Last week was 2001 Week at The A.V. Club, and as part of this multi-day retrospective of the pop-culture of two decades ago, we voted on the best movies from the second year of the new century. On a brand new episode of Film Club, critics A.A. Dowd and Katie Rife continue that discussion of the bygone year in cinema, including thoughts on their respective favorites of Y2K1: David Lynch’s beloved dream-of-nightmare Hollywood reverie Mulholland Drive, and Wes Anderson’s melancholy NYC family fable The Royal Tenenbaums.
Here’s what A.A. Dowd had to say about Mulholland Drive, which ended up at #1 on our best movies of 2001 list:
Does it say something about the ongoing blurring of lines between television and cinema that what may be the most acclaimed movie of the new millennium began life in one medium before settling in the other? Between finishing his seminal primetime soap opera on the big screen and restarting it on the small one with a third season some (including its maker) insisted was really an 18-hour movie, David Lynch transformed a failed TV pilot into a haunting highpoint of his increasingly avant-garde career: a daydream of Hollywood aspiration that curdles, in its harrowing final act, into a nightmare of rock-bottom desperation. Fans and critics have spent two decades poring over the secrets and ambiguities of Mulholland Drive, cracking open that mystery box just like wannabe starlet Betty (Naomi Watts) and her raven-haired, femme-fatale companion, Rita (Laura Harring). Yet one need not “solve” Lynch’s bewitching noir reverie to get lost, again and again, in its dark corners: the radiance and despair of Watts’ starmaking performance; the ravenous romantic-erotic intensity of its centerpiece sex scene; a slow wander behind a diner that qualifies as one of the most blood-curdling scenes ever committed to celluloid. In the end, it’s still possible to wonder where Lynch would have taken Mulholland Drive if it got ordered to series, but much less possible to imagine a version of it that would imprint itself as eternally on the mass cinephile subconscious, like an unshakeable dream built from memories of Tinseltown classics and also the sobering knowledge of what showbiz does to so many pulled into its gaping, hungry maw.