Mulholland Drive

I saw an episode or two of Twin Peaks (one of my friends loved it) and otherwise haven’t seen anything from David Lynch prior to this film.

The best thing to say about the film is that it seems like a dream. Dreams might be irrelevant, fleeting, and meaningless, and this movie accurately portrays this by imitating all of that.

The two scenes that generate the most emotion (the Audition and the Spanish Song) aren’t part of the plot (such as it is)… which makes me realize just how bad the movie is.

Many dreams actually have plots and many dreams ARE sensible… not Lynch’s however.

The characters are “fun” to look at. They have virtually no development… Style completely takes the place of Substance. Your dream one night can completely contradict your dream the next night.

Some scenes are played to an extreme cheese factor, such as closeups of faces in moments of no importance.

The characters seem to understand they are in a dream… they don’t bother to demand explanations. They are defeated by their own necessary ignorance.

Thankfully for Amnesia there is some semblance of a plot.

The dialogue is stilted, stylized, and parts of it made me cringe. Fortunately most of the movie is silent.

I asked myself why the light below the cattle head at Cowboy’s flickered so much before turning on… I was thinking an electrician should pay a visit. But then I realized like the entire rest of the film, it has no meaning. The one question you can never ask of this film is Why?

This perhaps stands as the most critically overrated film in history. It isn’t even a film in the traditional sense… or that is to say there is no rational base to which things like the plot relate. Which would be just fine if this rational base was replaced by something equivalent or better. But its not.

Stylized irrelevancy. I only asked Why once, and I quickly learned that nothing in this film matters. Why ask Why? Try Mulholland Drive.

Tim, this probably isn’t a good movie for your kids either.

Good point. I’d start them with something lighter from Lynch…like Blue Velvet. They may enjoy Eraserhead if they’re fond of black and white with mono sound or guys that live in radiators.

Just because you don’t understand this fantastic movie doesn’t make it crap.

Maid in Manhattan is easy to follow, perhaps you should check it out.

‘sylized irrelevancy’? huh? i actually think Mulholland Drive is one of the ‘easier’ Lynch movies to follow. Its basically about a small town girl having her dreams destroyed by trying to make it in Hollywood. The first part is the nancy drew tv dream come true and the second part is a hellish nightmare. Also, its not so much the plot thats important in a Lynch film but what you get out of the scenes… like how bout that scene with the guy freaked by the homeless man behind the dumpster!?! that was freaky! or the scene with the director getting kicked out of his house by his wife (who is having an affair with Billy Ray Cyrus)!

If you want a plot driven Lynch movie you’re better off with Elephant Man and The Straight Story… both really good movies.


The Straight Story is very, very good. Plus, it’s about Iowa.

Also, Mulholland Drive is worth seeing for the boob factor alone. I liked it, but it definitely meandered-- you can tell it’s the pilot for a television show which never materialized.

Second that. I loved Straight Story

Also, Mulholland Drive is worth seeing for the boob factor alone

Well, the kids used to be big on boobs a few years back, but Wholly thinks no, so I am going to play it safe.

Brian, Brian, Brian. First of all, saying Mulholland Drive isn’t a FILM is more absurd than saying Mafia is a puzzle game. It’s a bunch of moving pictures, isn’t it? To even assume that a “film” requires a plot by definition is narrow-minded. Perhaps what you meant to say is that it isn’t a film in the conventional sense. Well, Lynch isn’t a conventional director.

What’s funny is that you point out some of the great merits of the movie and then say they don’t account for much. Is there something wrong with a movie that has the logic of a dream? Does that make it deficient? I would say that the dreamy atmosphere is exactly what Lynch replaces the “rational base” with. While it may not be perfectly followable at every moment, it’s something everyone is familiar with.

BUT, it’s also short-sighted to imply that Lynch doesn’t have any idea what’s rationally going on in his own film. There is a logic in many of his works, it’s just a self-contained logic. had an analysis of the film that I think had a lot of good points and showed that there really is a story going on after all. Warning: Not only does it contain spoilers, but it will shape the way you see the film. You may not be able to think of it outside of this context again:

Dreams are nearly irrelevant, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a movie with dream-like qualities has to also be irrelevant. Certainly if a movie tries to imitate the qualities of dreams (not only irrational but often absurd, fleeting, highly obscure) it suffers all of the weaknesses of dreams, making it nearly impossible to make a good movie based on it.

A movie is much better off using dream-elements sparingly than using dreams as the basis for the entire film.

If there really WAS a “dream-logic” to the film there might be value. But the film had NO logic, period. Dreams usually make some kind of sense (its just a weird kind of sense). I kept waiting for some kind of sense to emerge (even a weird kind) and nothing happened. The film can be broken down into Some Fear, Some Love, Some Passion, Some Jealousy, but since I had zero care for any of the characters I really didn’t even care about THAT. I have no emotional investment in these characters because there is NO characterization. Similar to the Jason slasher films, it ends up being a Comedy because there is no emotional attachment.

The one scene that is ostensibly the show-stopper, where the showman says something like “Its all an illusion” isn’t even true. The people who made the recording that is acted out by the showpeople are NOT illusory. All the showmen are doing are (with a wink to the audience to let them know what is going on) pretending to be creating what someone else has already created. And the showmen are adding themselves to the recording to create a new experience. How humble they are when they speak of “illusion”!

With all of the acting metaphors in the picture, Lynch is trying to say something about the enforced falsity of the situation… about the echoes of true reality (ode to Plato). Although I’m no fan of actors or the acting profession, I never make the mistake of understanding what they are doing as an illusion. Actors re-interpret human experience in their own way, they examine a setting and add themselves to it through their character. Its not a false thing laid over a real thing as Lynch seems to believe. Actors re-examine human lives and on their good days at least improve them.

I never found the atmosphere to be dreamy. The camerawork, the lighting, the images, etc. were purely realistic (albeit at times eccentric such as Cowboy or Cowboy’s light, but Hollywood has more than its share of eccentrics). It was the PLOT (again, such as it was) that was dreamlike.

Hey Brian,

Here are some showtimes for Maid in Manhattan.

Maid in Manhattan (PG)

12:00, 2:15, (4:30), 7:15, 9:45, 11:30

Those movies that make you “thunk reel hard” are beyond your comprehension, so J-Lo’s latest romantic comedy should be straightforward enough to soothe your feeble lil mind.

That was weak, even by Brian Koontz post standards.

I read the analysis of the film on Salon which I thought was very good, but it doesn’t raise the value of the picture, partially because Lynch’s view of the medium of film and of acting is false and partially because even assuming Lynch’s position to be true, the film other than on an intellectual level (such as an emotional level) really doesn’t work.

Acting is about the re-examination of a human life and setting and seeing what can be created using that human life. It is certainly exploitative and the relationship between the identity of the actor and the identity of the role leaves great bounds for examination, but the result is either a FAILURE (which definitely occurs most of the time) or a success, where success means the creation of something worthwhile.

I take a photo. I then pass the photo to you. You examine the photo and notice things I never saw. Your re-examination of the photo produced dividends.

That’s what acting is. Enabling the audience to experience something that allows them to learn something (perhaps about themselves), or maybe just to teach them that there is something they could learn.

Poor Lynch… what does he think acting is?

Whatever it is, it doesn’t make for a good movie.

Thanks for the link to the article

Brian, here are some very simple ways that acting is illusion:

  1. The actor is NOT ACTUALLY the person they are pretending to be.
  2. The actor is NOT ACTUALLY experiencing the emotions and thoughts they are projecting.
  3. We are meant to react to the actor as if those things WERE real, and as if they ARE the person they are claiming to be.

Of course, #3 doesn’t usually happen, sespecially in a Hollywood film. We all know Harrison Ford isn’t the President of the United States; he’s Harrison Ford. In a film that, setting aside, is about truth and illusion – in fact, literally about dreams and waking (“Time to wake up,” quoth the cowboy) – the Hollywood setting is apropos. Watching Harrison Ford is like recognizing the illusion and the truth at the same time.

As for the film working on an emotional level, well, I was scared by the dumpster. Threatened by the cowboy. Enthralled by the stage show. And I won’t even talk about the sex scenes.

I will admit that Lynch is not a “feature length” director, in the sense that his films are better examined scene by scene – sometimes even frame by frame – than as a whole. Each scene is its own aesthetic whole, and this approach is sometimes detrimental to the entire film’s aesthetic quality. But that isn’t a bad thing; Shakespeare, I’d argue, is the same way. As a matter of personal taste, I prefer this style as it gives me overall a more rewarding experience. Every minute is worth watching for itself. There are no scenes that are there to service the whole plot with no other purpose or value. Movies that focus on your precious “plot” tend to be full of such scenes.

Actually, I thought the movie works as a whole. As you watch it, you keep getting exposed to new pieces of the puzzle, but you can’t fit them together. But your subconscious is trying to make sense of them, and the glimmers of meaning emerging in the back of your mind illuminate the new scenes as you see them, in ways that you can’t quite put words to. Then the end comes, the last piece, and the whole picture crystallizes for you in a succession of “Ah hah” moments that deepen the impression of terrible sadness that you somehow suspected was there all along.

The director doesn’t hold your hand on the way to where he’s going, because it has more of an impact if you find it yourself.

Noone is fooled. An illusion by definition is something that fools, something false that pretends to be real.

Actors aren’t pretending to be someone else, they are taking themselves and re-creating the role. They are using someone else’s (thus exploitative) life as a stepping stone toward their own re-creation.

A man might paint a picture. Does that mean he is pretending to see a different world, that which is described by the picture? After all, he then looks at his creation.

An actor takes a role (a human life within a setting) and reenvisions it, reinvents it, recreates it. It is NOT NOT NOT an attempt to REENACT it. It is not an illusion that attempts to BE the real. It is something totally different.

A man might look at a tree and then draw that tree. But the tree he draws is not the tree he sees! The eyes of humans are similar but the art of humans is very different… thus does the actor impart through his art his INTERPRETATION of the role… his improving of the role.

Lynch’s position that the actor attempts to BE the real is false… the actor attempts to use the real to create new reality!

A great acting performance is not noted for its degree of closeness to the real thing that foretold the role but rather for its degree of improvement upon it!

Lynch himself accidentally provides this truth with his Audition scene. That “performance” was not great because it was CLOSE to the real but rather because it was GREATER THAN the real. The Audition scene is my understanding in a nutshell.

Yes, they are, which is why so many Hollywood romances begin with a movie romance. It IS true however that actors have to create a schism inside themselves to differentiate their non-acting identity from their role. This very schism is what makes actors weak and overcoming this schism is often what allows an actor to give a great performance.

Method acting is all about manipulating the schism.

The reason why certain actors are better at certain roles is that their life-experiences and their knowledge have guided them toward those roles.

LOL… then they are pathetically unable to achieve what they “meant”!

What I do and what movie watchers do when watching a film is to consider the film… consider the truths the film is offering. Not consider it AS IF it were real but rather to COMPARE IT AGAINST the real.

A film is not an ATTEMPT to be real but rather an attempt to DEFEAT the real and to create reality (that is, to replace reality with the truths the film provides).

That is what all art is and films are art… to improve reality by means of replacement.

And that is what a movie watcher decides… where and when the movie is in fact victorious.

The Godfather is a tremendous example. The Godfather was great not because it was CLOSE TO the real, but because it was so much better than it.

So much better that it then INFLUENCED the Mob and public perception of the Mob ever after…

It has never been about Illusion.

No. Films are not trying to create reality. Films are art, which is all about creating an emotional response. If you go in with Dragonlance Chronicles in hand trying to fit what you see to some cockamamie schema of ‘real’ reality and ‘illusionary’ reality then obviously you’re going to miss the point, which is that Mulholland Drive is a strange, deliberately incomprehensible work of art. You can assign meanings to the various happenings, but there is no correct understanding of what it’s all about. The trick is to find a meaning which provides some kind of intellectual framework to the emotions evoked by the piece.

For films like that you’re better just letting it wash over you, then seeing what sticks; what images come to mind a few days later. Remember, he’s making the films because that’s what he wants to see and hear on screen, not to make everyone happy. Chris Columbus wants to make everyone happy. George Lucas wants everyone to buy his merchandise, which requires that they at least not be unhappy.

I’m sorry about the Dragonlance crack, but if you’re gonna make the big calls then it’s fair game. My advice - bite the bullet and check out Lost Highway too; it’s way less understandable than MD, but damn is it good. Then come back and post.


I’m highly unlikely to watch anything else by Lynch. Apparently the problem with Lynch’s movie was that it WAS understood.

Watched the movie for the first time last week. Sorry but I’m not biting.

The following review sums up my feelings about this film to a T.

I was really confused for a while after watching it the first time. Then I thought about it for a day and watched it again, and I think I worked it out: the actual events depicted in the movie take place over about 24 hours. The majority of the movie is not real events, but is made up of the dreams, fantasies, and memories of Diane, the skanky version of “Betty”. Everything in the first 2/3 of the movie involving Betty and Rita is Diane’s dream. So, if you look at the movie from the very beginning, the Jitterbug dance sequence is Diane’s memory of the Jitterbug contest she won in Canada that got her on the road to acting. The old people are maybe her grandparents. Immediately after the opening scene is a first-person perspective shot of Diane’s bedroom, very blurry. We see the pillow coming up to meet the camera as Diane lies down and falls asleep. The next scene, of the limo driving on Mulholland Dr. at night, is the beginning of Diane’s dream. The whole point of the dream is that Diane is creating a “dream-place” where her and Rita/Camilla can be together again. The dream dialog has a 1950’s gee-whiz feel to it, perhaps because Diane is influenced by the film she was in of Adam’s that was set in the 50’s. The device of the femme fatale who has lost her memory is basically Diane’s way of having control over Camilla–she gets to name her Rita, dress her up like a doll (remember that red top and black outfit Rita was wearing when they went to investigate Diane’s apartment? Rowr!), do her hair (and in the scene after Betty puts the wig on Rita and looks in the mirror, at first you think Rita is a mannequin she looks so unreal), and finally, seduce her.

Mixed in with these fantasies in the dream are undertones of danger and fear, which come to a climax with finding the dead body, and of sadness and loss, which culminate in the nightclub Silencio and the singing of Roy Orbison’s Crying by Rebekah Del Rio.
The box opening is the dream ending and Diane waking up to the knocking of her “rebound” lover after Camilla, the neighbor, coming by to pick up the last of her possessions from their breakup, and informing her that “those detectives” are looking for her. So we are back in the “present”, and Diane is looking like hell, and has the law interested in her. She brews some coffee and has a fantasy of Camilla returning to her. She takes her coffee to the couch and remembers the sequence of events leading up to her being here with the blue key on the coffee table.

First she recalls the last time she and Camilla had a tryst, and Camilla ended it. She remembers the dinner party in which she was humiliated and found out that Camilla was dumping her for Adam and a new lesbian friend, and we learn about how Diane and Camilla actually met: Diane has basically been a hanger-on, getting little roles in Camilla’s movies, rather than being the phenomenal actress whose screen test was both highly erotic and excruciating to watch.

Finally, she remembers meeting with a man and hiring him to kill Camilla, who has spurned her. The blue key is his calling card, and the fact that it is sitting on the coffee table in the present means that the deed has been done, which explains why Diane looks so bad: she is wracked by guilt and loss. The evil old people are her personal demons or conscience coming back to her, and the final scene where they appear under the door and chase her is Diane’s mental breakdown when the cops arrive to arrest her for Camilla’s murder: the red flashing lights are from the police cruisers, and the banging on the door is a detective. She runs into the bedroom and shoots herself, and we see Diana and Camilla reunited in the afterlife.

All the doublings of items and people from the first part of the movie to the last are just Diane using things she saw in waking life in her dream, like changing Coco from Adam’s mother to the landlord of her dream apartment, transforming the blue key, etc. As for what the real life blue key unlocked, I don’t know. Someone said there is a blue box in the drawer when she grabs the gun, maybe the hitman put Camilla’s ear in it and delivered it as proof that she was dead.

So there you go. I think it is a very sad and poignant film from that perspective, because Diane’s dream is so pathetically doomed and charged with deep longing, especially Veronika Del Rio’s singing.