The un­solv­able puz­zle

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - DON­ALD CLARKE

MUL­HOL­LAND DR Di­rected by David Lynch. Star­ring Justin Th­er­oux, Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Har­ring, Ann Miller, Robert Forster. Club, lim­ited re­lease, 146 min There is a spe­cial place in hell for in­ter­net pun­dits who de­clare that they have found the “so­lu­tion” to Mul­hol­land Dr. This temp­ta­tion to view works of sur­re­al­ism – or any other branch of mod­ernism – as a crossword puz­zle has been lurk­ing for a cen­tury. If we just an­swer a few trou­bling ques­tions then we can con­struct the proper story that the au­thor has con­cealed be­neath all these diversions.

This is not to sug­gest that there aren’t help­ful foot holes scat­tered about the for­bid­ding face of David Lynch’s most re­cent great film. Mul­hol­land Dr (the ti­tle is styled thus) may ac­tu­ally be about some­thing we can write down in words. Like the pro­tag­o­nist of A Star is Born and, more re­cently, that of The Neon De­mon, Betty (Naomi Watts) has come to Los Angeles with dreams of celebrity. The city she en­coun­ters is a real place.

It is not Twin Peaks or the ghostly in­dus­trial waste­land of Eraser­head. You will learn more about the tex­ture of Hol­ly­wood from Mul­hol­land Dr than you will from the less for­bid­ding frames of La La Land. Lynch is at home to as­pi­ra­tion and dreams, but he also be­lieves in the mon­ster that lurks round the dump­ster.

Few scenes so ef­fec­tively con­vey the trans­for­ma­tive power of cinema than when Betty, work­ing with a text that has hith­erto fallen flat, con­vey­ing un­set­tlingly rich emo­tion in an au­di­tion. The pas­sion is all the more un­set­tling be­cause it is de­con­tex­tu­alised.

Are these an­swers? Let’s pre­tend they’re not. Orig­i­nally con­ceived as a tele­vi­sion se­ries, Lynch’s gor­geously mounted film hangs around the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Betty and the more mys­te­ri­ous, more po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous Rita (Laura

Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Har­ring

Har­ring). Half­way through, some­thing hap­pens and they be­come a dream in the mind of two peo­ple who look very like them. Or they may be that? If that works then run with it.

Mul­hol­land Drive (the thor­ough­fare) skirts Hol­ly­wood with­out quite be­com­ing part of it. In sec­tions it al­most en­ters the wilder­ness. We prob­a­bly shouldn’t pre­tend that this tells us any­thing about the film’s re­la­tion­ship to that part of LA, but we drop the hint any­way.

Mul­hol­land Dr is reis­sued some 15 years after it was re­leased. It was rapidly hailed as the first great US film of the cen­tury. None since has been any more pow­er­ful.

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