2022 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 16: Mulholland Drive (2001)

16. MAKING THE 3RD WALL: One where they’re filming a movie within the movie you’re watching.

Smarter minds and better writers have already written about the work of David Lynch, so let me write a lot about what this movie means to me at 3 AM. This may be the best way to do this.

“A love story in the city of dreams.”

Originally shot as a TV pilot that its ABC didn’t understand but come on. Do you expect them to? It was supposedly intended to be a series about Audrey Horne. What amazes me is that — according to David Lynch — the decision maker at ABC who saw it watched it at 6AM and was having coffee and standing up. That person is the reason this became a movie and not a TV show.

Naomi Watts is both Betty Elms and Diane Selwyn. Laura Harring is Rita and Camilla Rhodes. The film starts with a car crash and ends with a gunshot. In-between are moments like a man claiming that if he sees the evil man from his dreams, he’ll die. And then he does.

Sometimes this movie makes my head hurt. I guess some movies don’t need explained but this begs for you to understand what it’s about. Is Betty real? Diane? Both? Does the Hollywood experience match that of star Watts? Is the death of the Hollywood fantasy Lynch’s own anger at an industry that he still had to hustle for money? Are these parallel universes? Can everyone exist at the same time in the same place?

It’s also about Club Silencio, where everything is an illusion. A place where Rebekah Del Rio sings “Crying” in Spanish and passes out while her vocals keep singing. Lynch again using recorded vocals for live singers, lip synching so many time. Plus Lynch knows who to hire, like Ann Miller, James Karen, Dan Hedaya and Lee Grant.

What is it like to be an actor in one of Lynch’s movies, perhaps only understanding the most limited outline of the story? I think it’d be so interesting because there’s no way to ever know if you’re playing things the right way. Even you, the person reading this, will it in its own way. What other director can do that?

2 thoughts on “2022 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 16: Mulholland Drive (2001)

  1. Heh, just rewatched this again yesterday, as a part of my project to finally watch everything, even the dumbest short films made by him. 🙂

    I consider this one of the 2 or 3 absolutely perfect movies I’ve seen, and the pinnacle of his career.

    The reason for that is while in other Lynch movies we see him reflecting on his own experiences (which, for an outsider, could be impossible to decipher unless he talks about them in interviews), in this one, the first 2 hours are reflections of what a character does in the remainder of the story. This way his thinking, the way he distorts trauma into jumbled memories and dreams is more transparent and impressive.

    Which is, honestly, by far his most logical, easily followable story – not counting The Elephant Man and The Straight Story, obv.

    Did I understand it on the first viewing, a long time ago? HELL no.

    Am I sure about what was he trying to achieve with the old couple? Of course not, but I feel like that’s an unrealistic expectation about someone who very clearly does not worry about us not doing so.

    I just hope that this time I can finally finish Inland Empire, holy crap, I could not suffer through that thing back when. -_-


  2. Oh, about your last paragraph:
    apparently Naomi Watts figured out the story during shooting, which is quite impressive, actors often don’t even get instructions from him to keep things feel more unreal. 🙂

    Also forgot to mention that hers is one of the best performances I’ve ever seen, tells you something about the moneybags behind movies that:
    1. She tought her career was dead before Lynch hired her.
    2. This was originally supposed to be a TV-pilot, bud they didn’t pick it up, because they considered her and Harring to be too old… Worked out for the best though.


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