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//COMMENDED\\
FILM REPORT – MARIA ANDREI, AMERICAN STUDIES MINOR, 2004 SENIOR CLASS - UNIVERSITY OF BUCHAREST

Mulholland Drive by David Lynch

I had seen almost all of David Lynch’s films and I was already quite a fan when "Mulholland Drive" was released. What I particularly like about this director is that he is one of the few contemporary American directors that are truly innovative and practice a poetic, sometimes surreal cinema. Even more, he goes against traditional, Hollywood cinema, deconstructing not only the classic narrative technique (imperative in a Hollywood production), but also subverting the typical cinematic representation of the American culture and society by playing with cliches and creating a visual representation of the dark side of the American psyche. It is not the story, the plot (if there is one) that is important in a Lynch film, but the way he films it. He is a genuine film auteur, in the sense that his art is purely cinematic. If I were to compare him to another American director, the one that first comes to mind is Tarantino. What he has in common with Tarantino is that they both seem to play with cinematic techniques (gags especially, the episode with the killer and the black book in "Mulholland Drive" is very tarantinesque), using them to create an independent universe, a kind of art for arts sake. Still, Lynch's films are very different from those of Tarantino as they are filled with symbolism.

"Mulholland Drive" contains typical Lynch imagery, the car driving in the night with only the rear lights visible, moving on typical, creepy, Lynch music (this appears also in "Blue Velvet", "Wild at Heart" and "Lost Highway") and the Twin Peaks -like vision of a kind of network of evil, containing red curtains, weird characters, the unforgettable midget and strange voices, in this case, inquiring about "the girl". The identity of the characters is placed under question and this also happens in "Lost Highway" were you have Patricia Aquette's character changing identity suddenly in the middle of the film. Symbolically, she turns from a brunette into a blonde, and from a wife into a whore. The interesting thing is that in both films, the female characters are those whose identity is questioned. There are many hints that send us to the "femme fatale" typology of the film noir. In "Mulholland Drive" there is direct reference to Rita Hayworth, the femme fatale of Orson Welles' films and also there are a lot of mirrors and wigs involved, reminiscent of Hitchcock's feminine characters.

The ineffable quality of the feminine characters' identity in Lynch's films could be related to his credo that there is no point in making a film if one can retell it afterwards. Which is to say that the work of art should be mysterious...like a woman. There is great seductive power in the imagery of "Mulholland Drive", it fascinates you like a beautiful woman, and it uses artifices like a coquette. Patricia Arquette's character in "Lost Highway" asks the male character if he still wants her, after the dark part of her has been exposed, and when he answers that he does, she replies "You'll never have me!". That could be the voice of David Lynch addressing those that want to make sense of his films and are not pleased to love them irrationally as one loves a beautiful woman.

Therefore the essential ingredient in a Lynch film is mystery. The ineffable quality of everyday life has been overlooked by contemporary directors. But in Lynch even the diner, a most common part of American life, made overly banal by teen movies, becomes a place of mystery. And it is probably this, his greatest achievement, the fact that he has managed to turn the overused (in film) American city scenery into a dreamlike environment, with magic hiding around every dark corner. Also at the level of content it points towards a vision of life in general as a mystery; where things "are not always what they seem" and the boundary between dream and reality, artificial and genuine is never clearly drawn.

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