Friday, May 12, 2006

It is all an illusion.

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Occasionally, I have been known to venture away from the Homefront to take the odd film course at other universities. One such course was David Lynch 101, at the Sargent & Bemis Center for the Cinematic Arts (aka, Jess and Andrew's house), a mind-opening and thoroughly amazing (and hopefully continuing) exploration into the films of one of contemporary cinema's brilliant beat-of-his-own-drummer dancers. I don't know what it is about David Lynch's movies that were so uncomfortable and offputting to me at first, but I think it is that same thing now that draws me right into them to drown inside their strangeness. As the fifth film I've seen by the mysterious director, Mulholland Drive is truly something to behold - a film unlike any other.

The story begins with a Rita (Laura Elena Harring) young woman traveling in the back of a limo which stops mysteriously before being crashed into and wreaked by drunken joyriders. Stumbling from the wreakage, and struck with amnesia, she makes her way down through the thicket by the side of the road and sneaks into a fancy apartment complex, where she until morning. The next day, we are introduced to betty (Naomi Watts), a golden-haired gal from Ontario with dreams of being a movie star, who is so bright and smiley and naive she makes Laura Dern's character Sandy in Blue Velvet look like a world-weary cynic in comparison. Upon discovering her amnesia-struck companion in the bathroom shower, she allows the young woman to continue to stay with her, trying her hand at various pieces of detective work to try and get her to remember something.

The first half of Mulholland Drive certainly resembles Blue Velvet in more ways than one. The elements of dark and light are personified once again; Betty seems to be a combination of Laura Dern's Sandy and Kyle McLaghlan's detective and/or pervert Jeffrey Beaumont, and beautiful, dark-haired, frightened Rita appears to be a cousin of Isabella Rosellini's Dorothey Valens. There is a similar descent into the dark underbelly of a community and the human mind through mostly-innocent curiosity, but there is no night at the end of the tunnel here in the same way there is with Lynch's 1986 film. The plot film gets progressively weirder, juxtoposed with vingettes involving a hitman who kills three people in order to obtain an address book and a man who sees the devil behind a wall outside of a Winkie's restaurant, and an entire subplot about a movie director (Justin Theroux) who is being pressured by some mysterious gangsters to recast a young woman named Camilla Rhodes in his film.

When the two seperate plots seem like they are about to finally come together, we are thrown a curveball that turns everything completely on its head, in every concieveable fashion. The same actresses show up again playing different people, in a different, but parallel universe. If the experience of watching Mulholland Drive from beginning to end can be likened to anything, it would be that of falling asleep halfway through a film and dreaming the rest, then waking up and only remembering bits and pieces of that dream. It blurs the lines between reality, dreams, and cinema to a beautiful and mind-boggling extent, creating a world we've never seen before, and doubtfully will again. A modern masterpiece.


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