“This is all recorded.”
A moment of silencio, please, for Reverse Shot’s knighted greatest movie of the decade. And not just any decade, but one that’s been cinematically revolutionary (hello, digital video . . . goodbye traditional viewing methods) and polarizing (the democratizing of film culture has either enhanced it for all or picked the last scraps off of its corpse, depending on your point of view). How appropriate that David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive was voted into the top slot considering that the film remains both revolutionary and polarizing itself. Looking back on this American masterpiece from this 2010 vantage point, we can now see this was a film released on the brink of major change, and that it managed to embody that change while remaining resolutely timeless and true to its maker’s spirit. Who’d have thought that not even ten years later, rewatching Lynch’s magnum opus—which, though tinged with its maker’s usual retro chic, was upon its release so very now—would make us nostalgic for film itself, for glossy, movie-movie celluloid, however mangled and nightmarish it becomes in its director’s hands. Mulholland seems especially poignant considering that Lynch’s follow-up, the equally peculiar, if less aesthetically and emotionally coherent Inland Empire, marked his possibly permanent transition to digital video feature-making.
As much as pining for the magic of film defined the past decade of moviegoing, it’s already a dated endeavor: video is here to stay. What makes Mulholland Drive such a specifically stirring example of what we may now begin to term as a dying medium is that it seems to have unwittingly predicted the coming digital and media revolution in its very construction and being, while at the same time it’s undeniably a product of classic cinematic practice. It’s a film equal parts stream-of-consciousness and cause-and-effect, whose pattern forms a sort of hyperlink crazy quilt—what once seemed like mere dream logic now seems prescient, if even inadvertently so. In 2009, the film’s tendency to jump back and forth between narrative strands feels nearly rational, mirroring as it does our current media experience. Yet its cinematographic and editing tricks and experiments, the richness of its colors and textures, the authority and weight with which its camera swirls and glides and hiccups, are all undeniably specifically filmic.
Happy New Year!