Being confused can be a bad thing. Take the time I finally accepted an invitation to one of Jonny’s British boarding school parties. I had a cold and showed up with a yellow hanky hanging out of my right pocket. It led to some rather unpleasant confusion about what the hanky did or did not signal.
But confusion can also be good, like in Mulholland Drive. Is it a dream before dying? A depiction of split personalities? Life and afterlife? Alternate universes? Don’t ask me, although I’ll throw another possibility: the first half of the film is innocence; the second half is corruption. In the first half of the film, both of the girls are in a position of ignorance and, at least in that sense, innocence. Gradually they uncover evil, which is ultimately largely their own, culminating in the opening of a Pandora’s box. The second half of the film depicts knowledge, pain and malevolence as well as hints of sexual abuse. I have no totally convincing reasons for thinking that interpretation is correct, I just thought of it so I wrote it down.
Here’s what I can tell you about Mulholland Drive for sure. It serves as maybe the best example of Lynch’s Bunuel meets John Waters sense of humor. Like when a hitman accidentally shoots this weird, dumb, fat woman through a wall, then enters her office and hears her say “something bit me bad!” It has classic examples of Lynch’s creepy weirdness, like when a man finds a monster from his dreams behind a branch of Winky’s restaurant. It has some sexy sex.
Also, the film is able to convey tones with amazing precision. Broadly, it’s got the creepy, campy, bizarre, sexy and lots of others. As a specific example, the two giggly babes in the first half of the film feel just like they walked out of a Nancy Drew story, even though I’ve never read a Nancy Drew story. Another example is the pure Lynchness of a scene in which a studio exec talks to an invalid who runs – perhaps everything – from behind a protective glass wall, not to mention the famous cowboy scene. You could come across these scenes on TV and you’d know within about two seconds that Lynch was responsible for what you were seeing.
When Lynch misses, the problem is generally that the narrative is buried too far beneath the Lynchness, and what you’re left with is… well, Lost Highway. With Mulholland Drive whatever the story being told is, it is close enough to the surface to tantalize and to keep you interested. Elements, or sub-plots are clear enough, it’s just that you have to struggle to put them all together. Why are characters switching identities? Who’s perspective is all of this from? Which stories really happen? Which characters really exist? Which are actually dead, and when? And what is the linear order of all of these events? These are all good questions, and not knowing the answers is confusing, but in a good, non-accidentally-wearing-a-gay-signal-to-one-of-Jonny’s-“parties” way. If this film is really surrealist, perhaps you’re not really supposed to know the answers. The connections are more intuitive or unconscious than that.
Whatever. Things fit together enough so that as the story unfolds, you get a better, if still vague idea of what the overall picture is, which means there is a narrative flow. The acting is solid all around, but the two standouts are probably Watts and Theroux. Watts shows us as many tones as the film: Nancy Drew, Nancy attempting to act, Nancy acting well, vengeful lover and so on. Theroux doesn’t present the same diversity, but he’s a strong presence reminiscent of John Cusack. He’s cool and arrogant, but at the same time insecure and somewhat out of the loop.
Perhaps the best reasons to recommend this film are the simplest. It has good acting and characters, great scenes (like the shot through the wall scene or the cowboy scene), and fantastic visuals, like the films opening dance number and car crash. See it.
Counter Point by Jonny, With Some Help From Jaquay
Mulholland Drive is an awful movie. If you liked it you are an asshole and a moron. You are a moron because no matter how many times I ask you, there is no way you can tell me what the fucking movie was about. You’re an asshole for going along with the pseudo-intellectual crowd and liking a movie that doesn’t make any fucking sense at all. It reminds me of when I had to defend my senior thesis on Husserel’s transcendental phenomenology and inter-subjectivity. I barely understood the shit, and I had spent six months studying it. Every other asshole in my class sat there nodding their collective heads as if they had a clue what I was talking about. No one wanted to appear dumb. This is why I get so infuriated when people tell me they actually liked Mulholland Drive. The emperor is wearing no fucking clothes, folks.
I’ll cede a couple of points. The movie was very well acted. Lynch is a very good director and seems to be able to get his actors to emote anything. The lesbian scene was super smoking hot. In fact, the first time I saw Mulholland Drive was at the Lakeside Cinema in Oakland where you get to sit on couches and drink beer and eat pizza. Anyhow, when the lesbian scene happened, I noticed that every guy, myself included, crossed his legs. I don’t even like lesbian scenes all that much. In addition, the film looked good and the mood was dark and, well, Lynchy.
But who fucking cares? Tell me a story, please. Look, I’m all for art. I used to own part of a gallery for Christ’s sake. But have you ever noticed how art films tend to suck ass? Andy Wharhol made a movie where a snail crawls along a razor blade for three hours. Mulholland Drive is no different. As I tend to say, without a decent script, you ain’t got shit. In the case of Mulholland Drive, you ain’t got nothing but shit. I was talking with Jaquay about how retarded Lynch has gone. Jaquay had this to say:
the difference between lost highway and mulholland drive is that mulholland drive was good for a while. that’s what made the ending so bad. if he had thrown that ending onto lost highway, it wouldn’t have changed a thing because that movie sucked from the very first frame. Mulholland drive had potential, but just when you started to care, lynch punched you in the groin. i’m not even sure that i was still paying attention when lost highway ended.
Exactly Jaquay, exactly. To summarize, Mulholland drive is like meeting a beautiful woman who is crazy. Physically she is so gorgeous that you overlook all of her obvious faults which keep multiplying as the night goes on. When the night is finally over, you realize exactly how much you hate her. But you are afraid to admit this to your friends, because you are afraid of what they’ll say. I say, come one, don’t be a pussy. Hate Mulholland Drive like a man.
Oh, and Erich “accidently” wore a bandana to my party like Cardinal Mahoney “accidently” transferred all those boy-raping priests to other parishes.
Erich’s Rebuttal to Jonny and Jaquay’s Trash Talkin`
If you don’t like this movie you’re a pseudo-intellectual. Why? Because, although it’s an enjoyable, richly textured viewing experience, you refuse to like it because you think that pseudo-intellectuals, like movie critics, like the film for silly reasons, while you, a real intellectual would never fall for such stuff. Jackass.
I’m sure some critics came up with pseudo-intellectual justifications for liking this film. The good ones, like Roger Ebert (don’t tell me you want to fuck with Ebert!) said something like what I said: I’m not sure what it’s “about” but there is some sort of substantive narrative, and most importantly, I very much liked watching it.
Let’s play a game! Raise your hand if you like this painting.
Well do you? Yes? Can you tell me what it’s a painting of? No, because it’s non-representational.
This painting actually reminds me more of Mulholland Drive. It’s by Bruce Nauman, who is a famous contemporary artist. Now you could say that this painting has some sort of overall focus – that it’s a depiction of a kind of ambiguity, whereas Mulholland drive is just plain ambiguous (that’s debatable, of course). Fine. My point is that ambiguity is not a bad thing in a work of art. See also, Kubrick’s2001 or Bunuel and Dali’s Une Chien Andalou. Maybe all of the works I’ve mentioned are pseudo-intellectual and the people who made them and appreciate them are pseudo-intellectuals. But I kinda doubt it.
I think Mulholland drive is somewhere between the Pollack and the Nauman in that it is representing something, unlike the Pollack, but unlike the Nauman, there isn’t a clear focus, or “message,” for lack of a better word. If I knew more about art, I could have come up with a perfectly analogous famous painting, but oh well.
Hopefully, talking about paintings doesn’t make me even more of a “pseudo-intellectual.” It’s actually more of an appeal to authority on my part, rather than an attempt to look intellectual. The point is pretty simple. I’m not saying that the painting and the film are necessarily similarly motivated or anything or that they are of the same caliber as art or anything like that. I’m just saying that something can be ambiguous and still be good. Just because I can’t say exactly what Mulholland Drive is about doesn’t meant that I can’t enjoy it. It’s a simple integration of Foucault and Rorty into a post-post-modern scheme of recontextualization – done, of course, in light of the most salient insights of recent semiological investigations and, moreover, with full knowledge that the text can ultimately have aspirations no higher than that of simulacra (if not simulacra of simulacra [of simulacra?]!) and, furthermore, has no connection to that which is outside the text, which is a necessary condition for representation- while recognizing the fact that claims of direct representation are outmoded components of the authoritarian, patriarchal system of control which is disguised as an objective ontology, but is based on deeply flawed metaphysical assertions and must give way to post-colonial accounts that allow for the flourishing of identity, independent of representational claims and discard supposed direct representation so that signs may be posited independently of any unfounded -or perhaps even well-founded -metaphysical positions while being free from patriarchal, hierarchical coding, thus (ceteris paribus) establishing a berth for new ways of thinking that may ultimately cohere into a more symmetrical, accurate and comprehensive ontology following chaos models or perhaps culminate in the establishment of a collective “body without organs” existing on a macro scale or following the less organized pattern of the rhizome, if we accept the account of Deleuze and Guatarri on such matters, which is not to argue that such accounts are to be imposed, only to suggest certain prima facie possibilities for the growth of expression and, by extension, socio-political realities once the yolk of direct representation and the broader ontological scheme and social institutions represented by therein is cast off.
Jaquay’s Counter Re-Butal Point To Erich’s Spiel
ok, blah blah blah. i really couldn’t make it through whatever he wrote at the bottom. you can’t compare a movie to a painting, no matter how hard you try. why doesn’t he post some late-60’s ornette coleman up there, too? i could loan him some scribbles that i made in my notebook during 11th-grade math class, or i could fart in a can and mail it to him. that would make his point just as well, which is to say that it would not make any point at all.
i can deal with the movie comparisons, but he’s wrong about those, too. what people seem to be forgetting is that everything up to the lesbian sex scene in mulholland drive was recorded as a pilot for a TV show, which was subsequently rejected by the network (ABC, i think). the show was to have the soap-opera-esque meandering sort of storyline just like Twin Peaks. there was no end to the story, it was just a bunch of events that happened over a period of time.
After being rejected, Lynch didn’t want to waste all the footage, so he just made up a bunch of shit that didn’t make any sense. it probably would have been an excellent TV show, at least until he was forced to end it. how could you not feel cheated when the little old people were crawling out of the paper bag behind the scary restaurant and terrorizing the blond chick, after entering her apartment underneath her front door? what kind of stupid-ass bullshit is that? i could write more, but not now.
The Award Winning Pornographer Weighs In
By far one of the worst films I have ever seen. It’s pretentious, pseudo-intellectual crap that would make Warhol and Pollock vomit. Lynch has gone beyond putting the paint brush up his ass, he’s perforated his rectum with the box of crayons and expecting us not to call it a medical condition, but rather an ambiguous metaphysical conflict. Erich’s rantings at the end of his counterpoint are so similar to the methods of name dropping and theory malapropism I used to use on UCLA freshmen girls at Westwood parties to peel off their panties that I can only assume he (a) mastered the technique watching me; (b) seriously believes that Jonny’s ass tastes like French vanilla ice cream; or (c) all of the above. Trust me, Mulholland Drive is not simulacra in any sense that McLuhan or Baudrillard ever discussed; it’s not challenging an institution of power and authority, the Panopticon, as Foucault would argue, if anything it’s deconstruction of meaning through confusion is the aborted fetus of Derrida’s coke sweat tainted nightmares.
But I still think Debbie Does Dallas is a classic, so fuck me running.
Mr B’s Two Penneth
I haven’t seen it yet but will probably agree with the parts of Erich’s argument I understood.
Who fucking cares if it makes any sense if it looks good? I don’t!
I am one of the morons who liked Lost Highway.
A. It looks Great
B. Patricia Arquette’s In It Twice
C. Mr Eddy’s Car Chase
D. Marilyn Manson Gets Topped In A Snuff Movie
E. Angelo Badalamenti Composed A Rockin’ Sax Solo
What more do you need?
To Which Jonny Answers…
Plot. You need plot. Without plot, you have shit. Therefore, you like shit.
Kamdine Throws His Hat In The Ring
I have to say a few words, too… Because I got the DVD a week ago. And because I liked the movie a lot (not as much as Eraserhead, though).
Okay, what the story is about… I could tell you it’s all in Naomi Watt’s head, that she’s dreaming the whole thing and the movie actually begins when she wakes up towards the end. The rest she dreamed. She dreamed of being an innocent beginner with talent in Hollywood, she dreams that the other woman’s in love with her and needs her help…
But anyway… Why should I tell you all this? Sometimes it’s best to THINK about something. Like Lost Highway, which is a more complicated movie to understand than Mulholland Drive. I’ve seen the movie (Lost Highway) many times, I don’t know what it means. But I really enjoy it. Because I think about it. Because I’m challenged by it (and I know some of you will say: “No, if you like the movie, you’re just challenged.” There, I said it for you, no need to say it!).
It’s surrealism, the meaning is different for everybody. Just as Erich pointed out (although it’s Un Chien Andalou and not Une Chien. I’m picky and annoying, I know).
And even, okay, even if Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive didn’t have a meaning (which I don’t think so). Then they’re still great movies because of the acting, the music, the directing, the cinematography, etc.
And the bottom line is: You like it or you don’t. But you still talk about it. And that says something about the movie. Many BAD movies, people don’t even want to talk about them. So the fact that we’re talking about it here, well… it’s has to mean something.
Anyway… That’s all I had to say. Now I’m going to go watch my DVD and then watch Elephant Man and Lynch’s short films. Yeah, I’m a fan.
Jonny is Forced To Reply
This is getting infuriating. Old Jaquay perhaps said it best when he explained that Mulholland Drive angered him because it introduced several potentially interesting plot elements, and then just threw them all away at the end of the movie. Will anyone who liked the movie please address that point?
This entire debate further proves my point that most people are utter fucking morons with attention spans maybe as long as their cocks. The giant gaping plot holes, even a seeming anti-plot that Lynch dumps on us, does not bother these turkey headed fools because they don’t even realize that anything is missing. They say, “Well gee, that part looked good, so I like the whole movie.” I say, “You are dumb. Fuck you.”
Also, to address what Kamdine said above, specifically in regards to the point that since we are talking about Mulholland Drive, that very fact means something; it doesn’t mean it was a good movie. I talk about Nazis, Suicide Bombers, Soviet Russia and cheating bitches all the time. They are all horrors that pray upon my being and my soul. Erich can probably help out with the specifics, but your logic on that point is flawed. By the way, I’ve got a sock filled with doorknobs and it has all of your names on it.
Erich Attempts To Make Peace, Sort Of
As should be obvious to even the most dimwitted individual who holds and advanced degree in hyperbolic topology, the seventeen-line sentence at the end of my reply is a joke. I say, how I’m not a pseudo-intellectual, then unleash the most pseudo-intellectual sentence I can come up with. By the way, the topology thing was a joke too. I don’t think anyone reading this holds such a degree and neither do I. It (the topology thing) was a “Simpsons” reference. “The Simpsons” is a funny show on television, or “TV.”
Uh, anyway, I already said why the film can be both good and ambiguous. You can even call it surreal. This is Lynch by the way, and everyone knows he’s a legitimate film artist right? I mean, it’s not like this movie was made be “McG” or something. Why can’t Lynch take a crack at surrealism? If he fails, he fails – but how does that make him pseudo-intellectual?
As far as Jaquay’s belief that film and paintings can’t be compared, I don’t care. Build some artificial barrier if you want. The fact that there are comparable similarities between the two mediums is so obvious that I won’t even argue for it. Plus it’s not really the issue. Anyway, explain how all the bitching you guys are doing about this film doesn’t apply to 2001.
It doesn’t really matter that part of the film was originally a TV pilot. How does that prevent it from being good? Argue from what’s on the screen. The creeping old people were so rad. I guess it’s a matter of taste, but I like creepy, weird shit like that, Eraserhead and several other scenes in this film.
I can think of legitimate, negative reactions to Mulholland Drive. Like, if you were to say that the vagueness of the story just left you frustrated and bored. That’s really the crux of the issue. Jonny wants a plot. I can do without one if the other elements are strong enough. Plus the lack of a coherent story – although one always seems just out of reach – is part of the appeal of the film.
Anyway, I can see someone being plain bored by the film. But, what you guys are saying is just bullshit posturing about how you’re too smart to like it; much smarter than, say, Roger Ebert or Kenneth Turan. Sure you are…
Kamdine does indeed produce UN argument invalide. Premise one, we’re talking about the movie, conclusion, it’s a good movie. But the point that the film is at least interesting enough to talk about, as contrasted with, say Tomcats, seems to have at least some merit.
Kamdine Battles Back
The Swiss fucker’s back…
I will address the issue of: “it introduced several potentially interesting plot elements, and then just threw them all away at the end of the movie.”
Well, I don’t think that’s true at all. As I said, the movie is pretty much a long dream. So it’s not really rooted in reality. So when Watts wakes up, now she’s in real life and everything that happened before did not. So they can’t really be linked together.
That being said, I think that the plot elements do come back towards the end, because you see the people who inhabited her dreams as real people. You see who they really are not what Watts’ character dreamed them to be…
And I didn’t really say that the movie is good because we’re talking about it. I’m saying that people taking time to write about it is a good thing. Because any reaction is better than no reaction. And hate is a pretty fun reaction to get… From some other stuff I’ve written over the years, I received some interesting death threats. And I loved it.
And I’ll paraphrase what Guru Godard once said: “every film has a beginning, a middle and an end. But not necessarily in that order.” This applies to Lynch.
God bless, Hare Krishna and tomato soup for all.
Mr B. Retorts
How can you say a plot is necessary for enjoyment of a film?
You’ve got a pornographer batting on your team for christ’s sake.
To Which Jonny Quickly Replies
Although, if you watch The Award Winning Pornographer’s earlier work, you will lots and lots of plot.
I’m talking about Divine Rapture here TAWP.
I think Hustler rated it, “Totally Limp.”
I know I did.
Mr. B actually watched Mulholland Drive
I think Jaquay has a point in that because it was originally supposed to be a series then certain elements of the plot don’t get embellished upon like the guy who sees the monster in the Winkie place, where the money comes from and what the two brothers are about (although you get the feeling that they were trying to have Rita killed as well perhaps cos she stole the money from them) etc, etc…and hence why the police guy at the car crash (the bail bond guy in Jackie Brown) implies that he’s got a real mystery on his hands when he looks in the direction Rita fled in but then never makes another appearance. Actually, having thought about it, this film is set in LA so maybe the thing with Kesher and the film company and the brothers is just a jab at the suits in Hollywood as this film was financed by Canal, which is a French company.
The rest of the film is as simple as this. The films theme is about learning from your mistakes. Lynch does this with two main story lines. The Diane/Betty story and the Adam Kesher/Camilla story. Although the two stories are intertwined they actually have no bearing on each other at all other than the fact that the Rita/Camilla character is in both.
Diane’s story and Betty’s story are basically two separate stories but at the same time both are exactly the same. One a repeat of the other. Lynch shows us the beginning of the story through Betty’s eyes and the end through Diane’s eyes, Though Diane’s story obviously happens prior to Betty’s. There are a few clues that tell us these things.
1. Both are in love with Rita/Camilla
2. Both have their parts in a film taken away by the Camilla played by Harring. Lynch implies this when the grey haired actor at Betty’s audition says, “Can we do this real close like we did before, you know, with what’s her name? The dark haired one”. We are simply told at the party that the Harring Camilla was given the part in favour of Diane.
3. Both are played by the same character.
Adam Kesher’s story is also two stories. The one with the blond Camilla as the lead actress in his film and the one with the Harring Camilla as the lead in his film. Again the beginning of the story is told through the Blond Camilla/Kesher relationship and the end through the Harring Camilla/Kesher relationship. Again the two stories are different stories but are exactly the same story, though the blond Camilla’s story obviously happens prior to the Harring Camilla’s story, though this time both stories have the same ending. Again there are things that tell us these facts.
1. Both are leads in Kesher films
2. Both steal a part from Diane or Betty
3. Both have the same name
4. Bizarrely both end up with Kesher. They are both at the party at Kesher’s they both kiss each other passionately and Kesher doesn’t bat an eyelid. Both Camilla’s have the same sadistic characteristics, which is why the blond Camilla looks at Diane when she is kissing the Harring Camilla taunting her in the same way the Harring Camilla has taunted Diane by spurning her for Kesher.
Now at one point Lynch tries to confuse us by having Betty in the same scene as the blond Camilla (the one where the blond Camilla is being cast in the singing role) but this is just Lynch being Lynch and trying to confuse the issue and should be discarded as such.
So at some point both Kesher and Diane have lost everything. Kesher his wife, home, money and job, Diane the love of her life. Now the point is this. The cowboy tells Kesher that he is an arrogant fool and that he must change his ways or he will be ruined. This he does because his film gets made and he ends up with the Camilla’s (one of Lynches little jokes) so in effect he has learnt from his mistakes and profits from this. Diane cannot learn from her mistakes because she kills herself, so Betty alas, is doomed to repeat them for her.
As for the old couple, they’re just a simple representation of our good old friend Satan. When they say goodbye to Betty at the airport they climb into a car, A BIG FUCK OFF BLACK ONE!!!! Then they start laughing their heads off. Why? Because they know that Betty’s going to suffer a similar fate to Diane. That’s why they are there at the end of Diane’s story to mock her because she’s riddled with guilt, as she assumes she has killed her “lover” because the hit man wrongly assumes that the Rita/Camilla character was accidentally killed in the car crash and leaves the key on Diane’s table to signify that the job has been completed. Also, this is why Betty and Rita disappear, as after they have made love and that Betty tells Rita she loves her. The Pandora’s box has been opened so we don’t need to know what happens to Betty and Rita next because we learn this from the end of Diane’s story. It’s a repeat remember.
The only question that still puzzles me is why Keshers mum, Coco doesn’t recognise Rita/Camilla when she sees her at Betty’s aunties flat. She definitely met her at the party at Keshers. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lynch did this on purpose though in the same way Betty impossibly appears in the scene I mentioned with the blond Camilla.