Hollywood Confidential
Mulholland Mystery

By Jeffrey Wells

Most of the people I've spoken to about Mulholland Drive, David Lynch's spooky Los Angeles noir about a couple of beautiful women trying to get to the bottom of some very creepy occurrences, feel it's too perplexing for its own good.

Others, myself included, feel otherwise. Some are saying it's a masterpiece. I wouldn't go that far, but for me the strands definitely come together at the end, which is more than I could say for Lynch's last two spooky-weird films, Lost Highway and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. (Which were followed by the curiously wholesome The Straight Story.) Is Mulholland neat, tidy and linear? No. But anyone should be able to figure it out, providing they're willing to indulge in a little dream logic.

That means, of course, given the levels of receptivity to this sort of thing out in mainstream America, that Mulholland Drive doesn't have much of a chance of being a big hit, or perhaps even a marginal one. But if you have the slightest yen for eerie adventure inside a darkened movie theater, and if your mind is elastic enough to process a surreal experience without it leading to feelings of pique or frustration, please see it. This is one major head-bender, in the best possible sense of the term.

The more I think about it, in fact, the more I'm convinced that Mulholland Drive belongs on my short list of the year's best films.
I described it last month in one of my Toronto Film Festival columns as "a series of bizarre, loosely connected skits about a couple of beautiful women (Naomi Watts, Laura Harring) trying to solve an L.A. murder mystery." I won't describe it any further than that, nor do I think it's a good idea to try to explain how it all ties together. The fun of it, after all, is in trying to piece it together yourself.

The only thing I'd say differently, having mulled it over the last two or three weeks, is that these skits do, in fact, blend into a kind of whole. For those who intend to see it, I'll drop one hint as to what I'm fairly sure it's about, and I'll say it in five words: love unrequited, denied, yearned for.

At yesterday afternoon's press conference, which followed a 10:30 A.M. screening at the Walter Reade Theatre, Lynch — in his usual oblique but charming way — refused to connect the dots for those journalists who were feeling confused and looking for a little help.

He said at one point that explaining the whys and wherefores can "putrify" the experience of seeing a film, "which is not such a good thing."

A few minutes later a journalist asked if, given the scary things that happen to the Watts and Harring characters and the fact that Watts plays a naïve, aspiring actress, whether Mulholland Drive "could be seen as a cautionary tale about actresses coming to Hollywood." Lynch thought for a second and said, "It's it's it's it's about that, yeah."

Then a woman sitting off to the side asked him to explain the meaning of a scene in which two men are seen talking in a fast-food restaurant, and then a subsequent scene in which they walk around to the back of the restaurant and come upon well, I'm not going to say, but it's a bit of a shock. Grinning slightly, Lynch paused for a couple of seconds and said, "They're there and they give you a feeling, and you can put those things together and make of it what you will, and that's what it is."

Perfect answer!

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