Just in case you haven't got the message - after "Eraserhead", "Blue Velvet", and "Lost Highway" - David Lynch would like you to know that he's, well, a touch odd. The message comes across with zero static in "Mulholland Drive", a beautiful, bizarre, and infuriating neo-noir thriller.
Originally intended as a TV series - and what an extraordinary one it would have made - "Mulholland Drive" was reconceived as a feature when ABC execs saw Lynch's pilot and told him to go take a running jump. (What did they expect from the creator of Twin Peaks? Will & Grace, perhaps?)
Lynch's surreal, gripping, hallucinogenic trip starts conventionally enough: after a botched hit, a bemused brunette (Harring) stumbles into the life of Betty Elms (Watts), a would-be actress just off the plane from Ontario. With no memory of who she is, or why she has a purse full of money, the mystery brunette adopts the name Rita. With Betty's help, she sets out to rediscover her identity. And then things get really weird.
Going any further with the plot is, frankly, a bit pointless, as Lynch ditches a conventional narrative in favour of a seemingly incoherent string of unconnected scenes. Out of nowhere this engrossing film noir is wrenched apart, and this is hugely annoying. But get over it. These scenes are still funny, compelling, and, occasionally, shocking. They stick with you, these startling, memorable moments, and as you sift through Lynch's images for days afterwards, a sense emerges, a damning stab at Hollywood's dark underbelly. Sure, you might not buy it, you may still decide "Mulholland Drive" is drivel, but it's beautifully elegant drivel.