I was shocked yesterday and then again today to discover that there are already some people saying Mulholland Drive was the best movie of the decade. First my favorite critic, Dana Stevens of Slate, said this about David Lynch’s movie:
Unlike many Lynch acolytes, I consider Mulholland Dr. (spelled with the abbreviation, the way Lynch likes it) to be a gloriously imperfect film. No one’s ever been able to explain to my satisfaction what the whole subplot about that Dumpster-dwelling guy is about, or why Justin Theroux keeps running into that cowboy dude. But it makes my list for the sublime central love story between Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring, and for being the movie that’s inspired more and better dinner conversations than any film, perhaps, ever.
What she wrote about dinner conversations struck a chord with me. I remember when I went to see Mulholland Drive in the theater, I asked my friend Alexa to come along who had never seen a David Lynch movie. I recall that she liked it, and her first comment when we walked out was something like “I bet the director’s wife wakes up to some interesting pillow talk every morning.”
But while I thought that choosing a David Lynch film was a clever anomaly of “best-of” list writing, I was floored earlier today when I saw that another publication, Time Out New York, and its panel of critics choose Mulholland Drive as their top pick of the decade as well.
Here’s what they write:
At the top of our poll is a film split in half: a glamorous romance that suddenly morphs into bitter rejection, a Hollywood mystery that plunges into doom. Can there be another movie that speaks as resonantly—if unwittingly—to the awful moment that marked our decade? Viewers grappled over the meaning of the movie’s “blue box,” finding little purchase. But in the troubled autumn of this psychodrama’s 2001 NYC release, we might have understood it all too well. Mulholland Drive is the monster behind the diner; it’s the self-delusional dream turned into nightmare. The triumph belongs to David Lynch, who could have rested on the laurels of his three landmarks, Eraserhead, Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks. Creatively, though, he saved this project (originally a misunderstood TV pilot) from dismissal, retooling it and extending his story into complexity. Along the way, a star was born: the extraordinary Naomi Watts, whose fearless double performance wrecked all who submitted to its spell. Is the movie too dangerous and surreal to be our champion? Hardly. It was, after all, a dangerous and surreal decade.
While I certainly enjoyed Mulholland Drive and generally love David Lynch movies, I am surprised by this choice.
For the uninitiated, David Lynch does not make films for the masses. Generally speaking, his films are bizarre, scary, artfully constructed thrill rides that will leave some people wanting more and others wanting to understand WTF they just saw. His movies almost defy description until you see one, and Mulholland Drive represented Lynch’s non-linear mysterious storytelling well. I’m not sure I thought it was worthy of being deemed “the best film of the decade” though.
I remember only a few things about it including the scary, mysterious, evil man who was behind the diner near a dumpster (referenced above by both reviewers), the hot sexuality of Naomi Watts, and weird scenes of an opera singer that were muted. The evil man behind the dumpster was almost a full-scale evolution of David Lynch’s archetypal evil characters and the most succinct representation of one to date. In other words, the man behind the dumpster represents the wonderful creepiness of Lynch’s movies that haunts your mind years afterward. You will know exactly what I’ve mean if you’ve seen several David Lynch movies.
The most accessible thing David Lynch has done to date was his beloved TV series Twin Peaks. If you are interested in what David Lynch is all about, then I recommend starting there. I once proposed to some friends that we watch Blue Velvet, one of Lynch’s earlier successes and more coherent films from a plot standpoint. One person loved it, and one person thought it meant I was the weirdest person in the world. It’s good to know that in my quick research while writing this article, The Guardian in 2007 named Lynch “the most important film-maker of the current era”— so I guess I’m not alone in my weirdness.
Anyone out there have an opinion? Is the choice of Mulholland Drive odd as film of the decade, especially given that the bulk of David Lynch’s movie output was in the 1990s? Perhaps I need to watch it again.