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Mulholland Dr. vs. INLAND EMPIRE

An image from Lynch's strange "INLAND EMPIRE," a whopper three-hour sister piece to Mulholland Dr.

In 2001, famous director David Lynch released what I like to refer to as “his second truly Lynchian film, twenty-five years after Eraserhead, his first,” Mulholland Drive, or if you wish to shorten it…

Mulholland Dr.

It received generally positive reviews with an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.0 rating on IMDb. People liked it. It’s about an actress (Naomi Watts) who moves to Hollywood to begin her career. In her apartment she is surprised to find a woman(Laura Harring) who has survived a car crash with everything but her memory. This is paralleled with the story of a director (Justin Theroux) losing control of the project he is attached to. The story is exciting and interesting and plunges us deep into an intriguing abyss. The film’s final twist is shocking and unexpected, and forces us to go back and re-examine the whole film. The actors’ performances are knockout and Lynch’s storytelling is genius. However, Mulholland Dr. would have a competitor when five years later, Lynch released a “companion piece,” entitled

INLAND EMPIRE

Lynch has specifically asked the title be all upper-case letters, presumably for effect, and the film itself, beyond the title, is extremely effective. Positive reviews again with a 72% rating on RT and a 7.0 rating on IMDb, although as you can see, the viewers and critics were not as impressed as they were with Lynch’s predecessor. I however, was much more lenient toward it. I scored both films a 9/10, but of course, I won’t say which is better until the end. The plot seems simple, and parallels with Mulholland but, at about an hour into its three-hour run time, it delves into a mysterious, confusing dream-like world full of complex scenarios that are not really there for you to understand, but rather for you to just enjoy watching. It is basically about an actress (Laura Dern in her best acting performance EVER, and certainly one of the best female performances in recent years) who wins a part in a film called On High in Blue Tomorrows, which she discovers is a remake of a supposedly “cursed” Polish film called 47. Throughout the course of the film the “curse” begins to take hold of her and changes the way she thinks and acts as she starts to become her character. Relax, it’s much more original and entertaining than it sounds. Lynch uses what may be clips from the abandoned Polish original to perhaps shed light on the story itself, which seems to be about an ageing ex-prostitute who has had a troubled, difficult life.

Overall, both films are dark and impressive and earn repetitive viewings with their strange twists and curious plots. You should be very careful when you go to watch these films. Be on guard and be prepared; you need to watch them carefully and definitely more than once. So which is the winner? I think Mulholland Dr. tops INLAND EMPIRE and I’ve got reasons:

1) It’s not as dark, sure, but the pacing and storytelling has a more noticeable effect in our head.

2) While Dern beats both Watts and Harring acting-wise, there’s nothing quite like the chemistry between the leads in MD. They have a mystery to solve, and it’s a lot easier to watch than IE.

3) The twist. You just cannot beat MD’s twist. It’s so dark and horrifying and eye-opening, and it made me immediately rewatch the whole film then and there. I waited a few days before I rewatched IE. MD had a much deeper effect.

I would like to remind you that it was a very, VERY, VERY close choice and I would like to be able to say I like both films equally, but that’s not the way things work. They’re both masterpieces and it is unfair to juxtapose them like this. Don’t just watch one, watch them both. If you have an open mind, I doubt you’ll be disappointed. Cue Mulholland Dr.‘s most memorable scene:

Thanks for reading.

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