Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Women Who Live Amongst Mulholland Drive

Tomorrow, November the 15th, sees the release of David Lynch's most recent dreamscape Inland Empire into Australian cinemas - that's roughly 50 weeks since it was first released upon American screens last December. I was lucky enough to see it at MIFF a couple of months ago, but I intend on seeing it again at the cinema.

This last weekend I woke up with a distinct urge to rewatch Lynch's Mulholland Drive, which is very odd in itself because while I constantly wake up with music in my head, I never have it with movies. And then when I was reading the paper 30 minutes letter there was an article about Naomi Watts with the obligatory "Then along came David Lynch's Mulholland Drive. And then Nat at the Film Experience does a completely random entry about the movie. I believe it was all a big cosmic sign telling me to watch it again for the millionth time. And by millionth I mean some number over 30. That's still a lot.

But, then, I was thinking about David Lynch and Inland Empire and then back to Mulholland Drive and then throughout his entire film repertoire and I was amazed at how well he directs women. I'd put him behind perhaps only Pedro Almodovar as a male director who seems to be able to direct them best.

This entry, however, isn't fawning over Naomi Watts or Laura Dern or any of his other leading ladies such as Isabella Rossellini or Sheryl Lee or whoever, it's about the ladies on the fringes of Mulholland Drive. There are a whole swag of them who aren't Watts or Laura Elena Harring. And because not enough people give them love, here they are. **contains some spoilers if you somehow haven't seen this yet**

Jeanne Bates as Irene - As the mysterious Canadian woman with the chesire grin. She quite clearly represents Betty/Diane's innocent past. A sort of destillation of her hometown (Deep River, Ontario) into one woman. "We'll be watching for you on the silver screen!"

Ann Miller as Coco Lenoix - The largest of the supporting characters, screen legend Miller is a hoot as the pitying abortion-metaphor using apartment manager (and, er, Adam Kescher's mother apparently).

Lee Grant as Louise Bonner - My favourite of these small miracles is Oscar-winner Lee Grant (where did Lynch find her at?) as the... mystic neighbour Louise Bonner. "Something bad is happening" indeed. She gives me the willies.

Lori Heuring as Lorraine Kescher - As a woman who turns her infidelity into a criticism about her husband - "what are you doing here?" she asks as he walks in on her having sex with Gene the Pool Man - is deranged, but a hoot.

Rena Riffel as Laney - This is Rena Riffel, folks. RENA freakin' RIFFEL! If you don't know who Rena Riffel is then you'll get no perverse enjoyment out of her being there. But, boy, Rena Riffel! I was so psyched when I found out that was her.

Rita Taggart and Michele Hicks as Linney James and Nicky - The high-priced casting agent and her blase assistant are two of my favourite characters in Mulholland Drive. I'm not sure why Taggart isn't a Patricia Clarkson or the like, it's very unfortunate because I like her in everything I've seen.

Lisa Lackey as Carol - Perhaps the most unaffected and modern performance by any woman in the film. Despite lipsyncing to Connie Stevenes, Carol speaks like a normal person and doesn't seem to be channeling anyone or any time period.

Melissa George as Camilla Rhodes/Unknown Mysterious Lesbian - I made up that slash name for her, but it's true! George doesn't say a word - she does lipsync to Linda Scott and whisper into Harring's ear - but she gives off this amazing mysterious vibe that you can totally understand why Diane would think she is a part of a big conspiracy.

Joanna Stein as Woman in #12 - As, I think, a disgruntled lover of Diane, "Woman in #12" is quietly intense.

Rebekah Del Rio as Herself - Del Rio performs a spanish-language version of "Crying" and it is one of the most powerful musical moments you'll ever see either in a musical or on stage or anywhere.

Cori Glazer as Blue-Haired Lady - As Club Silencio's resident balcony occupant, Glazer says one word to break her stoic viewing face. "Silencio". It ends the movie on a haunting and perplexing note, although if you think about it it's really just one big massive joke on David Lynch's part. "It's all an illusion" indeed.

Gosh, that movie is amazing.


JA said...

Every time I see Rena Riffel, I just want to tell her to give me a blow job. First I get you used to the money and then I make you swallow!!!

Barry said...

Mulholland Drive was interesting. I liked Inland Empire better though.

Off topic, but what did you think of Georgia Rule haha?

J.D. said...

Glenn, you will be happy to know this will be arriving tomorrow morning from Netflix. (As will La Vie en Rose, but that's not that point...) Yay!

Kamikaze Camel said...

Ja, oh dear. My love for Rena Riffel don't go that far!

Barry, Georgia Rule has a line of dialogue from Jane Fonda that goes like this: "Erect me!" I couldn't take it seriously after that.

JD, good to hear! It's about time!

Adam said...

I wouldn't call myself a Lynch fan by any means, but I'm consistantly entertained by his work. Strangely enough, I loved the much reviled Fire Walk With Me even though I've never seen an episode of Twin Peaks.

Mulholland Drive was a movie I hated when I first saw it, but I've come to appreciate it over time. I just stopped caring whether I understood it or not, and after that I enjoyed it. That's pretty much the key for me and Lynch, switch off my brain and watch.

I ordered the Inland Empire DVD a month or two ago on a whim, watched it and I still don't know what to make of it. I'll definately be seeing this one again in the theatre. That bit with Laura Dern running straight at the camera with the spotlight on her will be sure to give me nightmares though!

Paul Martin said...

That a person is such a great director of women is such a bullshit cliche (no offence intended, Glenn). I've heard that so many times, particularly in relation to Almodovar, and that's just straight from Almodovar's marketing material. What does that cliche even mean? A great director of women? Either someone is a great director of actors or they're not, and I don't think gender comes into it. I think Almodovar prominently places women in melodramatic roles, but then, we only have to look at daytime soap operas for this (and these inspire Almodovar, by the way).

Lynch, now he's a completely different kettle of fish. He is truly a great director and his women have much more substance than Almodovar's. His writing is deep and his characters are deep. Almodovar is all fluff.

Catherine said...

RE: Paul Martin. I'm sorry, but I really really have to disagree. Almodovar can be very camp and takes delight in asthetics, but to say he's all fluff is nonsense. Which other directer (apart from Lynch) could coax such a stunning performance from Penelope Cruz?

I really adore Lynch, but I don't think his characters have any more depth than Almodovars. He often just plunks them down in the middle of a film and leaves them to fend for themselves. Laura Dern hadn't the foggiest what she was doing in INLAND EMPIRE (this didn't stop her excellent work in it though). We're hardly ever given any backstory or emotional depth beyond what is shown just in front of us. I'm not saying this is a bad thing, in Lynch's case it works really well.

Paul Martin said...

Catherine, I think a difference between Almodovar and Lynch is that Almodovar extracts some very good performances in a soap-opera context (which I find anything but compelling). Yes, the performances can be impressive, but the story isn't. Lynch extracts wonderful performances in contexts that are much more convincing, even if they don't initially make sense. There's another dimension to Lynch's writing that may or may not appeal to audiences. Obviously, I fall into the former camp, as I find it gives me something to think about, to mull over long after the film has ended, whereas Almodovar's films are more like candy that one consumes and forgets.

As for who is the better director, I suppose that gets down to one's personal appreciation of each man's work. I have studied Almodovar in some detail and concluded (for myself at least) that he is a director who has produced some very good work, with elements I truly love (like aesthetics), but none of his films have achieved greatness. I think he's capable of it, but it eludes him because there's a certain 'something' he can't quite grasp.