This year has been a good year for David Lynch. Since the announcement of a new series of Twin Peaks, the cultured television viewer has been desperate to devour the hotly anticipated third season the moment it drops on FX and Sky this week.
Despite this success in TV, Lynch still maintains a celebrated back catalogue of feature films that includes The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. The latter had large portions shot in 1999, with the intention of becoming a pilot for a TV series. It was rejected and Lynch reshot and edited the film to create the feature film it became.
Re-released today in the UK, in glorious 4K, Mulholland Drive was the subject of rampant criticism and praise when it was named the top film of the BBC’s Greatest Films of the 21st Century last year. In the last few moments, before Twin Peaks returns, now is the time to re-evaluate and reflect on a Lynch TV-series that never was; Mulholland Drive.
Dancing. A pillow. A midnight drive through Los Angeles. The jitterbugging, setting the scene, seems disconnected from the creases and plump of a pillow. A woman (Laura Harring), who we find out later is named “Rita”, is sat in the back seat of the car. A man raises a gun to her from the front passenger seat, but another speeding car of teenagers ploughs into them before he shoots. Impossibly, Rita stumbles out of the car with nothing more than a bloody bump to the head. Cut to Betty (Naomi Watts) arriving in LA. The lights are bright and her wide eyes and smile captures her innocence as she looks out, into the Californian sun. Inevitably the two meet. Betty unexpectedly drawn to Rita, helps her retrace her steps as it seems she has lost her memory. Rita, in fact, was a name she chose after noticing Rita Hayworth on a Gilda poster. There are also men making films and powerful players forcing directors (Justin Theroux) to cast a young actress named Camilla Rhodes (Melissa George). As we dig deeper, nothing is what it seems and the sense of a dream, and what is reality, becomes only more disorientating before we return to the truth of Mulholland Drive.
“I had a dream about this place…” is a line uttered in a conversation that’s broken from every other plot arc in the movie. Like a dream, some elements don’t perfectly add up. There are sequences that play out of order and out of sync. The nightclubs, offices, apartments and cafes in LA carry an American falseness: nothing seems real. In fact, little of it is. Critiquing Mulholland Drive must remain a challenge as it is purposefully difficult to grasp. Those who have yet to watch it – don’t worry if you struggle. Immersing yourself within it is part of the pleasure of Lynch. You’re supposed to be a little lost. Those who have seen it and remain unimpressed – don’t be so steadfast in your position. A re-watch may be what’s needed.
On this particular release of Mulholland Drive, there’s a short, subtitled deconstruction of the film, named Back to Mulholland Drive. What it uncovers is a great relief to those who can’t help but request clarification.
This is still Lynch at his most accomplished. It has Badalamenti’s atmospheric score, set-pieces and themes akin to Twin Peaks but without the enormous running time. It’s a jigsaw that remains incomplete, but with enough pieces for you to make it out. Memorable, deeply engaging and oddly hypnotic, Mulholland Drive remains a mesmerising tour de force and a necessary watch for anyone travelling to Twin Peaks anytime soon.