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Mulholland Dr.

What could be described as a "found art" project by cinema's foremost art-school dilettante, David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. (2001) is truly like no other film ever made. And — damn it — it's a frustrating experience because it bends the rules of cinema and cheats the first-time viewer by being a mystery that isn't about the mystery on the screen. However, it is one of the great DVDs, considering that Mulholland Dr. is one of those few films that actually rewards multiple viewings though its dreamy, confusing, and Buñuelian narrative. The story begins with the arrival of the exceptionally chipper and doe-eyed blonde Betty Elms (Naomi Watts), who's coming from Deep River, Ontario to Hollywood hoping to get her big acting break by relocating to her actress Aunt's apartment. But while moving in, she finds a dark-haired stranger naked in her aunt's shower. The stranger calls herself Rita (Laura Harring), but because of a car crash and assassination attempt, she now has amnesia. The only clues to her identity are a pile of cash and strange blue key found in her purse. As the two girls try and find out who Rita is, director Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) is told by men in suits that his new film must star the actress Camilla Rhodes (Melissa George), or else it will be shut down. As their sapphic interests are heightened by the mystery, the clues lead them to a decomposing body. This is only the first half of a movie that is quickly turned on its ear by a shorter second half, which reconnects most of the major plot point into a different narrative. Though it's hard to know what to make of it all, some of that has to do with the film's inception, as Mulholland Dr. was to be Lynch's return to television. And though Lynch made a pilot for ABC, it never aired as it was deemed too weird for prime time. With a rabid fan-base willing to consume anything the maestro exhumes, the pilot was resurrected when French investors gave Lynch enough money to turn the pilot into a full-length feature film. Yet, unlike the European version of the Twin Peaks pilot (which only added enough footage to give the show a false resolution), with Mulholland Dr. Lynch has completely transmogrified the project into a twisted version of the Wizard of Oz dreamworld that recast everyone in Dorothy's life into a fantastic tableaux that renders Dorothy the center of attention. Best appreciated after repeat viewings, Mulholland Dr. will probably frustrate most first-time watchers. But as a sleight-of-hand trick, it is impressive, making it David Lynch's most playful effort. Universal's DVD presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (1.78:1) with both DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Extras are limited to a trailer and cast/crew notes. No chapter stops. Keep-case.
—DSH

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