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Mulholland Drive (2001) *Weird & Wacky*


Intense, hot, Hollywood
Intense, hot, Hollywood

Genre: Fantasy Mystery Thriller

Starring: Naomi Watts (The Assassination of Richard NixonKing Kong (2005), Laura Harring (Silent Night, Deadly Night III: Better Watch Out!The Punisher (2004))

Directed By: David Lynch (The Short Films of David LynchBlue Velvet)

Overview: A young and naive Canadian actress arrives in L.A. with hopes of fulfilling her dreams of being a star. What she finds in her new apartment is a woman with amnesia and one whopper of a mystery.

Mulholland Drive is just as one would expect from Lynchian Cinema, a surreal mind-bender, but David Lynch has done something superb with Mulholland Drive: he made it mainstream enough to appeal to lesbian-loving jocks while still drawing the French, moustachioed, beret-wearing crowd away from their Chateau Lafite and Truffaut for two and a half hours.

In fact I would recommend Mulholland Drive to 'main-streamers' as one of Lynch's more enjoyable of the nigh-incomprehensible fantasy films he's made. It's a rich mystery that may not answer many questions, though it definitely includes many themes we can easily grasp: Hollywood corruption, interference by producers and their string-pulling secret influencers,and an actress' naïveté quickly undone by the reality that exists under that big white sign of hope

What makes Mulholland Drive accessible and appealing to the masses is  that it's beautiful, violent, and sexy as all get up, and though this, like most Avant-Garde film, has a way of taking the reward out of a story concluded, tied off and understood, David Lynch leaves enough to let people appreciate the time spent in his surreal adventure. For the art-house fans, the unfolding arcane drama combined with an art direction that is rich with moody, suspense-filled shots... what more could anyone ask for?  Ok, there's from the ever-well-received moments of lust and confusion and those those moments of unsung perfection like the powerhouse performances of tertiary characters played by Patrick Fischler, the man who recounts his dream at Winkie's and Monty Montgomery, our favourite catalytic cowboy.

Did I mention sexy? I didn't want you to miss that.
Did I mention sexy? I didn't want you to miss that.

A wonderful feature of fantastical Lynchian Cinema is how he gives enough to the audience to allow them to keep trying to pigeonhole meaning, and in this endeavour the mind scrambles to come up with different solutions, to sort meaning from symbols. Avant-Garde has a wonderful way of making you wish everything had an explanation, and who knows, maybe this Internet we bloggers write upon really does hold all the answers of David Lynch's mind and movies, or maybe Tout Paris was merely a book David caught his Production Assistant reading once, but more on her later. 

What I love about this film, and Lynch in general, is how one interpretation can work just as well as another. Sure you can cheat and look up an explanation on Google but I have a distinct feeling that David Lynch doesn't make puzzles for you to solve. So I piss on official interpretations and give you mine:
In short, this is the tale of a naïve little Ontarian girl hoping to make it big in the City of Angels and we begin to explore her life through a fantasy, one that takes quite a while to turn into expectation, and finally quickly becomes reality. In that reality even we are lost in the nightmare. A once young and hopeful woman ends up realizing that the warnings and derision of her parents have all come to  pass in such a perfect form, leaving her with no options.

I could be totally wrong, and for that, Lynch, I thank you for bringing this sweet mindfuck to our mainstream theaters, and feel free to keep it coming. I love your work. You make me happy… and confused.

Before I sign off, let me offer up one final sorting of potentials, the films' dedicatee, Jennifer Syme. Jennifer was David Lynch's Production Assistant (PA). She also played the part of a 'Junkie Girl' in Lost Highway, and dated Keanu Reeves. This - most likely - Hollywood hopeful was killed when she crashed her Jeep Cherokee late one night heading back to a party at Marilyn Manson's. Nothing else need be said about someone who worked closely with Lynch, a man whose Mulholland Drive begins and enshrouds an entire mystery around a late night inebriated car crash.

Oh, I get it. Witty
Oh, I get it. Witty.

Performance: 9 Cinematography: 9 Script: 8 Plot: 9 Mood: 10

Overall Rating: 90% (And Step On It)

If you like David Lynch's Avant-Garde style, this is a beautiful and strange adventure. More surreal than Blue Velvet, and though ever-present with similar themes as INLAND EMPIRE, it's nowhere near as convoluted. Put Mulholland Drive deep in the mire of the Lost Highway camp of intensely mysterious, absolutely re-watcheable, wondrous surreality.

Man, do I ever need to give David Lynch his own page.

| | | | | | |

Excellent review! Your interpretation is the most popular one and the beauty of this movie is that there can be so many credible interpretations. Props for giving Patrick Fischler some recognition, he was outstanding in that one scene.

I have a distinct feeling that David Lynch doesn't make puzzles for you to solve.


Definitely not true.

Mulholland Drive is ostensibly “about” a man named “Adam” who has made the wrong choice and is thrown out of his “home” (Eden). Several characters step in to guide “Adam” to make the correct choice, including a “godfather” (get it?) and a “Cowboy” who is subtly but unmistakably shown to be Christ Resurrected, the horseman of Revelation 19:21.

Who is it that “Adam” must choose? Camilla Rhodes—whose initials are Chi Rho—☧: Christ. Camilla is introduced to us in the movie after her execution is botched and her missing body is not found in what should be her tomb. After she has gone missing from her execution, “Camilla Rhodes” (Christ) goes to “Havenhurst” (heaven) where she meets its manager “Coco Lenoix,” who is shown to be God (i.e., heaven’s manager) by a variety of rather obvious symbols. Betty Elms/Diane Selwyn represent Judas, complete with a Last Supper scene and the Judas kiss. Is the allegory not obvious enough for you yet? There is much, much more. Every scene of this film is an allegorical representation of Christianity. Many of the characters in Mulholland Drive are different aspects of the triune Christian God: Coco Lenoix, the “godfather” Castigliane brothers, the “Cowboy”, “Camilla Rhodes”/Rita as the incarnate Jesus, the actor Woody Katz, the Jesus-lookalike Ed (also executed for his “history of the world, in numbers”, i.e., the Bible), Mr. Roque, and, most blasphemously, the bum behind Winkies. Humorously, Coco Lenoix’s name comes from the popular French expression à la noix de coco, which means devoid of value (sans valeur)—worthless, a prefigurement of the film’s judgment of God. Once you have this "key", the clues all become immediately obvious: double entendre dialogue, birds of paradise, cowboy hats, apartment numbers, Christian images appearing at key times, t-shirts, and on and on.

Adding all this up, there is a remarkable conclusion that cannot be missed: Mulholland Drive is by far the greatest blasphemy against the Christian God ever to appear in film. Of course, Lynch made use of concealed Christian allegory in Dune with the Christ-like Paul, complete with a scene reminiscent of the Adoration of Paul attended by giant worms. But the entirety of Mulholland Drive is concerned with a concealed allegory of the Christian Gospel with blasphemous implications.

“Adam” catches his wife in bed with a man sporting a serpent tattoo. Lynch uses many symbols to show that Adam’s hilltop garden-like home is, in fact, Eden, and that Adam’s wife is Eve, and that Gene the pool cleaner is the serpent. Adam is thrown out of his home—Eden. His wife calls him a “bastard”—Adam has no father—and says, “damn you Adam!” Later, when a mobster comes looking for him and asks if the house is Adam’s, his wife says, “like hell it is.” Adam drives to “Cooky’s downtown”—hell itself, as we are shown later by a signpost. Just as in Christian theology, “Adam” is thrown out of his home in Eden and condemned to hell, unless Adam makes the right choice. Adam must choose Christ = ☧ = Chi Rho = Camilla Rhodes. When Adam does make this choice, we see that he is returned by a "judge" to his home in paradise in the presence of the triune God.

While banished at “Cooky’s”, Adam is advised to see the Cowboy by his caring assistant Cynthia. Simultaneously, a portrait of the Virgin overlooks Adam as Cynthia speaks. Cynthia is the Virgin Mary, Mother of God. Her jewelry and upraised finger indicate Her saintliness, as in a painting. When Cynthia’s overture to Adam to spend the night at her place is rebuffed, Cynthia says “you don’t know what you’re missing.” Adam, indeed no man, has slept with the Virgin Mary, and hence all men, represented by Adam, are ignorant of this experience, which explains why Cynthia says that Adam–man– doesn’t “know what [he’s] missing.” The blasphemous implication is that Mary is not a virgin by choice, and reminds us of Voltaire’s blasphemy that that God committed the crime of adultery with the Virgin Mary.

Betty Elms/Diane Selwyn simultaneously represent Judas and all unbelievers. Betty Elms arrives onscreen with the declaration “I can’t believe it!”–damning skepticism that seals her fate from the beginning.

Even the acting scene, performed twice, is allegorical of the Christian Gospel. But blackmail is the theme of this dialog, which is, as cited by skeptics and blasphemers such as Voltaire and Paine, the condition of Christianity: choose Christ or burn forever, the ultimate blackmail. Betty practices for a movie audition with Rita/Christ, who plays the role performed later by the actor Woody Katz. During the audition, Woody says “I want to play this one close, Bob. Like it was with that girl, what’s her name, with the black hair. … I was playin’ off ’em. They say, ‘They’ll arrest you’.” Woody is playing his role like the black-haired Rita—Jesus, who was arrested. After Woody summarizes the scene as “Dad’s best friend goes to work,” the action starts:

BETTY: You’re still here?

WOODY: I came back.

BETTY: Nobody wants you here. … My parents are right upstairs! They think you’ve left. …

BETTY: You’re playing a dangerous game here. If you’re trying to blackmail me … it’s not going to work.

WOODY: You know what I want … it’s not that difficult.

BETTY: Get out before I call my dad. He trusts you … you’re his best friend. … This will be the end of everything.

WOODY: What about you? What’ll your dad think about you? …

BETTY: It’s like you said from the beginning … if I tell them what happened, they’ll arrest you and put you in jail. Get out of here before …
Betty and Woody kiss—passionately.

BETTY: I kill you.

And just to drive home the point that Woody represents Jesus Christ, Lynch adds this dialog as Sarah James and Nicki take Betty to Adam’s film, that is predestined to star Camilla:
NICKI: How about that Woody Katz?

SARAH: Oh god! … 
SARAH: Now we want to … introduce you to a director who’s a head above the rest.
He’s got a project that you would kill!

Sarah and Nicki are Roman soldiers. In the Bible, the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ garments at His crucifixion. Sarah is a “casting agent.” She leaves the set with the words “I’m sure you all have a lot to talk about.”

But Mulholland Drive at its most blasphemous is not its outward story of a love affair gone horribly wrong, but its allegorical portrayal of the Gospel account of God’s love for man, represented ultimately by the bum behind Winkie's. In the exchange between Dan and Herb over breakfast at Winkie’s, Dan says he wishes “to get rid of this god-awful feeling,” that we see a short time later is caused by a god-awful man. The entire film is about the source of Dan’s god-awful feeling: an awful God. Dan dies immediately upon seeing this God, causing Herb to exclaim “My God!” The awful man “that’s doing it,” the “bum,” the “beast,” the monster behind Winkie’s, is God. The “bum“ behind Winkie’s is also the wicked witch of the west, as evidenced by their nearly identical appearance, gender, and the numerous Wizard of Oz references used at Winkie’s, especially the broom. Therefore, the Christian God of western civilization is portrayed in a veiled manner as the wicked witch of the west (get it?!). In the book the Wizard of Oz, Winkies are little people living in the West, green pillars appear outside both the entrance to Winkies and the entrance to the Emerald City of Oz, the broom of the wicked witch of the west hangs near the “bum,” a graffito is shown that says “WEST COAST,” and the bum’s facial characteristics are very similar to the wicked witch of the west. So the bum is the wicked witch of the west. But again, the bum is a double entendre. All Lynch's dialogue associates the bum with God, and Lynch even shows us a Christian cross and Virgin Mary graffiti as Herb and Dan walk to see the bum.

In fact, Lynch himself links the bum with God in an interview with Chris Rodley:

Q: Can you say something about the scariest: the horrible, blackened derelict behind Winkies?
 A: ... I used to go there [Denny’s on Sunset Boulevard] and have breakfast ... Behind me there were three people and they were talking about God. (Lynch on Lynch, p. 277)

In the final sequence we see a living Diane die and putrefy in her bed after the Cowboy enters her room and says “Hey pretty girl, time to wake up.” Diane doesn’t wake up and accept God, and her reward is death. That is why the Cowboy looks upon Diane’s rotting corpse impassively, then closes the door—she didn’t heed his directive, so he killed her, just like he will kill all those who reject Him. As indicated by the calla lilies that Adam passes on his way out of Eden, man’s fate is old age, decrepitude, and death. These are the monsters that God releases from His dumpster behind Winkie’s. Diane’s only two options are to wait for these demons to destroy her, or to destroy herself—the Bum’s design is achieved either way.

Take the dinner party at Adam’s. The dinner party is the Last Supper, at which Jesus announces that one of His disciples, one who is eating with Him, will betray Him. The Last Supper is indicated to us by the long table with a white tablecloth, the plain settings and mostly unseen servings, the glasses, and the empty plates with solid dark borders, as represented in paintings of this event. The long, stylized kiss is the Judas Kiss, which is shown to cause a psychological break in Diane and leads to her betrayal and execution of Camilla, just as the same kiss in the Gospels leads to Jesus’ execution. Adam’s mother Coco, Coco Lenoix from the previous dream sequence, is shown in close-up taking a walnut—“noix” means nut in French. Walnuts are known as “a nut fit for the gods” and their Latin name is derived from “Jupiter’s nuts,” another indication that Coco is God.

When the “Cowboy” threatens Adam (making an appearance right after Lynch shows us a raised skull and flickering light, symbolizing "the resurrection and the light"), the Cowboy says cryptically, “Now, you will see me one more time if you do good. You will see me two more times if you do bad.” This prophesy makes no rational sense within the immediate, surrealist narrative, but it makes perfect sense within the concealed Gospel narrative. In Christian theology, a jealous God tells man that he must worship Jesus and have no other gods before Him. If man obeys, he will be rewarded with eternal life in heaven. After He was crucified and rose from the dead, Jesus will return again to earth and take all believers to heaven with him. After that, Revelation 19:11–21 tells us that a “rider on a white horse” will wage war and destroy the remaining unbelievers: “The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh” (Revelation 19:21). The Cowboy is the horse rider of Revelation 19:21. The Cowboy is the Christian God. If Adam chooses correctly, he will see the Cowboy “one more time” when Christ returns, then will be taken to heaven. If Adam does not choose correctly, he will see the Cowboy again, riding on his “white horse,” who will kill him. In the book of Revelation, this rider and His Judgment appear after the seven seals are broken. The seventh seal (Revelation 8:1) is silence in heaven—Silencio.

The love scene between Betty and Rita is another representation of the Judas kiss. After their sexual encounter, Rita takes Betty to “Club Silencio” downtown, emceed by Cooky, i.e., hell, as indicated by the signpost. Consistent with the Apostles’ Creed, Jesus descended into hell after his crucifixion, itself preceded by Judas’s kiss. Betty and Rita watch a satanic magician who tells them that the performances they witness are unreal illusions, and creates a thunderbolt, lightning, and an earthquake, just as in Ingmar Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal. In Revelation 16:17–18, the final, seventh “bowl” judgment is released upon earth—thunder, lightning, and a great earthquake, which, according to Millenialists, prepares the way for Christ’s second coming in Revelation 19:1–16 and the battle of Armageddon in Revelation 19:17–20. Rebekah del Rio then sings the Roy Orbison song “Crying” in Spanish, and, like Mary, sheds tears for Christ. After Camilla is murdered but before Diane kills herself, before, like Judas, she “fell headlong” and “burst asunder” (Acts 1:18), she reminisces despairingly by the cross formed by the frame of the third window beneath the shade, and waits for her coffee. It’s time to wake up. A resurrected Camilla appears standing next to a cross formed in another window, and Diane joyfully proclaims “Camilla, you’ve come back,” until her painful realization a moment later that this is an illusion.

Lynch uses the scene of Ed's execution to show that God responsible for Jesus' execution, a view expressed by skeptics such as Voltaire and Thomas Paine. This scene appears to be inexplicable red herring, but strongly supports the Gospel narrative. The hitman Joe murders Ed, who suggestively shares the same popular appearance as Jesus. Joe gazes happily upwards and says that he “is doing some stuff for this guy.” He wears a Union Jack—a cross—on his chest like a crusader. Therefore, “this guy” on whose behalf Joe acts is the Christian God. Joe is a crusading soldier of God, dispensing God’s justice, such as it is. While laughing at “an accident like that,” God’s crusading hitman asks “who could have foreseen that?” God—that’s who. This reinforces the view that Lynch’s intent is to portray God as a murderous tyrant who contracts man to murder His own Son. The longhaired victim Ed represents Jesus. We find in the 2d part of the film that the hitman is contracted to kill Camilla (Jesus), implying that Ed’s (Jesus’) “funny story” gets Him into “trouble,” just as Joe says. Like the living Jesus, Ed is also simply a man. The hitman takes Ed’s “history of the world in numbers”—the Bible is the history of the world in numbers. Moreover, in the book of Numbers, God commands the Israelites to sacrifice lambs “without blemish” for Him on Passover, just as Joe sacrifices Ed—Christ. Later, Joe asks a prostitute the whereabouts of the movie star Camilla, a strange question unless Camilla is actually Jesus, who consorted with prostitutes.

Mulholland Drive contains many undisguised allusions to great films from the pantheon. It tells story of a failed actress first through her eyes, then ours, and begins and ends—as does its film-on-film predecessor Sunset Boulevard—with the testimony of the victim’s corpse. And as with Jean-Luc Godard’s film-on-film Contempt, the final word is “Silencio.” Lynch adapts many key ingredients from Contempt: a doomed relationship with a beautiful, contemptuous, bewigged and betoweled Camilla/e, her severe head injury in a spectacular and highly stylized automobile accident, the vivid use of red and blue to indicate the director’s purpose, an actress’s pop singing audition, and most important, Contempt’s principal theme of “the fight against the gods.” Significantly for both Contempt and Mulholland Drive, the director Fritz Lang, played as himself, explains through Hölderlin’s poem “The Poet’s Vocation” (poetry-on-poetry) that Man is saved not through God’s presence, but His absence. Invoking a film expressing nearly open scorn for unseen god-like authority, Lynch makes numerous references to The Wizard of Oz, as well as to The Godfather, whose film-on-film sequence demonstrates the punishment for refusing to accept the Godfather’s authority—a corpse in a bed. Like Contempt, Lynch’s theme is about “the fight against the gods,” or rather, the fight against the Christian God.

There is much more to be said, especially about the significance of Lynch's prominent use of the portrait of Beatrice Cenci (who was beheaded for the murder of her father by an iron spike hammered through his head) and Lynch's themes of gruesome and violent head injuries (Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Lost Highway). But Mulholland Drive is most definitely not a disjointed series of scenes. The surrealist filmmaker David Lynch has far surpassed his predecessors Luis Buñuel and all others in making the most blasphemous, anti-Christian film of all time. And the blasphemy is so well concealed that hardly any one caught it. David Lynch is a genius.

Brilliant yes but I posted this 10 years ago, you might give some credit.

Agreed. Naturally I expected the poster to be the writer. Thanks for clearing that up Patrick. and might I add, brilliant insight!

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