Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

David Lynch and the Dulcineated World

Academic journal article Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America

David Lynch and the Dulcineated World

Article excerpt

ONE OF THE MORE RECENT trends in Cervantes scholarship has been the exploration of the relationship between Cervantes's works, particularly Don Quixote, and those of contemporary culture. These explorations often follow a number of interrelated paths. The most common of these approaches are those that apply contemporary literary and cultural theory to Cervantes's works. (1) Another common approach explores the structural impact of Cervantine narrativity (and meta-narrativity) on later works. (2) Still others trace the conceptual intertextualities that exist between Cervantes and various later writers. (3) Finally, a more expansive approach explores those instances where contemporary culture--whether deliberately or not, whether self-consciously or not-rediscovers, reexamines, and/or reworks ideas and issues explored by Cervantes and his own contemporaries more than 400 years ago. (4) David Lynch's 2001 film Mulholland Drive is a cinematic narrative that lends itself extremely well to this last type of Cervantine analysis (and not just because this film--like Don Quixote, which is routinely said to be a literary work about literature--has been called a film about cinema [Lopate 47; Restuccia 71; and Shostak 6]).

Born in Missoula, Montana, David Lynch is a member of a relatively small group of cutting-edge auteur filmmakers that includes Pedro Almodovar, Wes Anderson, Tim Burton, the Coen Brothers, David Fincher, Terry Gilliam, and Quentin Tarantino (among others). His first film, Eraserhead (1977), launched his meteoric career and has become something of a cult classic. His 1986 film Blue Velvet established what is the now widely recognized "Lynchian" theme of exposing the unsettling subterranean unease that exists just below the banal surface of contemporary suburban US culture, a theme he further explored in his 1990-1991 television series Twin Peaks. And while the commercial success of his Academy Award winning film The Elephant Man (1980) might suggest otherwise, Lynch is best known for making difficult and highly surrealistic films like Mulholland Drive.

For readers unfamiliar with Mulholland Drive, a brief description of Lynch's highly complex cinematic narrative is in order. One possible interpretation (among several proffered by critics) posits this film as the story of Diane Selwyn (Naomi Watts) who arrives in Hollywood with the hopes of becoming a movie star, but who ultimately becomes disillusioned by her lack of success and thus commits suicide. Lynch structures this narrative in two parts. The first (and by far the longest) part--which most critics read as a dream sequence--narrates Diane's Hollywood fantasy in the person of "Betty Elms." The film opens with a kind of abstract and surrealistic montage of jitterbug dancing in which images of a bright and smiling Betty are juxtaposed against a series of shifting images of the real (and occasionally silhouetted) dancers. Later, we see Betty arrive at Los Angeles International Airport--winner precisely of a jitterbug contest held in her hometown of Deep River, Ontario, Canada--in the company of an unrealistically cheerful and "grandparently" older couple who affectionately welcome Betty to Los Angeles and then wish her the best of luck as she sets out on her grand adventure. Betty then takes a taxi to an elegant Hollywood courtyard apartment (which her aunt, who is also an actress, has supposedly let her use while she is out of town). Upon arrival at this apartment, Betty is instantly befriended by the quirky manager of the building (Ann Miller), who provides as warm a welcome to Hollywood as anyone could hope to receive. Shortly thereafter, Betty is surprised to discover that a troubled amnesiac who calls herself "Rita" is unexpectedly showering in her aunt's apartment. Rita (Laura Elena Harring) has stumbled into the apartment, bleeding from a severe head wound, after surviving a head-on collision in the back of a limousine not far away on Mulholland Drive. …

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