Published Sep 01, 2001David Lynch's new film, "Mulholland Drive," is a re-assemblage of an ill-fated TV series that he pitched to ABC a couple of years ago. Some new scenes have been shot and now it's a strange hybrid, ungainly at times but extremely powerful; part dark mystery, part indecipherable head-trip. There's going to be a lot of bickering and debate about this film, and it will all center on the following question: "Just what happens after Rita opens the blue box?" I don't think anyone will really understand the last half hour or so, but you can certainly begin to understand it, and perhaps more satisfyingly, you can dream about it afterwards (and you probably will).
It all begins in a timeless Los Angeles where a beautiful dark haired woman (Laura Harring) stumbles from the wreckage of her limousine and makes her way, in an amnesiac daze, to an empty apartment as a safe haven (it looks like "Melrose Place"). Enter Betty, (Naomi Watts), an impossibly cute aspiring actress from Deep River, Ontario who moves into that very apartment only to find the trouble dark haired beauty (who dubs herself Rita, after Rita Hayworth) taking a shower. Soon, Betty guilelessly begins helping Rita hunt down the murky details of her past (she was about to be the target of a hit before the car accident ironically saved her life), and the two women proceed from being blank slates to having something like a shared identity. And when they eventually, perhaps inevitably, get together between the sheets, it may leave you a little breathless.
There's an obsessive, perpetually fascinated energy to "Mulholland Drive." Lynch combines a few other related plot threads into the mix (a hit man, a hot young director, an emerging starlet with apparent mob ties), and no matter how fragmented the narrative becomes, you can't take your eyes off the screen. There's an early scene in a diner, where a man sits and describes a face he saw in a dream the most terrifying face he's ever seen. When Lynch later shows us that face, lurking unexpectedly in a bleached-out back-alley: yup, it's one of the scariest things I've ever seen.
The cast consists almost entirely of anonymous actors, which works to the film's advantage you don't know what to expect from anyone. Watts and Harring are particularly astonishing, considering that when I first saw them, I had no confidence that these two could carry a film. They look like they should be auditioning for Aaron Spelling, but they end up providing the seething, erotically charged energy that propels "Mulholland Drive" into its darkly surreal finale.