Today’s recitation focused around themes of “divided consciousness and configured identity,” particularly with respect to Todd Haynes’ 2007 film I’m Not There. and David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., which we screened last night.
We started with a clip from Hayne’s film–the opening. The opening of the film presents a rather enigmatic prologue for Dylan’s life. It examines the mutability of his identity, who he wanted to be, who he couldn’t be, and his many personas. Each persona is played by a different actor. Many of the personas are meant as transfigurations of Dylan’s music. We discussed Cate Blanchett’s performance in the film–how strange it is for Haynes to pick a woman as the best actor in a film about a male figure–though we never really came to a conclusion on why that is. Still, we discussed how the film reads as a star text, playing on the viewer’s expectations.
Next, the class launched into two presentations. Vivian (sp.?) presented the Jenkins text, and Carly (sp.? Sorry, guys!) presented the McGowan text. I don’t feel like I need to restate everything, so I’ll just highlight some main points. In the Jenkins text, a line between participation and interactivity is drawn. Participation refers to consumers taking media into their own hands and is affected by cultural and social norms. Interactivity, on the other hand, is how technology is designed to become more responsive to the consumer. Jenkins also talks about how prohibitionists are executives who want to keep fan culture from becoming larger. They want to enforce creative property laws, and Jenkins believes that the future of the media industry depends on moving towards collaborationism.
Carly did an excellent job dissecting the McGowan essay, which is incredibly hard to understand. I’m not even going to attempt to summarize that one because it’ll too long. (And besides, you all read it, right?) I also found our lack of discussion on Mulholland Dr. to be sorely disappointing, so instead of spending time reporting on what happened, I’m going to give my own reading of the film.
For starters, let me talk about what Mulholland Dr. means to me. I first saw Lynch’s masterpiece when I was 13 and it, of course, went right over my head. I knew I loved it though, and until last night, it remained my second-favorite film ever. I’ve seen the film about ten or so times since the initial viewing. Each time, I discover something new. But last night, I discovered a lot more things than usual. Finally seeing it in a theater-like area gave me a new reading of the film. It’s now my favorite film.
Now, what the hell is Mulholland Dr. anyway? Well, I’m not going to go into trying to summarize what happens. Mulholland Dr. is basically a puzzle where a corner piece is always missing, no matter which way you slice it. What I plan to do instead of narrativizing it is a more formal analysis of the film, which is, of course, extremely difficult, considering Lynch’s amazing work here.
I believe that Mulholland Dr. is less a film about dreams and female desire, but more an intense work on what it means to be an artist at the turn of the 21st century. I think that is best demonstrated by the following clip:
In this clip, we see what very well may be the crowning shot of the entire film. We begin with a tight close-up of one of the actresses who is auditioning for a role in Adam’s film. It seems that we’re in the 50′s. Everything is light, there’s a few back-up singers, the music is cheery–nothing is perceivably wrong. But, as the camera zooms out and moves upward through an extremely impressive Steadicam rig, we come to realize everything we thought we knew was false. We’re not in the 50′s, we’re not in a music studio (we’re in a movie studio though; an excellent visual pun), and we’re not comfortable anymore. Everything is now orchestrated by Hollywood–nothing is free anymore, and everything is an illusion.
At least everything in the first 105 minutes of the movie, anyhow. Until Lynch pulls the rug out from under us with the zoom into the blue box, the film is, I believe, Diane’s dream. The reason I believe this is because the film opens (after the strange jitterbug sequence) with an objective shot of someone’s face hitting a pillow. Then, after the blue box has been dropped, the Cowboy utters the line, “Hey, pretty girl. Time to wake up,” in front of a dead Diane. Fade-in now occurs to a sleeping Diane, who now awakens. In short, the first part of the movie is Diane’s dream, and it is bookended by images of sleeping.
Diane’s dream is a fiercely erotic reverie in which she ponders the Hollywood she wishes she could have. McGowan believes that Lynch relies on traditional motifs in the first half. I would only half agree with that. Instead I would say that Lynch relies on very basic motifs and then adds his own weird verve to them so as to unsettle us.
But it is true–Lynch uses fairly typical cinematic devices here to indicate horror, suspense, and intrigue. He makes many allusions to many films pre-1960, particularly those in the oeuvre of Hitchcock. Look at the following shot from the scene with the nightmare behind Winkie’s:
Note that this shot bears a shocking resemblance to the shot of Scotty walking toward Carlotta Valdes’ grave in his dream in Vertigo. (This, too, seems to be insurmountable evidence that Lynch’s sequence is a dream.)
This is just one of many allusions to Vertigo–there’s also the whole blond/brunette thing, and the whole I-loved-you-when-I-thought-you-were-someone-else thing. The fact of the matter is that Diane’s dream is laced with allusions to film. That is because she has dreamed up a movie, one in which she has even edited the whole thing by herself, and one in which creativity goes unbridled. Well, only sort of. She borrows heavily from thing she’s seen–Gilda, Vertigo, Contempt, etc. But still, that, of course, is the complete opposite of her reality, which is she is forced to reckon with in the latter half of the film.
Also note that Lynch uses avant-garde techniques only in the part of the film that I assume takes place more often in reality than in dream. By doing this, Lynch shows us that Hollywood glosses over reality with its thrilling devices, and that avant-garde film, or all art for that matter, is the only window to reality.
My point is summed up in the scene at the Club Silencio, which is the turning point of the narrative. When Rita and Betty see the performance of “Llorando,” Betty has a seizure and Rita cries uncontrollably. I couldn’t help but have the same response as Rita during certain parts of the film. Mulholland Dr. is such a transcendent experience that it moved me to tears. It’s a true work of art that rips off the roof of Hollywood and exposes its innards, much like the performance at Silencio. I cried for the same reason Rita did–I saw the truth; I realized that most everything we had watched up to this point in class wasn’t real. The truth in everything we’ve seen is so glossy. The movies we’ve seen are great, but Mulholland Dr. is on another level of artistic excellence. I can’t think of another film better than Mulholland Dr., and I’d dare someone to show me something better.
That’s my long-winded $0.02. I just feel that such a great film deserves 1,000 or more words to be justifiably dissected.