David Lynch may be America’s premier modern surrealist. His films embrace a dream logic, the kind that makes sense from squinting distance, but defies closer examination. He uses this lens to explore themes that interest him, often interested in deconstructing Americana and exploring subjects like infidelity.
So, naturally, when Mulholland Drive does exactly that, to brilliant effect.
The inversion of Mulholland Drive‘s third act certainly seems to be the kind of Lynchian deconstruction we’ve come to expect throughout his career, toppling our ideas and expectations of these characters on their heads. This could only possibly work with a great leading actress to fill the role of Diane/Betty, and Naomi Watts is simply thrilling and captivating here in both roles. It’s been said that Kyle Maclachlan is Lynch’s muse, and while that’s certainly true (Blue Velvet, Dune, Twin Peaks), it seems like Watts is something of a secondary muse for him (her work in Twin Peaks recently has been some of the best she’s done in years). Watts is able to one moment project an image of naivety and innocence that is thoroughly convincing, and in the next inhabit the jaded inversion of that.
There’s a lot of Mulholland Drive that still doesn’t really make sense. The genesis of this project as an abandoned TV pilot helps to explain some of these dangling threads, but left in as they are, the best interpretation I can offer is that the added color to the world tells us a lot about what Lynch is interested in. He’s always been a filmmaker who doesn’t shy away from taking his time to focus on a detail or story that may not seem relevant to story so much as theme and environment, so even if we some of the stuff to do with the Mark Pellegrino character in Mulholland Drive, or the dwarf, or Justin Theroux and his cheating wife, seems largely peripheral and at odds with what’s happening, Lynch’s ability to add vivid color and detail justifies these choices nonetheless.
With all that said, one of the hallmarks of Lynch is that it’s all up to interpretation. In watching a Lynch film, your interpretation largely becomes a reflection of yourself, and your state of mind at the time. If (when) I revisit this film in years, it’s entirely possible I’ll find a wholly different meaning here.
There may not ever be another filmmaker quite like David Lynch.
I’ve been watching Twin Peaks recently, and I’ll be writing a bit about that in the next couple of days, but certainly Twin Peaks would seem to be quintessentially peak Lynch.