It's time to revisit one of my old favorites. Mulholland Dr. was one of the first films to truly capture my imagination, a film that showed me movies weren't just about story, characters and acting, but could also be driven by atmosphere and instinct. Mulholland quickly established itself as a modern classic and many consider it to be David Lynch's best film (to date, one can only hope), so I was quite curious to see how well it held up after all those years.
David Lynch is one of the go-to names for people wanting to make the switch between commercial and arthouse cinema. When you grow tired of the Nolans, the Spielbergs and the Sandlers, the name Lynch is bound to pop up, no matter what road you take to explore the further realms of cinema. Those first encounters can be pretty special and overpowering, but their appeal isn't always lasting. I already rewatched Rabbits and Eraserhead and, while still great films, they didn't quite live up to their memories.
Sadly this is also the case with Mulholland Dr. It isn't that the film became bad all of a sudden, there are still a couple of truly exceptional scenes buried inside, but overall it lost some of its shine. Lynch remains a master in constructing atmosphere out of thin air, but in some ways his films just aren't as polished as they should be, the result being that they age a little faster than you'd expect them to. But don't let that deter you if you haven't seen Mulholland Dr. yet, it's still a trip worth experiencing.
The film follows Betty, a young aspiring actress who just arrived in Hollywood. Her aunt hooked her up with an apartment, but when she gets to the house she finds it occupied by a woman who introduces herself as Rita. Rita ended up at the house after a car crash, which is about everything she remembers. When Rita opens her bag and finds a truckload of money, Betty and Rita team up in order to find out what happened that fateful night.
Visually things aren't as impressive as I remembered. There are definitely good parts, the camera work in particular is still strong and deliberate, but the editing and photography let the film down. It's not that it's ugly, but the images can be a little plain and lifeless. Some very crude effects (like the intro, or the old couple at the end) don't really help either. It's a shame, because even though it's obvious Lynch spent a lot of time on the look of Mulholland Dr., the result is blander than it should be.
The score on the other hand is still as blissfully amazing as it was the first time I heard it. Angelo Badalamenti is at his best when writing scores for Lynch and from what I know of him I consider Mulholland Dr. to be his best work. The Mulholland Dr. main theme is epic and pulls you right into the film from the very first notes. The other notable soundtrack moment is the Club Silencio scene, not surprisingly the absolute high point of Mulholland Dr. Even when the visuals might let the film down from time to time, the soundtrack is always there to soften the blow.
The acting is another strong point. While the delivery and stoic performances of the first half may rise a few eyebrows, they're at least functional and put into context by the second half of the film. Mulholland Dr. was also Naomi Watts' breakthrough film and it's not all that hard to see why. Her performance is stellar, the "acting" scene in particular stands out as one of the finest performances in her career. The secondary cast is solid too, with no weak links or miscasts.
Mulholland Dr. is one of Lynch's more accessible mind benders, though it may still confuse people on their first viewing. The clues are there though and repeated viewings will clear up most of the uncertainties. Whether you actually choose to care is up to you, personally I prefer Lynch for the atmosphere he manages to create, not so much the puzzle he lays out before you. The cool thing about Mulholland Dr. is that it offers both in equal measures.
My only problem with Mullholland Dr. is that it just isn't as special anymore as it used to be. Some films manage to remain unique and exciting no matter how many times you watch them and no matter what other films you watch in between. But roughly 4000 films down the line Lynch's most popular film has lost some of its glamour. Not so much that I have to adjust my original vote though, it's still a superb film with its fair share of memorable scenes, and if you haven't seen it yet it comes warmly recommended.