Another night, another long-winded movie review. I watched Mulholland Drive last night, even though it was way way too late. I kept thinking I should cut it off, but it was so compelling I had to keep watching.
I’ve been hearing about the movie for years, but all I’d heard was that it was “long, obtuse, and nonsensical, but it had two chicks totally making out with each other.” I wish I hadn’t dismissed it so quickly, and I’d seen it sooner. Granted, I’m not the target audience, but the sex scenes weren’t all that spectacular, and definitely not the most memorable thing about the movie. And maybe it was just the sleeping pills talking, but it all made perfect sense to me.
This has turned into something of an unintentional movie festival, since the last few movies I’ve watched have all had similar themes: passion, obsession, desire vs. reality. The story, such as it is, has already been told hundreds of times before, but where Lynch’s genius comes in is making it relevant to anyone, instead of just another True Hollywood Story. Not everyone has had a dream of going to Hollywood and becoming a Big Star in the movies, but everyone knows what it feels like to have a dream deferred. It’s never a slow, inevitable decline into disappointment — you wake up and suddenly realize that you’ve been crushed. You’ve lost everything, to the point where you’re not even the same person you once were. And Lynch tells the whole story like a dream, “distilled movie,” where you’re not bogged down in a predictable story but having images implanted directly into your brain.
This movie made me realize that for all the artifice and obscurity, David Lynch is surprisingly sentimental and traditionalist. He does innocent characters better than anyone. Never mocking them, never reducing them to caricature, but genuinely following along with excitement as they start out on a new adventure and get wrapped up in the intrigue. They’re completely earnest. They’re naive, but not stupid. And when they lose that innocence, it’s always sad, never an inevitable part of growing up (although Audrey Horne from “Twin Peaks” might be a case of that). His stories have a clear delineation between good and evil — his villains are compelling but never sympathetic; they’re cold and inscrutable, or petty and venal. They are the ones who are caricatures.
When Betty and Rita are listening to the singer perform “Crying” at the theater, they’re genuinely moved. Their emotions are completely real. Even though they’ve just been told by the MC that none of this is real, it’s all artifice, it’s all a recording. It’s all real to them. And when the singer collapses but the song continues, it’s genuinely tragic. It’s not a case of “well, we warned you not to get too wrapped up in it.” It’s an incredibly powerful scene and an amazing message: don’t limit yourself, don’t hold back, don’t be afraid to really feel something.
With all the shallow, faux-cynical, and self-consciously ironic movies we’re drowning in, it’s refreshing to realize that the most sincere-yet-not-maudlin filmmaker we have nowadays, is the one who has scenes of violent masturbation, fatal auto accidents, severed ears, and dancing midgets.
Now I’m going to have to buy the soundtrack, just for “Llorando.” And Naomi Watts was absolutely amazing. It’s so cool to see an actress who just “gets” it. She had to be all over the place in the movie, from wide-eyed innocent to spent and embittered, and she played every scene perfectly. My friend Alex tells me that in real life she’s as dumb as a bag of hammers, but I have a hard time believing that. I suspect he’s just jealous because she can do a better American accent than he can.