Mulholland Dr. came to us haunted – a jilted starlet, a potential Magnificent Ambersons slash-up, a Barton Fink feeling refused for being too much a “Barton Fink” feeling. It was a rejected TV pilot, reportedly turned down for confusing narrative, actresses ludicrously deemed too old, disturbed images and Ann Miller sucking on a ciggie. By design, David Lynch was already echoing the Hollywood dream machine and movies reflecting our own dreams, those ghosts and futures, perhaps subconsciously, knowing all along this was to be a feature film fever dream. An overlapping reverie and reality; sex, suicide and silenco -- this is Peg Entwistle diving off that Hollywood sign and floating in a cloud of smiling female phantoms. It’s also America, the beautiful and the bizarre, its romanticism, dysfunction, cruelty and absurdity. We love movies. The world loves movies. But America’s often freakish, surreal desperation towards “glamour” when upturned can be as ugly and as horrifying as Winkie’s dream. And this masterpiece, Mulholland Dr., is as powerful and as prescient today, a lilting celluloid sickness real or imagined through the eyes of wide-eyed talent Betty (Naomi Watts, in a career-defining performance) turned to tragic Diane, angrily, heartbreakingly masturbating in a sad, sagging apartment.
It’s so gorgeous and so painful, so mysterious and in many ways, so recognizable (drive on the actual road, Mulholland, at night, and then walk from Western to Vermont, you’ll see…), that, whatever theory you ascribe to it, the picture does indeed reflect a reality that moves beyond the geography of Southern California and parks itself in our brains, tapping into our dreams, deepest fears, inscrutable natures, erotic desires, pool boys and dumped paint on jewelry. Duality separates and intersects – just as W. H. Auden and James Ellroy oppositely entitled Los Angeles, for many of the same reasons, respectively: “The Great Wrong Place” and “The Great Right Place.” Well, we think we know one thing. We think: “This is the girl.”
Originally published at the BBC