This is the second time it's happened now, first what happened with Fellini last year and now this. Why is it that I am such a big fan of David Lynch and yet it seems every time I watch something that obviously inspired him I can't stand it. This time my Cinema Studies class got kicked off with the movie Sunset Boulevard, a film which I understood to be a favorite of Lynch's. I also knew Billy Wilder was a good director, considering how much I enjoyed Some Like it Hot.
In particular, it quickly became clear that Sunset Boulevard had to be a major inspiration behind David Lynch's masterpiece Mulholland Drive, something that becomes clear right from the opening credits. The two of them are structured very similarly, right down to the idea of using a street sign in place of a title card. They even both have similar titles, with the two films being named after actual roads found in Hollywood.
There are other little parallels as well. I personally could not help noticing that both films had a major female character named Betty, and she was even involved in a tricky love affair. On this front, Lynch was able to be a bit more daring due to the timing of Mulholland Drive. These relationships involved betrayal and deception (although Lynch's betty was referred to as "Diane" during the scenes showing that relationship). Sunset Boulevard's is the more straight forward of the two, where the romance between Betty and Joe is complicated by her engagement and his... questionable relationship to Norma Desmond.
David Lynch was able to be a bit more daring with Mulholland Drive, touching on a more controversial issue by making Betty a lesbian. In her case, as we see at the very end, Betty/Diane had been in a relationship with Rita/Camilla Rhodes, and was crushed when she was invited to a party and watched her friend kiss another woman while a man announced his engagement to her (with hints that Camilla had been using sex as a way to move up the ranks). Betty/Diane goes on to hire a hitman to kill Rita/Camilla. Fittingly enough, Sunset Boulevard also ends with a frustrated and unstable Norma shooting Joe dead.
Hollywood and, by extension, the filmmaking scene are also both major elements for both. Mulholland Drive was arguably Lynch's first movie to really explore the world of movie-making (a theme he would later revisit in Inland Empire), but even though it is not the central focus, the whole thing provides a strong background to the main action. One of the main characters is an aspiring actress trying to make her first big break into the business, while by interesting contrast, Sunset Boulevard's Norma Desmond is a washed-up actress trying to get back into the business. In both films there is also a sub-plot that comes from a supporting character trying to make a film with some difficulty (Betty in Sunset Boulevard and Adam in Mulholland Drive).
I can't quite figure out why this is happening to me. First Fellini and now a respected Hollywood Classic from a director I know is talented. Why is it that whenever I see something that clearly inspired Lynch I can't seem to stand it and yet I still enjoy his movies. Mulholland Drive obviously draws from Sunset Boulevard on so many levels, so why is it I still enjoy the former but not the latter?
The parallels I have traced are probably just the tip of the iceberg, so what is it that makes him work so much better than the guy who inspired him? Because I am such a big fan of Lynch, and I know Sunset Boulevard was a favorite of his, I really wanted to like it, but I couldn't. What is my problem, man? What's wrong with me?
|David Lynch on Sunset Boulevard, with a cow.|