwhile, the DVD was released last week and instead of a commentary track or funny bloopers, it came with a simple insert that provided "David Lynch's 10 Clues to Unlocking This Thriller." For the sake of space, I'll post them in the comments section and let's see if anyone out there can (or wants to) answer them.
posted by adrober (58 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
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 alone help Camilla?
9. Note the occurrences surrounding the man behind Winkies.
10. Where is Aunt Ruth?
posted by adrober at 5:05 PM on April 16, 2002


i coulda used these (& a flashlite) when i saw the movie 2 months ago. yeah, where IS aunt ruth?
posted by caraig at 5:12 PM on April 16, 2002


1. Pay particular attention in the beginning of the film: at least two clues are revealed before the credits.
would it be the shot of diane/betty in bed projected under the images of jitterbuggers? the jitterbuggers would be a clue for later in the movie, when diane reveals that she was the jitterbug champ of vancouver.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:17 PM on April 16, 2002


8. Did talent alone help Camilla?
oh! wait! no, she was engaged to be married to adam kesher, who was making the movie camilla was starring in, during the second half of the film.

as a side note, i thought the scene in the first half where she (as rita) is coaching betty for her big audition was in some ways diane's catty swipe at the high-quality actress she thought camilla actually was. rita wasn't going to win any auditions based on that reading.
posted by pxe2000 at 5:21 PM on April 16, 2002


would it be the shot of diane/betty in bed

Definitely the shot of her swooning into the bed. We then understand that the whole core of the movie is a wish-fulfilment dream.
posted by Zurishaddai at 5:23 PM on April 16, 2002


Man, sounds like you're all describing how to get to the mechanical room in Myst. (Haven't played the game. Haven't seen above movie. Making stuff up again.)
posted by Tacodog at 5:44 PM on April 16, 2002


Saw film. Understood little. But fun. My pet dog though tit portentious. My cat thought it pretentious. Good sex. Redeemed film.
posted by Postroad at 6:12 PM on April 16, 2002


I loved the movie when I saw it, though I had nary a clue what it was about or what was going on. Salon did a "for dummies" guide to Mulholland last fall that was a great help, as it puts together all the leading hypotheses, and dissects each one. They did a similar thing for Momento, which was also good and helped me understand what I just saw.
posted by mathowie at 6:28 PM on April 16, 2002


I think the film is perfectly understandable (and consistent) as dream/reality. I don't know where ebert gets the idea that camilla was not diane's real-life lover. of course, I've only seen the film one time.
posted by rebeccablood at 7:02 PM on April 16, 2002


I get cranky with people when they need to break Mulholland Drive down into a storyline. You lose the intended effect. Not everything needs a clean resolve.
posted by dong_resin at 7:47 PM on April 16, 2002


Much like the novels of Pynchon, I gave up on understanding the movies Lynch long, long ago. I'll never understand why so many people heap endless fawning praise on both of them.

Here's my two part method for understand the works of David Lynch (or Thomas Pynchon):

1. Slam head into brick wall.

2. Repeat step one until your skull fractures.

It's not that I need stuff spelled out for me, it's just that I'm too aggravated to care.
posted by mark13 at 7:57 PM on April 16, 2002


That movie warped my fragile little mind.
posted by spilon at 8:13 PM on April 16, 2002


Hey.
Inscrutable = profound.
"Halfway between phantasmagoria and Peoria," he smirked.
Tilted when he sat, his wallet fat as a phonebook.

(See?)
posted by Opus Dark at 8:23 PM on April 16, 2002


The best part of the DVD is David Lynch's austere biography, which merely reads:

David Lynch
Born in Missoula, Montana
Eagle Scout

And I second the Salon article mentioned by mathowie, if you want to try to understand what the movie is about.
posted by insomnyuk at 8:45 PM on April 16, 2002


After seeing it twice, now, here's my theory (which is a lot like Eberts and Salons, but I swear it makes sense!):

There are two segments to the movie: Scenes from Reality and Scenes from a Dream/Death-World. The first 4/5ths of the movie comprises the latter; only when Rita puts the key in the box do we see things as they really are.

So, therefore, it's almost an inverse Wizard of Oz. Characters that exist in the real world (at the end) play different roles in the dream world (in the first 4/5ths). And here's the "real story" that prompts the dream/death-world:

Diane Selwyn can't make it in Hollywood. She's come there after winning a jitterbug contest [which we see during the opening credits; and images of Diane's/Betty's face with those two creepy old people, who must be her parents]. In LA she meets Camilla Rhodes auditioning for the same part. Camilla gets it, even though Diane thinks she deserves it. Camilla and Diane begin a love affair. Diane's in love but Camilla says, in that scene on the couch: "I don't think what we're doing is right." Diane flips out: "Don't say that. Don't EVER say that." Diane's heart is broken. Then, as icing on the cake, Camilla sends a car for Betty which takes her to a party on Mulholland Drive [Lynch's Clue #4]. At this party, Camilla pushes Diane over the edge. Camilla announces she is going to marry the director, Adam, (whose mother is Coco, the landlady in the dreamworld] and on top of that, she kisses a random girl intimately on the lips. Diane sees this and we hear a plate break and we're in the diner (Winkies) where, basically, Diane hires a hitman to kill Camilla. He says when it's over he'll put a key somewhere. [Lynch Clue #5.] Thus, it all comes together because we see the key on Diane's table, we know, then, that she's had Camilla killed and she goes mad. She hallucinates that her parents are trying to kill her and to stop it all she pulls a gun from the drawer and shoots herself. This is the second to last thing we see. Then it transitions back to the club, Silencio, and the blue-haired women sitting in the balcony whispers: "Silencio." Silence. Death. Fade to black...

Thus, Lynch's first clue makes sense: notice two big clues before the credits. We see a flash of Diane with her parents at the jitterbug contest; and then a quick cut to a body in a bed. That's her dead/dying body. The first 4/5ths of the movie will be her processing everything through her subconscious before she dies. In her dream, things are sunnier---she's sunnier---and talented too. She gives a great audition; she's in love with Rita; she has a great apartment. Her name's Betty (which she gets from the waitress's name in the last fifth of the movie.) This Camilla Rhodes character, however, we learn has a whole agency working for her to get the lead in Adam's movie. (Camilla Rhodes' pictures looks nothing like Rita, who, in reality, is Camilla Rhodes----thus, she's divided to show the Camilla that Diane loves (Rita) and the one she resents (Camilla)). And this agency working to help Camilla get the part (by tormenting the director with a Cowboy, etc) justifies Diane's feeling that she really deserved the part. [Clue #8.]

Anyway, I think Lynch's most important clue is #4: "An accident is a terrible event...notice the location of the accident." That would be the title of the movie: Mulholland Drive. In the dream/death-world this is a car accident which brings Rita into Betty's life. In reality this is the place where Diane's heart is broken: where Camilla announces her engagement to Adam and kisses a random girl. Diane is so crushed.... and we see that in the scene where she takes out the hit at Winkies. Which explains the scene early in the movie where the two men are at Winkies and one man says: "I had a dream about this place 2 nights in a row. I was sitting here terrified, and you were over there terrified, and behind this place was this man with a horrible face.....and I knew that he was causing it." Who that man is----the devil?----is beyond me. But those bad vibes come from the role that that very booth has in the story: it's where Diane orders her lover's death....

Of course, that doesn't explain EVERYTHING, but it makes sense to me. I mean, there's still a lot of stuff that doesn't make sense, but for now this'll have to do. Thank you for reading.

Sincerely,
Lady with the Blue Hair
posted by adrober at 8:59 PM on April 16, 2002 [1 favorite]


The Salon article is a good beginning, but not complete by any means. There is plenty of analysis about character motivations to be done that go beyond Salon's mere explanation of the events. I have already spent far too much time discussing it on the NYTimes.com Film Forum to repeat it all here.
posted by McBain at 9:50 PM on April 16, 2002


That's good, but you might have wanted to throw up 'spoiler alert' there champ.

*spoiler*
I agree with the old people as her parents theory, but at the end I think they are representing the shame she feels, as the detectives are knocking on the door, she cannot bear the thought of the shame.

It still doesn't explain a lot, like the blue box, or why the man in the diner has a dream about a man behind the diner. I mean, Diane's subconscious is creating that man's story, even though she only saw him once at the store counter. And how the HELL does she see her own body(as Betty she sees Diane) on the bed, in the rotting condition before she actually kills herself? If her subconscious dream world is that powerful, did it control the way she killed herself, or is there some unexplained, supernatural reasoning behind some of this which we are all missing? Those key elements of the film which remain unexplained by the stock theory lead me to believe that several different interpretations could be equally valid. I wonder if David Lynch will ever tell (that would be a terrible idea of course, because then people would stop discussing it)

Oh, and Aunt Ruth in the dream world is a symbol of the money Diane's aunt left her in the real world, and probably a throwback to the Rita Hayworthesque, old-school of Hollywood actresses.

And if you haven't seen the movie, go watch it!
posted by insomnyuk at 10:00 PM on April 16, 2002


****spoilers****

i agree with much of what's said here, but disagree with a bunch of it as well.

We see a flash of Diane with her parents at the jitterbug contest; and then a quick cut to a body in a bed. That's her dead/dying body.

and

And how the HELL does she see her own body(as Betty she sees Diane) on the bed, in the rotting condition before she actually kills herself?

first off, i don't understand why people assume that they're the parents. they make it clear that they just met on the plane. to me, these people symbolize the hope that diane has for herself (or that "others are counting on me/expecting big things") in hollywood.

and the shot of the bed at the beginning is not of anyone sleeping. it's an empty bed, into which diane crawls (we see her shadow as she approaches the pillow). it is then that we shift into the dream. diane is not dead until the end of the film, when we see her shoot herself.

the "other" body that we see throughout the film can be explained a few ways, in my opinion:

1. it's diane imagining her dead lover or
2. it's diane imagining herself as dead if she kills herself.

my reasons for these two things are

1. when diane kills herself, she is wearing grey (which she wears throughout the film). the body we see throughout the movie is wearing black, which rita wears.
2. many times i've read histories of attempted suicides who say that they always imagined themselves dead, and being discovered, prior to killing themselves.

The first 4/5ths of the movie will be her processing everything through her subconscious before she dies.

i completely disagree with this. i think that, with the exception of one break in the 'reality' segmant, the film runs linerally. the dream we are witnessing is being dreamt while diane sleeps prior to being woken up by the woman who used to live in her apartment (who i will refer to as W, below). the woman bangs on the door, says "it's been 3 weeks" takes her stuff, and leaves. then we see that the blue key is on the table so we know the hit's taken place, which explains why diane is a wreck and has been locked in her room, depressed, and dreaming a dream in which her subconscious is attempting to justify her past actions.

This Camilla Rhodes character, however, we learn has a whole agency working for her to get the lead in Adam's movie.

i don't believe this is the case. in my opinion, the "agency" is diane's justification for how hollywood works. "i didn't get the part because there is a big conspiracy. the director WANTED to give me the part, but he couldn't." these people do not work for rita/camilla. they're outside of the actress's world.

i think that much of the very odd things in the film are attributable to a "fantasy" world that i think many people believe is the real world of hollywood. the people pulling the strings are not the people we see (directors, etc.), but people we can't communicate with (hell, in the movie they're in glass rooms with odd communication devices, or in the middle of nowhere on a ranch). these people are symbols for old (cowboy/man in room) and new hollywood (two men in limo--ie the miramax boys). it's all part of diane's subconscious attempting to come to terms with not getting the success she deserves.

(Camilla Rhodes' pictures looks nothing like Rita, who, in reality, is Camilla Rhodes----thus, she's divided to show the Camilla that Diane loves (Rita) and the one she resents (Camilla)).

to me, what she's done is to attempt to cast a shadow over rita. her subconscious/dream self is saying "she's not a real actress. she's not even a real blonde. she's an imitation of me. a poor substitution." even the info that adam (director) and camilla are getting married (though they never really do announce this--we cut away before they say what they're going to do)--or in love--is another substition for diane. in her dream, it is she and adam who are in love. their eyes meet at the audition and it is obviously love at first site. (when adam utters the words he's been forced to say (diane saying he's not in control) ("this is the girl"), she flees the audition. not coincidentally, "this is the girl" is the same way that diane tells the hitman who she wants killed.)

"An accident is a terrible event...notice the location of the accident." That would be the title of the movie: Mulholland Drive.

i think you can get even more specific than that. the accident happens at the "surprise location--the shortcut" to adam's place.

Which explains the scene early in the movie where the two men are at Winkies and one man says: "I had a dream about this place 2 nights in a row. I was sitting here terrified, and you were over there terrified, and behind this place was this man with a horrible face.....and I knew that he was causing it."

actually, i think that the two men in the diner scene is one of the easier to explain. many of the dream scenes are manifestations of diane's own emotions. we see the man in the diner in the second part of the film right after the hitman says "you give me this money and there's no going back". it is she that is terrified of what she's about to do. she sees the man, and in her dream, he represents her terror.

a similar thing happens to represent disgust. diane is at the party, drinks the espresso, sees the man in the corner of the party (who later is in the meeting giving orders to adam) and then sees camilla kissing the blonde and hears adam make his announcement. in her dream, the man drinks the espresso, which disgusts him, spits it out, and then uses his power to control adam (stop the film/cast a certain girl)--which is exactly what diane wants, but she is powerless.

Who that man is----the devil?----is beyond me.

first off, it's not a man. it's a woman. though you'd have to watch the credits to catch this. the bum is portrayed by bonnie aarons. but that's besides the point--the man in the diner indeed refers to the bum as a man.

to me, the bum is "Not Diane". it's where she puts her guilt. the man in the diner says "the man behind here is the one who's doing it. i hope to never see that face again outside of a dream." he simply represents the part of herself she wants to never encounter again.

It still doesn't explain a lot, like the blue box,

as pointed out in ebert's article, the blue box is the last thing she sees before she dies. it's in the drawer next to the gun. to me, it's something she doesn't understand. referring to the blue key, she asks the hitman "what does it open". he responds with a laugh, meaning it's not important. however, one can rephrase her question to mean "what follows? what's beyond the key?", meaning "what is my future beyond this event? what doors will be opened?" (because i don't think that it is only personal jealousy that motivates her actions, but also professional jealousy). and of course, her future beyond the event is misery and death.

Oh, and Aunt Ruth in the dream world is a symbol of the money Diane's aunt left her in the real world, and probably a throwback to the Rita Hayworthesque, old-school of Hollywood actresses.

i think diane just took the real coco (adam's mom) and put her thru her justification/dream filter. the mother was disapproving in reality (mad she was late to party and not really paying attention when asking diane about her life) and turned her into a comforting/welcoming presence.

but yes, she (as is the courtyard, the cowboy, the powerful man in the wheelchair, etc.) a symbol of "old hollywood"--which is perhaps why lynch cast some of these characters with old hollywood actors (lee grant, ann miller).

as for some of lynch's other "clues":

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

to me the significance of the club lies in the mc's speech. he talks about how what we hear is on a tape. here, i believe, lynch is attempting to show us how two things (what we're seeing (the girl "singing") and hearing (a tape of a girl singing)) can essentially communicate the same thing (a woman is singing). however, one (the woman in front of us) is reality (happening) and the other is an illusion. when the woman collapses/dies, lynch is throwing a wrench in the machine, so to speak. because the "reality" has stopped and the "non-reality" continues, which doesn't make "sense." to me, this is just an analogy for the dream. diane cannot control the dream, and it is not real, but at the same time, it continues on its way, constituting it's own reality, which infringes on her real (waking) reality to such an extreme that she kills herself over the guilt of having murdered her lover.

as the MC says "there is no band, but we hear a band. if you want to hear a clarinet... listen." essentially, this is the theme of the movie and also what the cowboy tells adam ("a man's attitude determines to a large extent what his life will be like.") we can either be in control of our lives or deny the control. diane choses to deny control--for herself, and for others.

of course, these are all just my opinions so even if i'm coming across as "THIS is what it really means", i really mean "this is what i think. it's probably different than what you think." ;)
posted by dobbs at 11:20 PM on April 16, 2002 [6 favorites]


So the blue box symbolizes the emptiness of her future, which is 'opened' so to speak by putting a hit on Camilla(the blue key).

Nice analysis dobbs.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:25 PM on April 16, 2002


And how the HELL does she see her own body(as Betty she sees Diane) on the bed, in the rotting condition before she actually kills herself?

It is the old cry for help suicide. People contemplating suicide often fantasize about the reaction of the people they are trying to punish with the suicide. Diane/Betty is dreaming/fantasizing about punishing Rita/Camilla with the sight of her dead body. The jilted lover gets revenge through suicide.
posted by McBain at 11:29 PM on April 16, 2002


Dobbs, that was great. I especially liked the espresso stuff...that's great analysis. I think our opinions are more in accord than you think (the "agency" stuff, for example) I just didn't express them as well. So good work!
posted by adrober at 11:42 PM on April 16, 2002


Just want to drop a "good post" and "good discussion" note. Read every link above. Dobbs analysis is well thought out. Now I'm not so afraid of this rubik's cube of a movie. Sincere thanks.
posted by Tacodog at 1:35 AM on April 17, 2002


Listen to dong_resin. A movie is not a hammer that has to work, not a pair of pants that has to fit. Don't Dewey decimate.
posted by pracowity at 1:50 AM on April 17, 2002


Excellent thread. Just watched the movie for the first time on Sunday. I'm not always so sure about Lynch. Unlike everybody else on the planet, I LOVED Lost Highway, but generally Lynch doesn't do it for me. I have to say I didn't care for Mulholland Drive so much either. Now I feel like I should give it another couple of tries.

Now, could somebody breakdown Deuce Bigalow:Male Gigolo for me? It's funny 'cause it rhymes?
posted by willnot at 2:14 AM on April 17, 2002


Forget about Mulholland Drive. It was (as this excellent discussion shows) interpretable. Anyone care to direct me to an explanation of Lost Highway?
posted by talos at 4:26 AM on April 17, 2002


Does anyone know the answer to these clues?

3. Can you hear the title of the film that Adam Kesher is auditioning actresses for? Is it mentioned again?
6. Notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup.
10. Where is Aunt Ruth?
posted by adrober at 5:07 AM on April 17, 2002


Well, anyway the TV original script is here
posted by matteo at 6:27 AM on April 17, 2002


Willnot, I just watched the film for the first time on Sunday too! And, at first thought I'd never watch it again. But after reading this and with the loving help of a friend, I've come to see another viewing (at least) is in order.

Dobbs, I like your interpretation of the dream Camilla (the blond who does look like Diane) as being a poor imitation of the real Diane. Very good!
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 6:48 AM on April 17, 2002


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

Intense anger at Lynch's penchant for combining the crashingly obvious (she's not really singing, but it's a nonsurprise you have to endure for about three minutes!) with the willfully obscure (this scene has nothing to do with either plots!)?

This movie is like a schizophrenic's nested set of Russian dolls. Only instead of finding smaller and smaller dolls, you get a bunch of frozen peas, a discarded sneaker, a lime-green stapler, and Jean Stapleton's truss. Then David Lynch shows up on your lawn, has sex with your dog, pickpockets your eight bucks, waves goodbye and says "I hope you liked my story!"
posted by Skot at 8:48 AM on April 17, 2002 [1 favorite]


This movie is like a schizophrenic's nested set of Russian dolls. Only instead of finding smaller and smaller dolls, you get a bunch of frozen peas, a discarded sneaker, a lime-green stapler, and Jean Stapleton's truss. Then David Lynch shows up on your lawn, has sex with your dog, pickpockets your eight bucks, waves goodbye and says "I hope you liked my story!"
And that isn't worth 8 bucks?
posted by talos at 8:53 AM on April 17, 2002


I saw M.D. for the second time a few weeks ago, and the wierd thing is I understood less than the first time, as I picked up on little incongruencies you don't notice the first time around.
That's what makes it such a welcome change from 99% of Hollywood crap whose entire plot structure and resolution you can tell just from the trailer.
posted by signal at 9:31 AM on April 17, 2002


I've seen MD three times now and each screening provides more and more answers. The only problem with this is that upon learning the answers to my initial questions, more questions arise.

Gotta love Lynch.

**Spoiler Warning**
7. Who gives a key, and why?

Note that aside from the key that the hitman leaves for Diane/Betty, the only other key given is by Coco to Betty upon her arrival in LA.

Of course, later, we learn that Coco is Adam Kesher's mother. Could she be pulling the strings of Camilla's career as well?

10. Where is Aunt Ruth?

I may be mistaken, but doesn't someone near the end of the film mention that Aunt Ruth has died?
posted by brittney at 10:03 AM on April 17, 2002


Lynch is one of my favorite directors but I'm having trouble forgetting that MD was originally a television pilot, meant to introduce a bunch of characters and plot threads. If I decided to turn such an open-ended introduction into a cohesive movie, I'd probably do the same thing and tack on that last half-hour (which seemed to have a more typically Lynchian audiovisual style than the rest) which says something like: "It's, uh, it's all a dream..? Or I mean some parts are and others are real, and it's all there for you to figure out if you work at it long enough and see the movie over and over again."

I still think Lost Highway is purer Lynch since it doesn't even offer the hope of cracking its code like MD does.
posted by jga at 10:11 AM on April 17, 2002


thanks to everyone for the compliments on the interpretation.

the following are things i didn't think about till i read this thread so take them with a grain of salt:

Does anyone know the answer to these clues?

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

um, this is a weird one, i think. i never heard a title for this film. perhaps it's mentioned but i never caught it. however, lynch mentioning it is strange, because:

i think the general impression most people have is that the movie that he's auditioning for (the 60s movie) is the movie people assume camilla and diane met on, and the "start of it all," so to speak.

however, it is the OTHER movie, which we see diane/betty audition for that is where the girls met. the film, if you remember, is being directed by a guy named bob. when betty auditions, the actor who she reads with (woody) makes an off-handed remark: "i want to do this nice and close, like we did with that other girl, the one with the dark hair... what was her name?" (notice the har har joke of the actor not remembering the name of the actress who has amnesia).

later, at the party, diane is asked how she met camilla. "on the sylvia north story," she answers. "i really wanted the lead, but i didn't get it. camilla did." if one weren't paying attention they'd assume that the sylvia north story was the 60s movie. however, this has a few problems:

1. diane doesn't audition for the 60s movie--she leaves when she hears kesher say "this is the girl" about camilla. during this scene, kesher says this about the blonde in the audition booth (the same blonde we see camilla kiss at the party and the blonde that looks similar to the 'blonde' camilla and the dream rita (betty)). we have to remember that in fact, during the real audition, the girl in the booth is the dark haired camilla. she is only replaced with this blonde in diane's dream ("a lesser me" from my above post).

2. at the party, diane goes on to say "the director..." (boy interupts "bob [something].") "yes, he didn't like me much." which is exactly what we saw at the audition. the director in the room is the only one not impressed with betty's audition and actually calls it "forced". (i'm assuming that this is lynch's in joke to directors. at first, it appears that what he is doing is poking fun at hollywood, and directors in particular (what an idiot, we think, that he doesn't recognize the brilliance of her performance.) but we have to remember that it's diane's dream, in which she makes herself into a brilliant actress. in reality (which we don't see), she auditioned and didn't get the part--so she wasn't so great. lynch is saying that the director was the only one smart enough to recognize her lack of talent (which we don't witness because we only see her perform thru her own dream filter)--the rest of the room doesn't know what it's talking about.)

3. obviously, the movie on which the girls met was not the 60s movie because they talk about the director of the picture they met on (sylvia NORTH (haha) story). even if they didn't name him ("bob") it can't be adam as they wouldn't talk like that in front of him.

so, perhaps lynch is suggesting we listen for a movie title in order to help us organize the events. or perhaps i just missed the title altogether and the above is nonsense. :)

to me, the sequence of events is

1. diane auditions for bob's movie (sylvia north). doesn't get part. camilla ("dark haired girl") does.
2. but in diane's mind, she's much better than camilla (shown by her dream reading of the two of them in the kitchen).
3. diane starts to wonder why she didn't get role.
4. diane and camilla act in the sylvia north story, where they meet and fall in love.
4. diane goes to audition for adam's movie and as she walks in the room, she "falls in love" with adam at first site. however, at that exact instant, he is giving the role to camilla, who is auditioning in the booth ("this is the girl").
5. something snaps in diane and she remembers adam's line and fabricates a conspiracy around it.

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

the robe one is kind of troubling for me. i'll come back to it in a minute.

there are two ashtrays. the first one is next to the red lampshade so i don't think there's a need for lynch to single it out as its significance is apparent when he mentions the shade in point #2. the one i think lynch is talking about is the piano-shaped one that W (see my above post) comes to claim. i don't know why lynch is pointing it out. to me, it's a simple device for helping us pay attention to time. as i mentioned, in my opinion, the film only breaks lineral time once--the ashtray is a clue. when W picks it up, the key is there, meaning the hit is done. 2 minutes later, half-naked diane is crawling on top of half-naked camilla. but the ashtray is back, giving us a clue that this really happened (in the past) and is not a fantasy of hers. it's just a way of giving credence to diane and camilla's sex scenes. a way of letting us know that their closeness was not fabricated (along with everything else) by diane.

i mentioned the coffee cup in my first post. the part about the espresso is the same as the cup.

10. Where is Aunt Ruth?

this is a real tuffy, and i think lynch is really fucking with us on this. to me, this is the point at which i agree with some of the other posters here. the film shouldn't be analyzed and taken apart. :)

here's what we actually see about ruth:

1. she's going on a trip the first time we see her. (dream portion)
2. she's dead and left $ for diane (mentioned in reality portion).

which is it?

well, to me, it's neither. but again, this is the analysis part that makes me seem like i'm full of horsepucky... to me, the entire film is a "fantasy" of aunt ruth. i can't exactly explain why i think this. it's just a feeling. however, here's how i think my brain pieced this together:

we see ruth "twice" in the movie (more on this later).

1. the first time is when she's leaving for her trip.
2. the second time is right after club silencio/the appearance of the box. here's what happens:

a. camilla opens the box and looks inside.
b. she drops the box and it makes a thud.
c. ruth walks in the room to see what the thud was. nothing is there.

were this not a public forum, i'd say that what really happens in this movie is this:

a woman hears a noise in her apartment. she goes to investigate it. she anticipates something in her room. nothing is there. in that instant of anticipation and lack of evidence the "rest of the film" races thru her mind.

of course, i have no "proof" of this.

i have a similar theory about the film barton fink. again, i can't justify it, but every time i see the film i think more and more that it's true.

[small fink spoiler]

fink never goes to hollywood. he puts on a play (at the start of the film) and it goes well (presumbably--i don't think we see the audience reaction, we only hear it). backstage, fink looks contemplative. he hears the "roar" of the crowd. he fantasizes about his future as a big writer in hollywood. the roar becomes a crash of waves on a rock on a beach in LA and we're now in fink's mind. the rest of the movie is a fantasy.

[/end fink spoiler]

as for the robe...

there are actually two robes in the film, aunt ruth's red and black glamour-y one and diane's icky white one. i see no significance to the white one, except to point out the differences in succes between past and present hollywood workers. and i see no immediate sig to the other one. except... the second shot in the film (the one of the bed diane crawls into) starts on the floor next to the bed. it is very out of focus. what's on the floor? looks to me like the robe. as for what this means...? up to you i guess. :)

if i were to watch the film again, i'd look for the following. if any MeFi'ers are going to watch it again soon, let us know the answers to these. i think it would be helpful:

1. is it the robe on the floor?
2. the bed sheets in the "first" shot... do they match aunt ruth's sheets or diane's sheets?
3. do they really mention the name of the 60s movie? (watch for it on the cover of a script or a clapper board.)
4. is there any character in the movie with the first initial W?
5. does the man in the diner actually refer to the beast behind the diner as a "man"? or does he say "someone's behind here"? does anyone refer to the beast as a man or do we just assume he's a man?
6. what in hell is the significance of the whore. she's blonde, and this bothers me. is diane thinking that the next stop on the ride for her is the streets?
7. why is cookie (hotel manager) one of the emcees at silencio? and is the guy who helps cookie drag the woman off the stage the same guy that is beside diane at the party? does cookie appear anywhere at the party or anywhere else in the reality portion?

alright, i've rambled enough.
posted by dobbs at 10:20 AM on April 17, 2002


The best part was the two chicks goin at it. That was big E Erotic.
posted by johnnydark at 11:08 AM on April 17, 2002


jga - i agree. mulholland and blue velvet had discernible (maybe not explainable or understandable) plots, while lost highway lost me straight from the beginning.

i think lynch's intention is to leave the interpretation up to the viewer. i kind of resent the breaking down and dissection that salon does on the more 'difficult' movies.
posted by catatonic at 11:22 AM on April 17, 2002


lynch is saying that the director was the only one smart enough to recognize her lack of talent (which we don't witness because we only see her perform thru her own dream filter)--the rest of the room doesn't know what it's talking about.)

This is a very interesting interpretation. I thought that Lynch was perhaps poking fun at himself in that scene. By insisting that Betty's performance was forced, it was as though Lynch was addressing his critics' insistence that he usually casts less than brilliant actors, for instance in his Twin Peaks. (Though I doubt anyone who's seen MD would disagree that Naomi Watts is an actress of the highest caliber--so that point is, ironcially, moot.)

I think I made that assumption based on the director's previous dialogue when he is instructing the actors in the audition not to rush it. He delivers this vague, undiscernable advice that leaves everyone in the room sort of scratching their head. (I just discovered upon searching for the actual dialogue that the MD DVD does not feature chapter selections, which blows.) This, I think, is definitely a reference to how difficult it is for someone with a vision to relay that vision to the cast. That must be especially true for Lynch.
posted by brittney at 11:47 AM on April 17, 2002


I think I made that assumption based on the director's previous dialogue when he is instructing the actors in the audition not to rush it. He delivers this vague, undiscernable advice that leaves everyone in the room sort of scratching their head.

again, we're seeing it thru her filter. certainly, though, lynch can enjoy both this poke at himself and his peers. it's a bonus that the poke goes out the window when we realize it's her interpretation of the director. :)

(I just discovered upon searching for the actual dialogue that the MD DVD does not feature chapter selections, which blows.)

yes, apparently lynch is going to do this with all his future dvds (he did it with elephant man as well). he says you're not supposed to watch the movie in fragments--supposed to watch in one sitting.

i agree, though, it blows.
posted by dobbs at 11:57 AM on April 17, 2002


I think he didn't split the dvd into different scenes because he didn't want you to be given any clues as to where one scene begins and another ends.

Despite all of its strangeness, the movie does have some sense of continuity.
posted by insomnyuk at 12:06 PM on April 17, 2002


but but but!

what is the significance of the blonde prostitute in one of the scenes behind winkies? (this is after the "history of the world in phone numbers" shootout.) some bleached-blond guy who looks like billy idol pushes a blonde prostitute into the back of a white van. the prostitute bears a striking resemblance to diane selwyn. i'm wondering where she fits into the picture, is all.
posted by pxe2000 at 1:37 PM on April 17, 2002


It has been suggested that the prostitute is representative of the numbers of women Hollywood chews up and spits out.

But I suspect there is something more behind it.
posted by brittney at 1:46 PM on April 17, 2002


what about the cowboy?
posted by landock at 4:46 PM on April 17, 2002


I think he didn't split the dvd into different scenes because he didn't want you to be given any clues as to where one scene begins and another ends.

The Straight Story DVD is also without chapter breaks. I don't know if the MH dvd has a similar note, but in the page that comes with TSS dvd, Lynch writes:

"I know that most DVDs have chapter stops. It is my opinion that a film is not like a book - it should not be broken up. It is a continuum and should be seen as such. Thank you for your understanding."
posted by gluechunk at 5:14 PM on April 17, 2002


This movie is like a schizophrenic's nested set of Russian dolls. Only instead of finding smaller and smaller dolls, you get a bunch of frozen peas, a discarded sneaker, a lime-green stapler, and Jean Stapleton's truss. Then David Lynch shows up on your lawn, has sex with your dog, pickpockets your eight bucks, waves goodbye and says "I hope you liked my story!"

This is the funniest damn thing I've read on Metafilter all year. Bravo Skot.
posted by dack at 10:21 PM on April 17, 2002


2) Notice the appearances of the red lampshade.

Seems to me that Lynch might be pointing out red herrings in both the movie and his clues. The red lampshade appears in the dream sequence, but not in the real sequences, right?

re: Adam Kesher's film.

I'm pretty sure that the name of this movie is not mentioned. Perhaps we could call it "Red Lampshades."

re: Where is Aunt Ruth?

In dream: She's off to Canada for a few months to shoot a film.
In reality: She died prior to Diane's move to LA.

[smirk] Is Dave trying to make a poke at our neighbors to the north? [/smirk]

Snarkiness aside, Aunt Ruth's whereabouts makes for a nice analogy to the Betty/Diane split. Dream-Aunt Ruth is traveling far off to make a movie. Real-Aunt Ruth is worm food, just like her niece.

Something to keep in mind about Mulholland Drive is the fact that what we know as "the dream sequence" was originally a TV pilot--Lynch was trying to set up a season of television, and in doing so, created plotlines that weren't meant to go anywhere for a few episodes, and as finances and time stood, really couldn't be completed after Studio Canal came in to save the project. I imagine that the sequences with the hitman and the Black Book of the Universe, the prostitute, and possibly Scary Poop Dude (or Dudette, I guess) were meant to develop along with the series.

For some reason, the blue box reminds me of a Morphine song.

To jump topics, I've read interviews with Barry Gifford and David Lynch (and unfortunately can't find the links right now) concerning Lost Highway, and while there were some disputes over their interpretations of the script, I believe both men mentioned that the movie WAS based on a Mobius Strip-like concept.
posted by one.louder.ash! at 11:23 PM on April 17, 2002


Seems to me that Lynch might be pointing out red herrings in both the movie and his clues. The red lampshade appears in the dream sequence, but not in the real sequences, right?

it is in the reality sequence. it is next to the phone that diane answers when camilla calls and tells her to get her ass to the party. hence, it's connected to the limo and the phone, the same thing(s) it's connected to in the dream sequence.
posted by dobbs at 11:48 PM on April 17, 2002


Whoops--totally forgot about that, dobbs. Thanks for reminding me.

By the way, something that my friends and I couldn't get over was the animosity between Diane and "W." To me, she eerily resembled Rita/Camilla in the same way that dream-Camilla resembled Betty/Diane.

After we discarded the notion that Rita was an image of the woman in #12, we came up with the same story that most people here have (excellent description, dobbs).

But what about the woman in #12? What if she was more important than she seemed?

"We switched apartments" is a kinda weird concept to me--could that be a cover for "We had a nasty breakup and I left?"

I'm about to go on one hell of a limb here. *Spoilers* galore:

[random extreme speculation] What if even more of the story is dream than we're thinking? What if the plot of the movie runs:

1) Diane, wearing jitterbug perfume and receiving an inheritance from her aunt, leaves Canada for the American Dream.
2) She's not very good. She plods through auditions and waits tables at Winkies for all sorts of people, including oddball directors craving tuna melts, ton of coffee, topped off by milkshake after milkshake.
3) She starts up a relationship with W.
4) Blonde Camilla Rhodes beats her out in an audition for Adam Kesher.
5) She and W have a nasty breakup.
6) Following W's departure, Diane is shattered by her failures and drifts to sleep. (Opening scene--by the way, dobbs, last time I watched the movie, I checked--the sheets definitely match Diane's and Aunt Ruth's)
7) She wakes up. Rita, from her dreams, has been perverted into Dark Camilla, a hallucination taunting Diane about all of the things she's lost. Dark Camilla is a gestalt of Rita (who is Diane's dream) and Blonde Camilla (who got the things that Diane will never have).
8) W comes by and demands her stuff, a confrontation Diane dreaded in the "dream."
9) More dreaming. She takes the image of the blue key, which is on her table, and perpetuates the icon of the hitman from her first dream. The hitman is to kill Dark Camilla. In reality, the only way that Dark Camilla will go away is for Diane to kill herself.
10) On waking, everything falls apart in Diane's mind, and she shoots herself.

"Hello, it's me": Who the hell are all of these girls?

The girls of the "dream sequence" are facets of Diane Selwyn.

Betty is Diane's potential. She's trusting, enthusiastic, self-reliant and talented. She blows away the audition, falls in love with Adam, and plays Nancy Drew to her amnesiac guest.

Rita is Diane's desires. She's mysterious and voluptuous. She comes from a limo, signifying some degree of success, and people are after her, signifying the need for attention and the promise of adventure. Her amnesia absolves Diane of her failures in this dream world. Rita is also the instigator of the romantic interlude between herself and Betty.

Her appearance could be influenced by W, Diane's lover, but ultimately Diane's desires overtake her potential.

Blonde Camilla actually beats Diane in the audition, and Diane's hopelessness starts to infect Betty's story. It wasn't that I wasn't good enough...it was all rigged from the start.

Visiting Diane's dead body is the unifying action in the dream sequence. The adventure story would lead us to believe that people are after Rita, but what actually happens is a moment of reality where Diane forces her blissfully ignorant heroines to face themselves. Naive Betty (who doesn't even recognize her own voice on the answering machine) is trying to comfort Rita, who is standing between her potential (Betty) and the failed result of that potential (Diane's corpse).

The reason Rita is so desparate to assume Betty's identity is so she can take control of their life and achieve her desires. She and Betty couple, but later we see that their coupling is Diane, masturbating and crying, ("Somebody's crying...") her vision blurred.

Silencio, as the culmination of the first dream sequence, shows dissolution. The illusion is of someone playing an instrument, for example. For a brief moment, sound and image are united, acting together to make a unified illusion. Reality sets in, however, and shows that the actor is not making the sound*. Rita believes she, acting with Betty, can take control of Diane's life and lead her to successes. The singer collapses, however, and Betty disappears, leaving Rita with no choice other than to explore what she fears--the blue box**.

*"There is no band." The tagline of this movie suggests that it is "A Love Story in the City of Dreams," but the love story of Diane and "W" is all off-camera.

**The blue box is linked to Scary Poop Dude--I'll take a page from dobbs and suggest that Scary Poop Dude is every nasty aspect of Diane's life that Betty and Rita are both totally unaware of.

Poof!

The Cowboy (who appears twice to Diane, indicating that she ain't doing right) "wakes" Diane up. "W" appears at the door and scolds Diane for keeping her stuff. Through her dreams, though, Diane's found a new girl (Rita), which is some comfort as "W" takes the rest of her stuff back.

Here's where I'll argue that the real weirdness begins.

Diane sees Rita--but she's no longer Rita--she's Dark Camilla.

Dark Camilla is a gestalt, combining Diane's desires (Rita's image) with her competition (Camilla's name. Blonde Camilla herself is a twisted image of Diane). Dark Camilla teases and torments Diane, reinforcing the fact that her life since leaving Canada has been an utter failure. Diane wants to merge with her, and Dark Camilla rejects her, walking out the door.*

*Not dissimilar to Alice Wakefield's fuck-and-run act at the end of Lost Highway, except that in this case, it's a part of Diane walking out on herself.

The red lampshade appears again to let us know that Diane has slipped into the dream world again, and Dark Camilla leads Diane on a perverse walkthrough of the first dream. The dynamic between Dark Camilla and Diane is an inversion of the interactions between Rita and Betty (in which confident Betty leads scared Rita around), and Dark Camilla takes Diane to the party to "show" her the lifestyle she'll never have. Diane is broken and washed-up at this point.

In reality, Dark Camilla is not sitting next to Adam--Blond Camilla is--he has made Blond Camilla a star. In this dream party, however, Dark Camilla takes her place, to indicate to Diane that "this could've been you. But it isn't." Dark Camilla kisses Blond Camilla, and Diane's betrayal of herself is complete.

Scary Poop Dude comes back in full force, and every negative aspect of Diane is unified. She wakes up and kills herself. [/random extreme speculation]

Whew!

Truth be told, I don't know that that was an airtight alternative explanation--but it's a start.
posted by one.louder.ash! at 2:38 AM on April 18, 2002


These may be irrelevant (or really obvious), but:

- I'm pretty sure dream-audition Camilla is the girl real-world Camilla kisses at the party
- Dream Aunt Ruth has gone to Canada to work on a movie, while Betty/Diane has come from Canada to work on movies
- Why did the chain of phone calls 'The girl is still missing' beginning with the twin peaks midget in the glass room end with diane not answering?
posted by zzero at 6:27 AM on April 18, 2002


Never mind... I see that was all covered in the Salon article.
posted by zzero at 6:42 AM on April 18, 2002


one.louder.ash!:

"We switched apartments" is a kinda weird concept to me--could that be a cover for "We had a nasty breakup and I left?"

yeah, i think a lot of people have speculated that they were lovers and that the "switched apartments" is an excuse. though the fact that she's a brunette and there is obvious animosity between them makes me think this has some credence, i have a few problems with it:

1. if they were living together and W is simply moving out... they would not be in apartment 17. they would be in 12. unless people are positing that diane moved out of 12 (the apt her name is listed as living in) into 17 with W (who already lived there) and then when they broke up W moved out of her own apartment back into the still vacant diane's apartment. this just doesn't make sense to me.

2. where does the hit stuff and the key come into it? if she's the ex, who is the hit (real or imagined) on? certainly not W as she's alive when the key arrives.

the rest of your analysis makes my head hurt. sorry. :(

though 'the red lampshade taking us back into dream land" is interesting. i hadn't thought of that. perhaps.

now, who else thinks aunt ruth is a screenwriter and that the movie we just watched is an idea for a film that she dismisses as it races thru her head after hearing an unexplained thud come from her bedroom? :)
posted by dobbs at 12:23 PM on April 18, 2002


The name of the movie is "The Sylvia North Story." I think it's an anagram! But WHAT?

http://www.wordsmith.org/anagram/anagram.cgi?anagram=The+Sylvia+North+Story
posted by djacobs at 7:02 PM on April 18, 2002


The name of the movie is "The Sylvia North Story." I think it's an anagram! But WHAT?

http://www.wordsmith.org/anagram/anagram.cgi?anagram=The+Sylvia+North+Story
posted by djacobs at 7:06 PM on April 18, 2002


dobbs:
1) it's not clear if it's the robe or not
2) they are diane selwyn's sheets
3) see last comment
4) didn't notice
5) he says "There's a Man"
6) unclear
7) unclear - do you mean coco, who is the director's mother?
posted by djacobs at 10:12 PM on April 18, 2002


djacobs: The name of the movie is "The Sylvia North Story."

where did you get this information from? what scene? from my recollection, that is the title of the film that she auditions for in the room with woody and bob, where she meets the casting director. this information is relayed at the party scene.

7) unclear - do you mean coco, who is the director's mother?

no, i meant cookie. the hotel manager and 'emcee' at club silencio.
posted by dobbs at 11:15 PM on April 18, 2002


In the audition scene, there is a faint voice in the background that says something like "Sylvia North Story, tryout blah blah" and thene Justin Theroux says "action."

Hi LA, No Rosy Tryst?
posted by djacobs at 6:00 AM on April 19, 2002


What did the monkey mean?
posted by pracowity at 6:39 AM on April 19, 2002


Ha! Thin, Rosy, Love Tryst?

(I forgot the V before)

By Monkey, do you mean the Man behind Winkies?
posted by djacobs at 8:41 AM on April 19, 2002


Some observations (finally saw it for the first time on DVD last night and have just finished my third viewing, number four just started over my shoulder as I write):

1. The blue haired woman is the movie's script supervisor (Cori Glaser).

2. I thought the bum was supposed to be death (and the old man and woman emmissaries of death).

3. Throughout the film English and Spanish are interchanged. When Betty arrives at the beginning of the film she sees a sign that says "Welcome to Los Angeles".

4. Therefore I thought that throughout the first half "Betty" and "Rita" are actually the dead Diane and Camilla, taking stock of their lives intercut with the aftermath of their deaths (the cops, Joe the hitman) and the events leading up to them (the scenes with Adam, explicitly referred to in his scene at the end - "I got the pool and she got the pool man".

5. Is it my imagination or are Laura Palmer and Ronette Pulaski sitting in the sudience at Club Silencio (on the right, three-quarters of the way back).

6. Is Club Silencio like the White/Black Lodge - the "other place"?

7. Is Irene's companion Harry?

8. Cookie, the hotel manager is also MC at Club Silencio.

I really wasn't expecting as much as I got - it really does reward multiple viewings. My admiration for David Lynch is amplified.
posted by Grangousier at 9:17 AM on May 6, 2002


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