Thursday, April 22, 2010

2001: Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch)

2001: Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch) 
One thing people don't discuss all that much when it comes to David Lynch is his relationship to film noir.  When I look at the majority of his career -- Blue VelvetWild at HeartTwin Peaks TV show and film, Lost HighwayMulholland Dr., and Inland Empire -- as much as anything else, I see influences and traces of noir.  Sure he blends genre, and sure his films challenge us to reconsider the look, feel, and sound of noir, but so many elements of noir are present.  And I say this as a compliment.  After all, noir is the genre I know best, and probably the one that got me into all this in the first place.

I won't break down and analyze all the noir elements I see in Mulholland Dr.  But I will at least make a quick mention of them:  the theme of amnesia, a deep relationship to a specific city and locale, a serpentine plot, a non-linear narrative, a femme fatale, a fatalistic tone, obscurity in favor of clarity, elements of crime, and an emphasis on the nocturnal.    

Mulholland Dr. combines all of Lynch's talents -- mastery of noir, humor, and sexiness -- into an incredibly powerful and fresh concoction.  I love almost all of Lynch's work, but this one has some of his most memorable characters.  It is also one of his more accessible and relatively audience-friendly works.  As always with Lynch, Mulholland Dr. is both entertaining and smart, and looks and sounds amazing.

Other contenders for 2001:  From this year, I still have some things to see.  These include: Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums, Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World, Seijun Suzuki's Pistol Opera, Jafar Panahi's The Circle, Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone, Yves Lavandier's Oui, mais..., and Pedro Costa's Ou git votre sourire enfoui?  From this year, I really like Catherine Breillat's Fat Girl and Sean Penn's The Pledge.  I love Steven Spielberg's Artificial Intelligence: AI, Jacques Rivette's Va savoir, Hou Hsiao-hsien's Millennium Mambo, and Dover Kosashvili's Late Marriage. And my closest runner-up is Tsai Ming-liang's What Time Is It There?

8/29/10 I watched Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums.  I've always struggled a little with his cinema.  He has wonderful taste in music, his cinema is quite unique and of one piece, but it leaves me a little frustrated.  I'm not sure if it's whether I find it too quirky and interested in being hip, or I struggle with something else in his work.  He's a talent.  I just have different wants and needs, I think, when it comes to the medium. 

12/10/10 I watched Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World.  Zwigoff has a little of Woody Allen's sensibility and an extraordinary sense of humor, at times.  I wish this film was a little less quirky and the visuals a little less glossy.  But it's mostly a fun, pretty original little film.  

12/11/10 I watched Julio Medem's Sex and Lucia.  Sexy, for sure.  But not really my type of film.  Complex like the Inarritu movies, with an aesthetic that I found a little on the ugly and messy side.  

12/21/10 I watched Jean-Luc Godard's In Praise of Love.  Godard has not abandoned his path one bit.  He continues to believe that the role of an artist is to provide a mirror on his/her world, and he continues to believe in the power of thought, analysis, and information as a weapon rather than as a crutch.  His style here is more like Chris Marker's filmmaking, but he still has the ability to be lyrical, incredibly perceptive, and bold.   It's good to see him looking at Paris again.  I just wish, at times, that his style was a little more vital, and his thoughts a little easier to follow.  

1/3/11 I watched Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down.  It's amazing that Scott was able to make one battle sequence stretch almost two hours.  He finds a few moments, here and there.  But all in all, I thought it a little less than its reputation. 

9/1/14 I watched Manoel de Oliveira's I'm Going Home.  Only the second film I have so far from the celebrated Portuguese filmmaker and again I was impressed, moved and encouraged to seek out and watch more of his work.  At times his aesthetic and sensibility remind me of Rohmer or even Rivette, something very loose and smart, and it does not hurt that this film takes place in Paris and features Michel Piccoli and Catherine Deneuve.  The title holds several different meanings and the final image perpetuates the contemplative mood and tone that seems to be one of the hallmarks of de Oliveira.  

3/13/22 I watched Frederick Wiseman's Domestic Violence.  Another courageous, unflinching look from Wiseman.  It has some tremendous passages but I was never as involved as I sometimes get in some of my favorite Wiseman films.  

12/10/23 I watched Manoel de Oliveira's Porto of My Childhood.  Struck me as a mixture of a memory film from Godard and Marker.  Poetic and fully felt even if I could not follow it all. 


  1. Great choice, of course, and no contest for me since this is one of my favorite few films of all time. And yes, Lynch owes a great debt to noir, which inflects much of his work. I've long argued that Kiss Me Deadly, specifically, was a big influence on Lost Highway and Mulholland Dr.: the exploding cabin, the mysterious Pandora's box, the clench between Mike and Velma reflected in Betty's acting audition, the garage with its flamboyant owner. Elements of the Aldrich film weave through both of these Lynch masterworks.

  2. Ed, well put. I've never thought of KISS ME DEADLY directly, but now that you say it, it makes a ton of sense.

    Great addition, Ed! Thanks so much.

  3. I love Mulholland Dr. too, as well as Millennium Mambo and Fat Girl and Ali and Va savoir and What Time Is It There and several others. But my pick would probably be Godard's In Praise Of Love. It's one of his best films, and unfortunately it's been largely dismissed in this country because of its alleged anti-Americanism, whatever that means. It's such a beautiful film, and although it deals with a French director trying to make a movie and researching Catholics in the Resistance, it's really not about narrative. I recommend it, there is extraordinary depth of feeling present.

  4. Doniphon, great heads-up! You know, I haven't seen this Godard yet. In fact, I think the last one of his films I saw was FOREVER MOZART. Thanks for bringing this one to the fore. Always great to have you here!

  5. I certainly agree with Doniphon about the worth of the Godard film, which was unfairly dismissed because Godard had the gall to poke fun at Steven Spielberg, an unforgiveable crime apparently. It shows Godard continuing to grapple with images and representation, with history and the Holocaust, with the nature of love. It really is a great film, especially the scene where Godard himself delivers a lecture about the image, inserting his own metafictional commentary into the film. And the use of digital effects is amazing, as Godard continues to push the capabilities of new technology in unexpected directions, exploiting the specifically digital, artificial qualities of video.

  6. MULHOLLAND DRIVE is good one and certainly my top pick for this year. I really felt that in some respects, LOST HIGHWAY was a warm-up for MULHOLLAND DRIVE, exploring a lot of the same themes and, of course, wrapping it up a neo-noir look.

  7. MULHOLLAND DRIVE, which ou Canadien writer James Clark reviewed superbly weeks back, is certainly a choice that seems to have unanimous concensus on, and Ed Howard, Donophon, Dave, John and J.D. (and Joel Bocko, Andrew Wyatt, Jamie and Allan Fish have made compelling cases for at one time or another). I'm afraid it's not my absolute favorite Lynch, but I respect its greatness, and know it regularly places at the #1 film of the decade in the most prestigious critical quarters. I think to this day I am still trying to solve it's cryptic context, which of course is a very good thing. Still, I have the film as the very first runner up of this year.

    Brilliant, lucid stuff here Jeffrey:

    "I won't break down and analyze all the noir elements I see in Mulholland Dr. But I will at least make a quick mention of them: the theme of amnesia, a deep relationship to a specific city and locale, a serpentine plot, a non-linear narrative, a femme fatale, a fatalistic tone, obscurity in favor of clarity, elements of crime, and an emphasis on the nocturnal."

    Own #1 Film of 2001:

    A. I. Artificial Intelligence (Spielberg; USA)


    Mulholland Drive (Lynch; USA)
    Oui Mais (Lavender; France)
    The Fellowship of the Rings (Jackson; New Zealand; USA)
    Spirited Away (Miyazaki; Japan)
    Atanarjuat (Kunuk; Canada)
    Y Tu Mama Tambien (Cuaron; Mexico)
    Gosford Park (Altman; USA)
    In the Bedroom (Field; USA)
    What Time is It There? (Ming-Liang; Hong Kong)
    The Devil's Backbone (Del Toro; Spain)
    Beijing Bicycle (Xiaoshuai; China)
    The Piano Teacher (Henecke; France)
    Band of Brothers (Spielberg; USA)
    The Royal Tenenbaums (Anderson; USA)

  8. JD, very well said. I absolutely agree that LOST HIGHWAY and MULHOLLAND DR. feel like sibling films.

    Good stuff! Thanks so much, JD.

  9. Sam, I actually slightly prefer BLUE VELVET to MULHOLLAND DR. But I do love them both! And your #1 I only recently discovered, and it absolutely blew me away, too.

    Thanks, Sam! Really appreciate the great addition and kind words.

  10. I have had a tough time choosing between MD and A.I. On Dave’s site I selected Spielberg’s film so to be fare I will give equal opportunity to Lynch this time (ha!). I really admire both of these works.

    Great points on the noir aspects of

    Mulholland Drive!
    Mullholland Drive
    Thr Others
    In The Bedroom
    Royal Tenenbaums
    Gosford Park
    Monster’s Ball

  11. John, thanks so much for the kind words! From your list, I like THE OTHERS, IN THE BEDROOM, and GOSFORD PARK although all a little less than the ones I mentioned. And I struggled a little with MONSTER'S BALL the one time I saw it.

    Thanks, John. Always great to have you here!

  12. Sorry for checking in late on this one, Jeffrey, but there's not much I can add to already superb analysis for Mulholland Dr. It is EASILY my pick for this year and one of my all time favorite films.

  13. Thanks, Dave! Absolutely no apology necessary. You've been incredibly supportive from day one!

    We're totally on the same page with this one!