June 21, 2012

Queer Review: Mulholland Drive (2001)

(Note for anyone who might recall the last time I wrote a queer review, but the reason for the differences in formats has to do with the fact that the format I was using was too difficult to replicate on my iPad and my laptop, while not quite dead, is now officially on life support.)

David Lynch's foray into lesbian erotica is easily one of the most frustrating experiences in the history of cinema. It is clear from early on that Lynch did not bother to make the plot the least bit comprehensible. While the first two thirds are somewhat lucid, the last third feels like Lynch simply scribbled down random thoughts while on a drunken bender and then filmed them without bothering with basic writing tasks like editing or revision. I offer my apologies to those who might think I do neither as well.

An unknown woman (Laura Harring) is saved from certain execution while on Mulloholand Drive by a chance encounter with drag racing teenagers. The resulting accident causes her to lose her memory and subsequently, she stumbles into a nearby apartment to sleep it off. The apartment, it turns out, is being loaned out by an actress, who is currently filming in Canada, to her niece (Naomi Watts). The two woman join forces to attempt to solve the mystery and have awkward lesbian sex.

The Queering
The first thing to note about Mulholland Drive is that Lynch does not even make the slightest attempt at having anything make sense. The above synopsis is simply something I put together in order to have a synopsis and it does at least describe the basics of what happens during the first half of the movie. However, it leaves out the hitman who is having a rather bad day, the guy with the strange dream that comes true, or the sequences with a movie director being strong armed by mysterious forces to cast a specific actress in the lead role of his latest film.

The ending of Mulholland Drive, while not clear on any specifics, does make the whole story (or at least large parts of it) out to have been a dream. Worse, Lynch does not even bother to attempt to delineate between sequences are supposed to be someone dreaming and which ones are not.

I recently attended a wedding, where a former English teacher mentioned that the most common sentence she read was "and then I woke up. I would like to make note of the fact that Lynch's favorite plot device is also the same as high school composition students. I leave it to others to decide if that is significant or not.

Here's the bigger problem, if Lynch does not care enough about the story to have it make sense, why should I care? If we're not supposed to know which characters are real, which ones are supposed to be dreaming, or which ones are the figments of another characters imagination, why should I bother to unravel their fate?

This is also a somewhat random observation, but I'm starting to get the feeling that surreal films are more likely than conventional films to have queer character. Or at least I feel like I've seen more surrealist films since I started making it a point to seek out films with queer characters and subtexts. I'm not sure if this trend (if it is actually a trend) is representitive of filmmakers feeling that the lives of those who are queer are less valid and therefore do not deserve to be told in traditional fashion or if there is simply an overlap between filmmakers who make surreal films and those who wish to depict queer characters on film.

In any case there those who will adore this film and love the ambiguity as it allows them to puzzle out what exactly it's "all suposed to mean". Such a critic will probably also regularly deride Kuberick as being too mainstream and conventional. There will also be those, such as myself, who will feel Lynch's film to be a pointless exercise in meaningless tedium. And so, since, no one would consider giving a film like this 3 stars, I decided to give it 3 stars. You are not the only one who likes to mess with peoples minds Mr. Lynch.

Why? Or rather, why not?

The Rating
*** out of ****

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1 comment:

  1. Great review. I also felt it was unecessarily confusing which detracts from the overall enjoyment of the film. It started on a high, and was coherent enough, but the last half hour of dream sequences were too exaggerated.


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