Of the many, many remarkable things about David Lynch’s masterpiece, “Mulholland Drive”, its sheer visual gorgeousness stands out. You could freeze almost any moment in the film and the image captured would be beautiful enough to turn into a poster.
That’s exactly what we’ve done here, snatching an image from a YouTube of the film’s famed theatre sequence. The backstory: Rita (on the left), is an amnesiac who finds herself bloodied and stumbling on the Mulholland Drive of the title, with no idea of how she got there. Betty (on the right) is a perky, aspiring young actress who discovered Rita cowering in her shower. Together, they have been trying to unravel the mystery of who “Rita” is, where she came from, what happened to her and why her bag contains a huge stash of cash and a mysterious blue key. They have also been falling, almost unknown to each other, in love.
This being a David Lynch film, their quest – set out on with an adventurousness and eagerness which is almost Blytonesque – has taken them to dark places indeed, and the discovery of a decomposing corpse which will prove to have terrible significance. And then things take an abrupt turn from the strange to the surreal.
After one of the more famous lesbian sex scenes in movie history, they wake in the small hours of the night and find themselves mysteriously drawn to a deserted theatre – “Silencio” – where a sinister magician has begun to show them that all is definitely not as it seems. A dramatically made up woman takes the stage to sing an exquisite Spanish version of Roy Orbison’s “Crying”. Rita and Betty begin to weep , too, clinging onto each other, perhaps aware that everything is about to change.
A blue box is about to be discovered. Rita’s key will open it and turn the world inside out. A fantasy disintegrates. Sunny LA optimism sours into bitterness and darkness. Betty and Rita themselves are gone forever, to be replaced by darker and more desperate people who only happen to share the same bodies and the same city. Cruelty reigns, and murder and suicide wait patiently in the wings, knowing their time to take the stage will come.
Beautiful, unpredictable, surprisingly moving and occasionally terrifying, Mulholland Drive does make sense, if you’re prepared to join Lynch on his foray into the unknown and ignore a few red herrings. And when you do suddenly understand the film’s puzzlebox structure, the impact is searing and unforgettable.
Note – this is one of the few films Chris and I have seen at the cinema together. By the end, most of the audience were hooting with derision at the outlandish twists and turns. Chris and I ignored them and left almost breathless, furiously trying to dig out the film’s meaning. It took time but was worth the effort.