There are certain questions that some deem unanswerable. They are often to do with “favourites”, particularly for those who digest vast numbers of cultural works. Favourite book, favourite album, favourite band, favourite TV show etc. I am someone who has a geekish approach to lists. I have, in my younger years, been known to physically construct them, ranking items with a sort of arbitrary precision, meticulously ordering prospective favourites based largely on nothing, separating the inseparable for reasons unknown even to me. This has left me with a rather definite, yet simultaneously uncertain, answer to most of these questions. Favourite book? Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Favourite TV show? The Wire. Favourite album? That one’s tougher – take your pick between Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks and Radiohead’s Kid A.
These are auto-pilot answers that I have held since I was, on the whole, 16/17. They are my go to responses, my comfort loves. On reflection, I know that they are not distinct. The Brothers Karamazov? A masterpiece, and certainly the most thought-provoking, ambitious, almost ‘soul-changing’ (vomit) book I have read. But is it noticeably more enjoyable than others? I have read it once; I have read others (Lolita, To the Lighthouse, The Stranger) numerous times. I have not contemplated re-reading Dostoevsky’s final since I first tackled it 6 or 7 years ago. The Wire? Again, one of the most life-changing, phenomenal works of art (yes, art) ever created, but would it make my Desert Island? Would I take it over, say, the original incarnation of The Office, or Six Feet Under? Astral Weeks and Kid A would certainly make my Desert Island, but can I really put them on a level above all others? Above OK Computer, Blood on the Tracks, Pink Moon, Forever Changes, Marquee Moon? It all starts to seem rather random. That is until we reach ‘favourite film’. This is the one about which I hold no doubt. There is no other contender, nothing that can touch one creation, one tour de force, one work of genius. That work of genius is Mulholland Drive. Many will disagree – it is a film that polarises audiences – but in my mind, there is no doubt. Bold as it is, for me, Mulholland Drive is cinema’s greatest ever achievement. It is David Lynch’s magnum opus, standing above his other wonderful films – above all other films. It is a dreamy, woozy, surrealist piece, but a piece that DOES make sense. Those who watch it once often dismiss it as nonsensical, but when you have watched it as much as I have, it has a perfectly formed story that makes absolute sense, just through a typically Lynchian kaleidoscopic lens.
Without spoiling it for those who have not yet seen it (and boy do I envy you), the film starts with a car accident, and a chance encounter between the victim and Betty, a young woman with aspirations of making it in Hollywood. To say that that is what the film is about would be akin to saying that Citizen Kane is just about what ‘Rosebud’ means, or that Ulysses is all about a normal day in a man’s life. Mulholland Drive spirals into a captivating neo-noir world, a heady, mind-warping, trance-like experience like no other. I first watched the film at 16/17, finishing it at 2am, before re-watching it instantly, and then again the next day. I think I watched it 5 times in the first week, each time more astounded than the next. There is no other film that has had that impact on me, no other work in any medium that has left me so stunned, so enchanted, so certain that I had just witnessed genius. I did not understand it on first viewing, but I was still completely absorbed. It is a film shot like no other, the contrast of the bright colours and caricatures (in the most intentional, best possible way) with the constant sense of foreboding, the murky dread that everything is not as it seems. Every time I watch it, I am still astonished; it honestly improves with every viewing.
I have watched many great, great films. Others have similar mind-warping, layered textures – Bergman’s Persona, Polanski’s Chinatown, Christopher Nolan’s Memento, the work of Buñuel and Fellini, but none have had either the lasting impact or initial sheer excitement of Mulholland Drive. It pops into my head regularly – as it did today, it still blows my mind, there is so much to it that I could not even begin to scratch the surface of it in a blog. I even wrote my final University essay on just one aspect of the film – a comparison in the Noir module of my English degree on ideas of entrapment in Mulholland Drive and its spiritual partner Sunset Boulevard. It is a film that inspired my love for film, the work that made me see just what is possible through the medium, yet that damaged all future cinematic experiences. Every build-up to watching a film is tinged with that desperate hope that maybe, just maybe, it could be the one to surpass Mulholland Drive. As of yet, the search has been fruitless. No other film has that punch, no scene comparing to Club Silencio, or Winkies, or the Cowboy scene. No film leaves you so breathless, so gobsmacked.
Just watch it. You may find it pretentious gibberish – some people do. Those people, however, are wrong. I know it’s all opinion, but screw subjectivity; it’s the greatest film ever made.