The virtuoso director has never topped this erotic, eerie commentary on Hollywood, featuring a stunning breakthrough performance by Naomi Watts
After 16 years, David Lynchs macabre mystery still exists in its own eerily timeless modernity: it just hasnt aged a day, despite or because of its ambiguous status as period piece in an era of landlines and payphones (mobile phones existed when this film was made and it is supposed to be set in the present day, but could as easily be set in the 1940s).
Mulholland Drive is as brilliant and disquieting as anything Lynch has ever done. It is psychotically lucid, oppressively strange, but with a powerfully erotic and humanly intimate dimension that Lynch never quite achieved elsewhere. It is a fantasia of illusion and identity; a meditation on the mystery of casting in art as in life: the vital importance of finding the right role.
The breakthrough performances of Naomi Watts and Laura Harring are stunning. Watts has a quicksilver technical fluency: an ingenue, an actress, and then a has-been. Harrings face in closeup is commanding and sensually tragic, a mask of horror. She is a silent Maria Callas.
Watts is Betty, the young wannabe movie-star new in LA; Harring is the mysterious beautiful woman who loses her memory and desperately needs Bettys help. The modernist switchover effect in the third act, which flips the action and principals around into something else, is a delirious and disorienting flourish, although it all makes its own kind of sense. Lynchs formal control and the intensity of Watts and Harring bring it to a new pitch.
It is an explosively sexy love story, rocket-fuelled with vanity and cruelty. Seeing it now for the umpteenth time and I couldnt get to grips on first viewing I think I understand how its Hollywood fantasy is an escape from pain, a symptom of pain, but also a prophecy of just the kind of misery the heroine is fleeing. It would be great to see this in a double-bill with La La Land. But in what order should they be shown?
Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us