12.24.2016

From the archives: A "nightmare that we hate to wake up from"


My senior year of high school (2001-2002) I committed to writing long-form reviews of every film I saw that year.  I was only seventeen at the time but my film diet was already fairly complex, thanks in part to a weekly film series at Utica’s Munson-Williams-Proctor Art Institute, which I attended regularly.  It was in the spring of 2002 that I saw David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive there with a packed house that included two of my high school teachers.  I was mesmerized by the film, which I found to be as funny as it was scary (a response I would later have upon re-watching Lynch’s Eraserhead in 2011):

“In comparison to Mulholland Drive, all of [Lynch’s] previous films look like sketches and riffs, as though he were dutifully practicing, getting us ready so that he could launch this one at us.  It’s two and a half hours, and it feels even longer; he stretches the length magnificently.  He’s pulling out all the stops as never before, and the effect is intoxicating.  You don’t know where you are but you love every minute that you’re there.

Laura Elena Harring and Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive (2001).


“[…] Scariness and comedy are one and the same here, and most of the time (as in some of the best horror movies) the humor comes as a result of the fear, sometimes during it.  Lynch serves up certain moments that are genuinely frightening in a primal, childish way; he reduces us to cowering kids again—in one scene, we’re trembling not because of what’s under the bed but what’s lying in it.  And then, as we realize how silly the scares are, we’re laughing at them, and at ourselves for having one pulled over on us.  Laughter is a the great release—it breaks out and rolls over the audience like calming, exhilarating waves, and it’s especially helpful in relieving the tension of the first lesbian love scene, which comes as such a shocker that everyone shuts up in a big hurry (the scene culminates in one of the film’s best jokes).  Doubled over one minute, crippled with terror the next, Lynch proves himself to be a fine puppet master.  He plays us for all we’re worth, and the whole film is one long, delicious, hilarious, erotic nightmare that we hate to wake up from.”

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