David Lynch

the sexiest performance in the history of film - Naomi Watts in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2001)

the sexiest performance in the history of film - Naomi Watts in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2001)

  • Born: 1946
  • Rank: 27
  • Score: 659.80
  • Awards: 2 LAFC / NSFC / 2 BSFC / CFC
  • Nominations: 3 Oscars / DGA / BAFTA / 2 Golden Globes
  • Feature Films: 10
  • Best: The Elephant Man
  • Worst: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me

Top 5 Feature Films:

  1. The Elephant Man – 1980
  2. Mulholland Drive – 2001
  3. Blue Velvet – 1986
  4. The Straight Story – 1999
  5. Eraserhead – 1977

Top 10 Best Director Finishes (Nighthawk Awards):

  • 1977 – 7th – Eraserhead
  • 1980 – 2nd – The Elephant Man
  • 1986 – 3rd – Blue Velvet
  • 2001 – 3rd – Mulholland Drive

The Academy takes an interesting view of David Lynch. They must respect him because they have given him 3 Oscar nominations, but they must not much like his films because his Best Director nomination was the only nomination for Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. In fact, even though only 8 times since 1930 has Best Director been the sole nomination for a film, it’s happened with Lynch twice.

I came at Lynch kind of sideways. One of my favorite books when I was young was Cult Films, a truly great film book filled with all sorts of strange films and one I recommend to any film buff. I read about Eraserhead in the book, which I must have checked out of the Taft Branch of the Orange Public Library at least 20 times over the course of 5 years or so. It’s currently out of print but you can track down used copies.

Then in 1989 various critics started looking back at the 80’s and deciding the best films of the decade. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that Raging Bull was the best film of the decade and everyone except Roger Ebert seemed to agree that Blue Velvet was the second best, prompting my mother to bring it home and suggest we watch it since it was supposed to be so great. What followed was possibly the most uncomfortable two hours of my life.

The next year Twin Peaks went on the air and though it was a cultural phenomenon and my sisters watched it, I never started. The one time I did watch a bit, I watched Kyle McLachlan comment on his cup of coffee and I immediately thought of the Heineken scene in Blue Velvet and when I learned more about the show it seemed to me that Lynch had taken Blue Velvet and somehow made it into a show that could be aired on network television which took amazing creativity and ingenuity.

Over the years I caught up with the rest of Lynch’s work, including his interesting but flawed version of Dune and his brilliant, tragic Elephant Man before New Years Day of 1998, when I watched a double feature of Lost Highway and Crash, the double feature I labelled “Watch the Arquette sisters act fucked up about sex,” and it seemed to me that Lost Highway was easily the better of the two.

Lynch is a brilliant filmmaker, but he is maddeningly inconsistent. Elephant Man, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive are amazing films, but Dune is flawed, Inland Empire is a boring mess and the Twin Peaks film just a mess. In between are such films as Eraserhead, Wild at Heart and Lost Highway, films with a touch of directorial genius, but with incoherent plots and structural problems. They have style and they have mood but they don’t necessarily have sense. You can get past that with a film like Mulholland Drive which transcends any need to make sense, but few films can achieve that kind of demented brilliance. Still, I look forward to the next Lynch film, as I always do.

Mulholland Drive – #4 film of 2001

“But it has to make sense,” my best friend argued coming out of the theater.  I didn’t agree with him then and I don’t agree with him now.  I didn’t feel a movie necessarily had to make sense and I certainly didn’t feel that this one made sense.  Re-watching it again recently it reminded me that some films should be watched in the theater.  Not just because they are meant to be seen on a large screen in the dark, but because some films are meant to be watched in a place where you can walk out with your friends and ask “What the fuck was that about?”

Included on the DVD of Mulholland Drive are “David Lynch’s 10 Clues to Unlocking This Thriller.”  I don’t believe it for a minute.  I think it’s a bunch of crap.  You can follow the keys and you can make guesses, but at the end of the film you might be even more confused then you were coming in.  Some films just need to be experienced.  There might be individual parts of the film that make sense, but when taken as a whole there are simply things that can not be explained.  Some of this perhaps would have been explained if it had been developed into a weekly television show as it was originally meant to be.  But perhaps not.  Not everything in Twin Peaks got explained.  And Lynch doesn’t feel the need to explain himself.

Of course, it is the most confusing part of the film that was added on after it was refused as a television pilot.  But in some ways that’s what makes it a stronger picture; instead of just a strange mystery with random extra characters thrown in, we have an added dimension of who these women might be.  And it’s in the added parts that we get the true treat that is Naomi Watts’ performance.

There is no question now that Naomi Watts is one of the best actresses currently at work.  You can see her best work in 21 Grams, but she also gives awards worthy work in King Kong, Painted Veil and Eastern Promises.  In an article at CinCity2000.com I ranked her performance in Mulholland Drive as the single sexiest performance in the history of film.  At the start of the film she is innocent and perky, the stereotypical blonde Hitchcock heroine.  We get a look into the rest of her personality first at her audition, then when she sees the director across the room, a telling shot that might be one of the few times in the film we actually learn more.  Then of course there is the first sex scene, when she is both beautiful and shy at the same time.  But after she goes into the box we see her full range as she goes to desperate and demanding, a dirty kind of sexuality so perfectly contrasted against her earlier moments in the film.  Then we have the scene at the dinner and see how even though she is so desperate, she can still be so beautiful and fragile.  Her performance in its majesty is beauty wrapped in sensitivity covered in desperation, a sort of riddle wrapped in an enigma.  A rather apt metaphor for the film itself.  You can’t quite untangle it.  But do you really want to?  It’s more enjoyable to just experience it.

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