Dir. David Lynch. U.S. 2001.

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Having now seen Mulholland Dr. (to give the correct title) three times, I can make a little more sense of David Lynch's film which, according to several critics, was the greatest film of the naughties decade.  This review, which contains spoilers, is intended for initiates, and for anyone who has seen it but remains mystified.

The first hour-and-a-half or so comprises two broad narratives.  The primary one concerns aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts) arriving in Los Angeles to seek fame and fortune, who meets up with another girl (Laura Elena Harring) who has lost her memory after a car crash but calls herself Rita.  Following some detective work by Betty, "Rita" announces she is actually Diane Selwyn, but cannot remember where she lives.  After more detective work they find the house and break in, only to find a dead girl on the bed, the girl we have known as Betty.

The secondary narrative concerns Adam (Justin Theroux), a film director having a bad time.  The studio bosses force him to cast a girl he doesn't want, and he finds his wife in bed with another man.  These two narratives are interspersed with some apparently irrelevant scenes, one involving a bungling hit-man, another about a man who has nightmares in a diner.

The final third of the film reveals that what we have been following is a dream, the dream of Diane Selwyn (aka "Betty"), a washed-up would-be actress plotting revenge against her ex-lover Camilla (aka "Rita" aka "Diane").  Characters in her life, even phrases such as "this is the girl", turn up in the dream under different guises.

However, David Lynch's world is even more confusing and surreal.  There is a long and extremely weird section set in the "Club Silencio" ("Silencio" is the final word spoken in the film) where performers lip-synch to songs, and I have yet to fathom out the meaning of this.  I'm also not sure if the planned murder we hear about actually takes place in reality, but maybe (or maybe not) a further viewing might reveal this.

So, if you like films which demand to be seen several times for their full meaning (if they have one) to be teased out, Mulholland Dr. may be just the film for you.  It certainly contains memorable scenes, striking photography, a stunning performance by Naomi Watts in portraying two totally opposite characters, and some catchy doo-wop numbers.  If you're familiar with Rivette's Celine and Julie Go Boating, and Bergman's Persona, imagine a combination of those two films as directed by Bunuel, and you may begin to get the idea.  Plus, the DVD contains some possible "clues to unlocking this thriller" provided by Lynch, such as "who gives a key, and why?", and "notice the robe, the ashtray, the coffee cup".

Mulholland Dr. has established itself as a modern classic, and for this reason alone deserves to be seen.  Whether you will agree with those critics who hail it as a masterpiece is, more than for most films, a matter of personal taste.

Alan Pavelin

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