Mulholland Drive turns 20: David Lynch’s masterpiece remains as elusive as it is timeless

A still from Mulholland Drive.

A still from Mulholland Drive.

In 2016, the BBC conducted a poll among 177 critics around the world to zero in on the best films of the 21st century. At the top of the list was David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001), a film that remains as elusive as it is timeless. Conceived as a TV pilot that no one wanted to produce, Lynch’s tour-de-absurd was almost never made. Twenty years after its release, in an interpretive sense, it has yet to be ‘made’. No critic, or scholar of cinema, can outright claim that Mulholland Drive has one thread which they have carefully assembled and separated from the rest. Everyone has ideas, and it is because of these infinite interpretations that the film has refused to age one day. Put it on a streaming platform today and it might still be the most outrageous original thing on it. While Lynch’s film has had many twists and audacious twists, notably a whirlwind third act that resembles an acid trip, there is one edge the film kindly takes away – its criticism of the ‘business’ of filmmaking.

Lynch’s methods defy the Baroque style of filmmaking that most writers follow. He plays with ideas of time, dreams and reality to such an extent that his cinema fills you with its uncertainties. Although he has often been criticized for creating delusional, structure-less mess, Mulholland Drive can be regarded as his most controlled yet awkward film to date. In the film we meet Betty (a surprising Naomi Watts) who has moved to Los Angeles to become an actor. Here he meets the amnesic Camilla (Laura Haring), a fellow actress, who actually strikes him out of jealousy. Which part of this narrative is dream and which part is reality is a debate that most critics and film students are trying to resolve till date. The fiery exchange of frames, a cyclical sense of time, jumps between types of realities and symbolism that still baffles today. It’s a bit of a cliché, but Mulholland Drive can never really be absorbed—only understood once in a while.

The film was named after a famous street in Los Angeles. It is a place where a lot of ‘beautiful faces’ come, to fulfill their dreams. In the film, Justin Theroux plays Adam Kesher, a cocky young director who is suddenly confronted by a mob like producers intent on imposing their will on his film. In one scene we even see a dwarf, who is the embodiment of the fictional ‘King of Hollywood’, a sly, ruthless mobster who makes all the big calls. In another scene, which is now the stuff of legend, Keshar is morally trained by a cold shepherd. “If you do well you’ll see me one more time, if you do bad you’ll see me twice,” he tells Theroux in a scene that’s growing hair out for its unique subtext. Lynch tells us that destiny in Hollywood is shaped or punctured away from the camera in a dungeon of men who can decide, with the flick of a switch or the twitch of an eyebrow, the future of “genius.” It’s a restless depiction of the industry washing and sanitizing before coming onto the sets and putting their best foot forward.

On some level Lynch’s work has always echoed the artist’s outlandish … the fact that the world has persuaded original thinkers to create rather than create. The key to understanding Lynch’s films is his use of pejorative idioms, techniques that are unhelpful enough to make uncomfortably simple points. In the casting scene, for example, two older gentlemen vibrate with unbearable anger for humanity raised on the notion of manners. The curious tics that these men possess are symbols of the power that allows you to have them as an extension of their personality. In comparison, the lesser mortals are stunned by the existence of evil, its sway—the tramp behind the diner, perhaps one of the greatest horror scenes in cinema history. With Lynch there is a forest of symbolism that you can experience however you wish. Blue Box, Key, the opera performance at the end, the film’s super sensual tone and self-referential humor in the form of a young director who is full of ideas and powerless at the same time. They can be nothing, many things and anything.

For those critical of the ambiguous world of Lynch’s films, Mulholland Drive is perhaps his most straightforward work. In it he openly criticized the world of filmmaking, its dubious posture as the moral center of the world, and the primitive nature of human beings, for stepping on another’s shoes in order to advance – the glamor and grandeur of its textured heights. in spite of. The film is a shocking work suspending both the belief and technology that we take for granted about cinema and what it can be made of. It is nothing if not impossible to breathtakingly original and boxed in. It exists entirely outside of it, which is why it won’t get old anytime soon. maybe never.

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