Monday, June 20, 2016

Short Take: Mulholland Dr.

Mulholland Dr. (2001), writer-director David Lynch's Hollywood noir, begins with a glamorously beautiful woman (Laura Elena Harring) fleeing a car accident with no memory of who she is. The story follows her in her efforts to solve the mystery of her identity, with Lynch piling on absurdist scenes, narrative red herrings, and inexplicable moments of pure weirdness. The film lurches further and further into the uncanny, until it finally turns itself inside out. The earlier scenes are revealed as an allegory for the later ones (or perhaps it's the other way around), and the mystery story ultimately devolves into a character portrait of a failed actress (Naomi Watts). The film is perhaps Lynch's wittiest and most compelling effort--in short, his masterpiece. Watts' breakthrough role is an acting tour de force. She renders her character's two sides--one sunny and optimistic, the other defeated and bitter--with such distinctive, note-perfect aplomb that one may have to remind oneself that one is watching the same actress. Her finest moment is a razzle-dazzle audition scene, which she plays with a startling erotic bravura. It all adds up to one of the greatest performances in contemporary film. The other cast members include Justin Theroux, Ann Miller, Chad Everett, and Robert Forster. The cinematography is by Peter Deming. Angelo Badalamenti provided the score. The film was originally shot as a pilot episode for a proposed TV series. Lynch reworked it as a stand-alone feature.

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