Driving Mulholland With David Lynch

IMG_1700My theory is that, like Halloween, one is either a fan of David Lynch‘s films or not.  I am.  Recently, I watched Lynch’s “Mulholland Drive” for the second time, and the first time since moving to the Los Angeles area.  It was quite eye-opening.

As for the film itself, I understood more the second time around.  “Mulholland Drive” simply cannot be viewed only once (unless you are in the category of unfortunate people who don’t like David Lynch films, in which case once is probably too much).  But then I did some research, and found out some really interesting things.  Since I rented and do not own the dvd, I did not know that Lynch inserted ten clues to watching the movie inside the back cover of the dvd box.
  IMG_1697I would encourage anyone who is about to watch the movie, whether for the first time or not, to check out Lynch’s clues beforehand.  But, for dvd renters with no access to the box, be warned that every link to the clues that I found online also contains people’s interpretations of the answers, which you should skip until after you concoct your own.

After reading Lynch’s clues and different interpretations of them, I have come to my own satisfying conclusions about what happened in the movie, when it happened, and what was represented.  I really like this video of Lynch explaining (or not explaining, in typically Lynch fashion) to an English teacher who says she didn’t understand the film, “you do know, you do know for yourself, and what you know is valid.”

But beyond the satisfying task of interpreting “Mulholland Drive” lie the film’s lessons about the mythical and real “Hollywood.”  Certainly, these themes are not new, having been explored in many previous films about the movie business, such as “Sunset Boulevard,” “Barton Fink,” and “The Player.” We know them by heart: Hollywood is where naive dreams come crashing against cynical reality, often represented by the loss of innocence of the starlet or the screenwriter fresh off the bus from Kansas, etc.  But I believe that living in the Los Angeles area, where many people work in or with the film industry and all of us know people who do, gives us a different lens through which to view “Mulholland Drive” and other films about Hollywood, and thus another level of satisfaction.

For me, watching a David Lynch movie is like Hollywood itself: it both attracts and repels, sometimes simultaneously.  But at least in the case of Lynch, the attraction always wins out.

9 Replies to “Driving Mulholland With David Lynch”

  1. Personally, as much as I like Sunset Boulevard, Mulholland Drive, Barton Fink, and The Player (and I do like them a lot), I think they’re all fairly overamped melodramas that don’t really tell you all that much about the realities of working in the movie business.

    For that, I’d recommend The Big Picture, Living in Oblivion, State and Main, and possibly The Stunt Man.

    Those cover Film-School Grad Gets Eaten Alive By The Big Studios; Indy Filmmaker Gets Eaten Alive by Nightmarish Reality of Indy Filmmaking; Hollywood On Location Collides With Small-Town America; and Naive Outsider Gets Seduced By Hollywood Glamor, respectively.

    And The Stunt Man features the finest performance of Peter O’Toole’s career, IMHO, which more than compensates for its other (fairly mild) deficiencies.

  2. @lamapnerd — “The Stunt Man” was on my list in the draft of the post, but alas, it didn’t make the final cut purely for space reasons. I agree with you about this amazing film that, commercially, was largely overlooked. I’m also told that the same story that inspired “The Stunt Man” was earlier dumbed into the Burt Reynolds movie “Hooper.” If so, that pretty much says it all. I’m also a fan of the other films you mentioned. Good taste!

  3. Cross-posted.

    Hooper was (rather loosely) based on some of the real-life exploits of its director, longtime stunt coordinator Hal Needham.

    If you watch it, you may notice that one of his stunt-guy sidekicks always dresses in blue Levi’s jeans and a blue denim Levi’s jacket. That character is based on Chuck Bail, the real-life stuntman (and actor and director), who played stunt coordinator ‘Chuck Barton’ in The Stunt Man.

    Aside from that, they’re not very closely related (that I know of, anyway.) The Stunt Man was based on Paul Brodeur’s novel of the same name – which I frequently cite as an example of the fact that, on rare occasions, the movie is actually much, much better than the book it’s based on. :-)

  4. That’s weird, I was thinking about “Get Shorty” shortly after taking the pics on Mulholland. Specifically, Gene Hackman’s teeth.

  5. I know I’ve outed myself as a Lynch fan here before. (FWIW, in high school I went on a first–and last–date with a guy to Eraserhead. Ahem.) I think M.Drive is the ultimate Lynch film. When I saw it, I really thought he should just stop making films now; that he had achieved his vision. And then I saw Inland Empire, and I thought the same thing–that he should have stopped making films after M.Drive.

  6. Don’t forget about Lynch’s “Lost Highway,” which covers some of the same themes that the director later re-explored with “Mulholland Drive.”

    And while we’re on the subject of great films about Hollywood, I’ll give you a few of my faves: “Ed Wood,” “Swimming with Sharks” and “Gods and Monsters.”

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