Sunday, February 11, 2007


Movie of the week:

Last week I recommended a movie called The Straight Story by David Lynch (of Eraserhead and Twin Peaks fame). I said that the film was probably the most accessible of Lynch's movies. Unlike most of his other movies, it has wide appeal. It’s played straight (no pun intended), without venturing into the Twilight Zone. It delivers a feel good pay-off. It promotes positive social values. In fact, it has been praised both by film critics and spiritual leaders for its life-affirming message.

MULHOLLAND DR. is not like that.

No doubt that if you’ve heard anything about this film, it’s that it was strange and didn’t seem to make any sense, “What does it all mean, anyway?” For my money, this is the best and most entertaining of all David Lynch’s films, and is one of “FranksFilms 10 Favorite Films of All Time.” I will go as far as calling it brilliant! But – is it hard to follow? Does it make no sense? Well …….. yes & no. If it sounds like I’m being mysterious, that’s because this film is the ultimate mystery. Let me explain.

When you look up into the night sky in the Northern Hemisphere, Cassiopeia looms right on the horizon. It’s hard to miss – it’s the constellation that looks like a big “W”. But, if you stand on your head, it would look like an "M". And, if you were out near our sun’s nearest neighbor, Alpha Centauri, it would look somewhat different. If you look at it from even further away, it doesn’t look like a “W” at all. There may even be a point of view where it actually looks like a “P”……. could happen. In fact, there is probably only one viewpoint (our local neighborhood) from which you can see the W. This movie is a little like that.

The film is a mystery, and it IS mysterious, and chances are that, by the end of the movie, you will not have yet figured it out. Lynch doesn’t explain everything to you at the end like a Scooby-Doo adventure. You may be a little unsatisfied immediately after the film (I didn’t, but you might), but you WILL think about it afterward. You see, everything makes perfect sense if you look at it from the correct viewpoint, and it will probably make no sense at all if viewed from, say, the Crab Nebula. The more you think about it, the closer to Earth you get, and the more it looks like a W. When you finally see the W, you’ll wonder how you ever missed it in the first place.

I suppose you could cheat, and look it up on any number of film discussion sites on the Internet. I think that more has been written about this movie than any other I’ve seen – because of the “mystery” you see. However, I urge you not to (note that I didn’t include a title link at the top). It would ruin the whole enjoyment of the movie if you knew about the “twist” at the end. It would be like knowing the end of The Sixth Sense or Scream or Lucky Number Sleven before watching it. If you already know the surprise ending to the mystery film – why bother?

The film is long-ish (2 ½ hours). Why should you invest the time?

  1. The film projects an atmosphere that’s quite unlike ordinary movies. Besides, why bother with ordinary movies when you have a film like this one?
  2. You can sense something mysterious just under the surface. It’s not outwardly obvious, it more of an inkling. Except, now and then, mystery pokes its head out of its hidey-hole and grins right at you, leaving you to gape and say, “What the…? What was that? What the @!!$#%* was that!”
  3. There is great and mysterious and wonderful chemistry between the two main characters. As Martha Stewart would say, “It’s good thing.”
  4. Despite the mysteriousness of it all, Naomi Watts plays her character with such wide-eyed wonder that you can’t help but like her.
  5. If you watch this film on DVD, don’t try to skip forward or backward using the skip/back scene button – as in, “What just happened? Wait, go back, I want to see that again.” The entire film appears as a single scene on the disc. Skipping ahead puts you at the end of the film, and skipping back brings you all the way back to the beginning. I’m mystified as to why they did it that way. I guess it’s a mystery.
  6. Pay attention! There are clues. Mysterious ones.
  7. There is a single point in the film, when you instantly realize that you have been looking at things from the Crab Nebula. It’s safe, I think, to say this because knowing that it’s coming will, in no way, prepare you for it. These kinds of discoveries, that come around occasionally, are what I love about watching films. You can still be surprised and be caught off-guard.
  8. David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” was one of the most unique, interesting and innovative programs ever to air on American television. When it premiered in 1990, it was unparalleled in atmosphere and style and eeriness. It directly influenced shows like Northern Exposure, and dozens of others to follow. If you watch it today, you’d be amazed that such a series was ever put on television, and it would still feel new and unusual. MULHOLLAND DR. is a lot like that.
  9. What the…? What was that? What the @!!$#%* was that!
  10. Quick summary: A mystery mysteriously arises. The mysterious heroines are mystified. We, the viewers, become mystified. As we all delve into the mystery, everything dissolves into a mysterious enigma. Perplexed, the heroine struggles to solve the enigmatic puzzle, but alas, is overwhelmed by conundrum. Man! Now that's conundrumatic!
  11. Not to be confused with Mulholland Falls. Also a good movie, but not as good as this one.
If I give the impression that the film is just one big unfathomable mess that you won’t be able to follow, the truth is exactly the opposite. It’s totally watchable and enjoyable, and you’ll be able to follow it just fine. If you reach a "disconnect", you may realize that you need to follow a different path, but again, you should be able to do that just fine. Will you solve the mystery? I can’t say, but give yourself a chance and watch the film without knowing too much before you see it.

Make lots of popcorn for this one.


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