Visuality in The Undertaker (1988), with parallels to the conceptual artwork of Jef Geys, Max Mayer Gallery, Dusseldorf, 2017.

Rev, Dec 21, 2017; Jan 22, 2018; note, Feb 16, 2018.

Byline FUSION. The FUSION byline features articles which compare and contrast the instrumentation of tropes in movies and in contemporary art both, regardless of whether or not intended by either party. Similarities at present are also deemed coincidental. It is also recognized that fusion remains at present inadmissible in specialized discourse.

Note: 40 days after I wrote this article, Jef Geys, at age 83, a classic Belgian conceptualist died, I dedicate this to him.

In the not bad 80s slasher movie The Undertaker (1988), Joe Spinell plays Roscoe, a mortician down on his luck, who needs to drum up business by killing all the young things around town, and then he gets into a tad of trouble with necrophiliac impulses too. But, his psycho visuality is nicely worked out, and it struck me that his desk, in his basement, in a woodpanelled cell, is not bad. It includes a classic landscape picture of a barn, as if an idyllizing of his own situation.

untake 1he also has one of those scenic lamps, also from the old days, though the doubling up on them might indicate double trouble, or that he prefers is ominous landscapes in a more enclosing form. Since it also casts shadows on the under the lamp world of his desk, and his maid’s assistance, it might also bespeak the funereal aspect of his vision. Otherwise, his funeral home, though nicely spaced with warnings of houseplants, is routine

untake 2though then there is the problem that underneath it, in the basement, through a zone of solid woodpanelling, bespeaking, by then, out of date decadence, coffins are stored, which always means, replacing all the furniture expected of a room with coffins, that death looms

untake 3and then it seems that at the end of the basement hall, as in so many other mad scientist labs, he has a special chamber, a stonewall dungeon, in which he does his dirtier work, keeping pictures of his kills like trophies over his desk, planning the next kill to supply, nonsensically, bodies and business, presumably paid for by the morgue, to his faltering business

untake 4the interesting, if maybe overdone, bit about this movie is that it makes quite clear this his visuality is grounded in a prototype visuality related to the movie, The Corpse Vanishes (1942), a quite good, Bela Lugosi cheapie, when Lugosi’s career was beginning to tank. The story there is that Lugosi has delivered to brides on their wedding days poison orchids for them to sniff upon saying I do, to then apparently drop dead, then Lugosi shows up as the faux coroner to take the body back to his place, to drain it of whatever to then use it in serum form to restore youth to his aging wife, suffering at aging. It’s quite good (and, more or less, true to trope, this template trope, of course, also the form used to format 2017’s breakout horror hit, Get Out, same plot). This movie features a basement dungeon, against a stone wall (in fact, a whole maze of a basement)

untake 5Since this movie shows up time and again, it is to be assumed that it rests like a filter of black eyed glasses or glass darklies over his eyes, for him to see the world in that way. For someone operating in 1971, to see the world through the eyes of a mad scientist of 1942, what this means is that a grown man, past middle age, has reverted by stress and degeneration of his business back into a kind of madness whereby he sees the world of the 1970s as if it is of the years of his childhood, the 1940s. It then becomes a situation where you have to assume, in everything you see in the movie, that the visuality of The Corpse Vanishes is operative, and, in the gap between what it assumes should be there, and what is there, is his judgmental outrage and perverse POV, and this difference creates the edge or slash, that allows him, in moral impunity, to kill. And, then, with this, what is fun is that, in fact, the movie shows clear signs to, at least, try to work out this visuality in the movie.

For one thing, all the rest of the interiors in the movie are a bit dowdy, as if his basement office style spread through the world. This is a common horror movie practice, a palliative zone of 2d imagining, where the boundaries between life and death are depleted, is cast over the whole procedure (even in The Conjuring (2013) we saw this trope). Here, the apartment of one victim is decidedly old fashioned, this for a hot young woman of the 70s

untake 6it even seems to have, on the other side of the body bag, some Mary Shelley pictures, which belong in a haunted house, not a modern single woman’s apartment

untake 7though it has to be said, these could be very strange amalgams, gilt frame, traditional Mary Shelley presentation, and yet close-up they seem to have a pin-uppy quality, even a Bettie Page look to the posing, it’s very odd

untake 8

Even weirder, the offices of the investigators seem to have ridiculously out of place pictures of a romantic, antique sort

untake 9this one is a horse and buggy racing picture, so, OK, it is a sport picture, in the tradition of sport pictures at bars where men hang out, but in an oval, and painted, and framed in gilt, it’s like they found an antique at the local store, and this might have a “this is suburbia” vibe, and just plunked it up

untake 10then, even stranger, at the main cop’s office, a truly traditional motel room landscape painting, bespeaking trouble coming, even with the winding road down the middle, which says so, immediately

untake 11so, it is as if, the retro aesthetic of the funeral home, through his POV, has spread itself out over the whole milieu, which is strange indeed.

And then it gets stranger. There is a very good, or a few very good shower sequences in the movie. This nails the movie, as per accumulation of trope, as a sexploitation movie, probably played on the Deuce, which will make an appeal-to-audience appearance. But, the funny thing is, having set up the old-fashionedness and outofdatedness of his POV, and then compared it to the today’s world, the gap between the two causing him to develop a sense that the world has gone mad, a scapegoat (in the psycho mind) is found to blame for the moral degeneration he sees having happened from 1942 to 1972, and that is all those ridiculously sexy girls showing way, way, way too much of their skin, getting everyone excited, being total whores, immoral sluts (this is a very common trope in the moral outrage trope plot of 70s horror, see Judy Geeson in the Spanish movie, It Happened at Nightmare Inn (1973, where a woman did the killing), and so takes it upon himself to embody the gap between then and now in the bodies of sexy young woman, and to erase that gap and distance by killing them. So, there is a first really good shower, in which we see the young woman who lives in the above apartment undressing to a robe

untake 12that must include, he supposes, her at one point removing her bra

untake 13then there will be a shower, and a full on view of her in the nude (this shot, as discussed, previously framed-within-framing to as an iris evoke the voyeuristic, peeping tom aspect of it as a “score,” that is, after a time peeping, actually seeing what you are after, nudity! Bingo! (and in the 70s this accentuatedd for the raincoat crowd too as actual nudity, not partial nudity, by the capture of her pubic bush)

untake 14and then we get some good beating about the bush shots, him outside, his eyes now fixated upon the bush he has seen, going round the bushes, to get in

untake 15this shower sequence, in fact, somewhat reverses the charges, from the norm, the nudity came in the run-up, then in the shower, but the looking away from the world, the preoccupation with bodily intimacy that causes the woman to for a moment not look after herself happens after, not when she is washing her hair, but when she is putting that hair into a towel turban

untake 16and then she sits down and watches some TV, too attentive to the screen, not watching her back, the turban then in this compound trope becoming the sign of her pedestaled egotism not attending to her care

untake 17but then comes the punchline, and the surprise part. A modern day woman, in 1970, 20 years old, after her shower, sitting around naked in her robe, sits down to watch Abbot and Costello in Africa Screams (1949)

untake 18Bedtime for Bonzo (1951), with just then (in 1982) elected President, Ronald Reagan

untake 19and then two horror movies, Roger Coreman’s The Terror (1965)

untake 20and another one I know, but cant name at the moment, from the 30s

untake 21with the head in the suitcase (a warning she ought to have taken, but she is complacent in post-shower turban royal-treatment, guard-down relaxation)

untake 22and, then, almost as if a throwback to silent horror, the hand comes through the window, once the sum total of household scares, and poisons her

untake 24it makes no sense in the diegesis of the movie. The girl is born in 1950, though I remember as kids watching Johnny Weismuller movies from the 30s, and even a good deal of silent comedy, on some strange shows, not to mention Shirley Temple, and Boys Town seemed to be part this viewing culture, that was all before we were ten, it happened under the shadow of parental viewing habits, in their culture, we were being indoctrinated into their world, by twenty, one would have entirely broken out of that, and begun to watch what 20 year old women watch, new stuff. So, this is weird. It has to be accepted at present as a device derived from the POV framing the whole movie, to create a palliative state to make his somewhat less than plausible killings, a bit more plausible, as everyone is more or less sleepwalking, and thus it represent the contamination of even the so-called objective space of his target’s lives with his surveillant POV, to the extent that it alters the viewing content.

The same thing happens in another scene, a girl is at the movies, then walks out after

untake 25but the movie she is watching is….the Corpse Vanishes, possibly at a midnight showing, really?

untake 26she then evades an attack, followed by a car. But the important point in this sequence is that it is suggested that the movie is being watched if not actually at one of those theaters, then certainly in the milieu of The Deuce, the ultimate grindhouse of 70s movie culture

untake 27indeed, the 1980ness of the moment is conveyed by seeing, this always amazes me, a billboard I actually remember from seeing in real life, for the revival of 42nd Street, the big hit of that year, but also where Gower Champion dropped dead on opening night

untake 28and, then, of course, as a serial killer, he primes himself, he keeps himself in the mood, and in the zone, by repeatedly playing the Corpse Vanishes, so that it is as if he is living in that zone, in a timewarp, lost in time, in a psycho space as it were

untake 29and, I have to say, the extent to which the movie now and then brings the clip from The Corpse Vanishes forward for it to merge with the cinematography of this movie effectively blurs the two worlds in a convincing way that speaks to his loss of sense of reality, it’s effective, and fun

untake 30so, the world of movies that he imagines these girls all live in is the Deuce, it isn’t, anymore, but that is where he places them socially, and, since he is obviously no longer at the top of his game, trolling the Deuce looking for actual victims among the population of woman who were still there in 1980, prostitutes, as that would be too challenging, and unrelated, perhaps, to his business needs back in the burbs, he fixates on the nearest field with conveys the idea that women today are all sluts and completely immoral monsters who deserve to die for how much they are torturing men with the illicit exposure of their impossibly sexy bodies, and that would be workout or gym culture. Well, this IS the 80s, and even Fulci made use of the workout craze and its revealing fashion to design a fantasy New York where all women were undressed and unnecessarily sexy in the context of working out (in New York Ripper). Spinelli’s psycho tastes seem to be more boyish even than that, as we revert to that universal trope, the locker room, here, of course, lots of girls, some nude

untake 31and it is in this round-back adjunct culture to his atemporal POV that we also get the benefit of some shower scenes, and nudity

untake 32his imagination cannot keep out of the lockerroom, we are back there in another context, later

untake 33and another psycho scream shot of :I can’t believe that women today are walking around like that, all naked:, we even ogle with excited disapproval, and they deserve to die moral outrage that there is no way sexy women like that would fuck him, in the park, resting, sweating, after running, all entirely leaving zero to the imagination

untake 34but, now, it is fun how this movie plays with us, in this adjunct space, off to the side of, and misidentified from his notion that the world is still The Deuce, and all those porn movies, a particular young woman shows up, this shot she is done showering and dressing, talking to the others

untake 35but we had seen a lot of her earlier, sweating, after her workout

untake 36and sweating during it

untake 37and, in fact, we see so much of her, it is more or less, according to the rules of the genre, expected that the killer will glom onto her, follow her, and kill her, but, then, she completely disappears from the movie! On one level, this could be just inept movie making, fixing on a really good looking “perfect girl” (almost the soft whipped cream type, in any era in the modern era), just to get things started, but it is also possible she represents his no doubt repeated pshaw that men with Candy Shop complex as I heard it once called in New York in the 80s, the realization that there are just too many beautiful women in the world, why make a choice? So she represents that, but as she is definitely dangled before us and then withdrawn without consequence means to me that she is a type of red herring but as applied to the victim, and for that I am going to call this trope, if trope it is, the Black Swan. The Black Swan is a red herring presented as a possible victim, and is simply thrown away, leaving you nonplussed. So, to find this “dead end” as it were at the end of the workout adjunct adventure in his fantasy visuality is fun.

Then, the movie tosses in another loop, looping out from a different source, but in a way that loops farther out from this, in to his fantasy world. There is a teacher, she teaches necrophilia

untake 38she, in fact, gives one of her student’s the idea that maybe his uncle is doing that, at his funeral home. She then also has to fend off his advances, and somehow gets involved in looking into the crime. This also means that she becomes another kind of target, which means that we loop into her private life too, and, yep, end up in the shower with her

untake 39but for her the attack in the shower is a false positive, it is just a girlfriend, this too a trope, having no problem at all pulling the curtain back talk something over with her wet, nude girlfriend

untake 40and then it turns out that it is them, those two, who are at the park in such undress, and this then justifies for his POV yet another psycho charge of moral outrage, they must be lesbian! a common mansplain blaming of too sexy women who reject their entrees

untake 41then it turns out that, in fact, that’s right, they are, indeed, “degenerate” lesbians who, in the undertaker’s psycho mind, deserve to die

untake 42and then the final complications come at the funeral home, when one comes to search, and the other comes to search for the other, if I remember, so the whole movie eventually does go town the whoosh or his dark fantasy vision of the world, to his death

untake 43thus, then, this landscape painting over a basement office is not simply a motel room painting warning one of trouble coming. It is deeper than that. It is an iris that in its datedness, its depletedness really to the point of being mentally dead, its ersatzness in the sense that maybe he has not looked at it in 20 years, its projection out into the world of a fantasy view of rural goodness which it turn makes the urban, modern world a degenerate den of iniquity of evil sexual women whose death will be no loss to the world, thus it anchors his justification morality for the killing, all of this is grounded in that picture, that signifies the entire POV of a very sick psycho undertaker who ahs taken up a serial killing spree on the flimsy pretext that he is only trying to save his business.

Now, the interesting thing about this picture, right now

untake 44is that a very similar work showed up in the context of contemporary art in the work of  veteran conceptualist Jef Geys in a show at Dusseldorf covered by Contemporary Art Daily.

untake 45in a fusion mood, I see a new wave of bad painting reconsideration, that weirdly parallels my working out the symbology of haunted paintings and other paintings just hung on the walls in the background shots of horror movies, and then my making a distinction between a work of art and the “things people hang on their wall” (Wanddingerhangen is my joke word), and then thinking that in scaling back from art to things people hang on their wall, as indicated by this retrench in Turkish horror movies to purely apotropaic talismans on walls replacing art on walls, direct address replacing indirect address, do, in the matter of a collocation, get back to a more base and common way of thinking that people do, which acts as a sort of ground of “what human beings are really like” stripped of the rationalizing prevarications and rationalizations of higher culture life, and, alas, art. There is a temptation to get all essentialist about this, much in the manner one might with so-called outsider art. But it also strikes me that there is a comeback in the sort of art that makes use of ersatz motel room painting styles as the template for types of bad painting in contemporary art but undertaken with a more pointed and holistic sharpness with the intent of undermining the very idea of the critique of contemporary art. And, indeed, I often find myself, when delighting in finding an actual language, thinking, who needs contemporary art, or, more common of late, a fusion is on the way, THIS, the things I have learned, is what pictures mean, placed in certain places in rooms, or in certain genres, THIS is what they mean, anything artists devise is secondary and rationalized. So, this interested me, Geys is  working with the motel room painting genre, with nonart

untake 46and there might be some understanding of their nature of ground in the use of wallpaper patterns to back them up, or drag them down. But, it also has to be said, he never did arrive at fusion point, because he still felt the need to alter the picture with a Magrittesque inclusion of a collaging surreal sort a shovel, to, I suppose, parody it as just a plot of grass. This is unnecessary, and, also, btw, a misreading of the picture.

He also sets up the installation, not as he ought, if he “gets it,” as Reese did a few years back, but in a schoolroom setup, with the desks placed as if to look at the pictures, as if they are lessons, this is a rationalized leading the witness device that comes by intellect over the top to highlight the point in a too obvious way, and ruins it (attributable to his generation of conceptualism)

untake 47

and the whole installation is set up like this. While this vibe might relate to the experience of looking at paintings in doctors’ offices

untake 48and the wallpaper scratchback of their status as art too

untake 49

and he actually bases his conceptual program on the discovery of a manufacturer artist of nothing less than motel room paintings which showed up all over the world, Martin Douven

untake 50

which is a real thing

untake 51and, indeed, Douven’s over the couch style is so familiar, it might even be that the picture behind the desk in the office of the psycho undertaker in The Undertaker is a Douven, it IS close

untake 52And he a lot of entirely ersatz warning landscapes

untake 53

Geys is more concerned with the manufacture side, and relating it to high art, and thinking over that gap, and imposing over his consideration rationalized structures of critique that derive from ersatz conceptual art tropes, rather than just descend into the reality of where the Douvens ended up to explore the anthropology of how it was they spread, what people got out of them, what they mean, and, the eternal question I ask, watching horror movies, why do people hang the things they hang on their walls? Then, too, that, in horror, they have, no doubt, a meaning, none of these questions are addressed. Meaning, Geys’ art is rationalized conceptual art, not actual conceptual art with agency consideration of the degree to which this form of art has or has not agency, and actually communicates what movies says it does, etc (again, very much of his generation). So, it is very interesting. A movie and a dated psycho POV, resulting in some odd placements of visuality over all, and then, at the same time, a work of contemporary art which appears to swing close to a consideration of the same type of work, but does not in fact approach fusion, and remains aloof and rationalized in the cul de sac of high brow conceptual art, not to encounter psycho space.

Discovering Rita in Mulholland Dr (2001): a twisting fixation leading to madness.


Rev Jan 6 2017. This is part 2 of a 2-part treatment of Mulholland Dr. (2001).

Having, I believe, worked out at least a plausible mapping of the movements of the dreaming mind of Diane through the phases of her memories and fantasies about her experience in Hollywood in the movie Mulholland Dr. (2001), it now seems advisable to fill some of the blanks of the whole system. And the best place to do this is to focus on what the movie fixates upon, and what Betty-Diane fixates upon, Rita-Camilla. Rita, played with voluptuous crypticness by Laura Elena Harring, shows up early, the victim of a car crash, and stumbling away from it in amnesia, only to take up in Diane’s aunt’s vacant apartment. It’s rather odd, she is the psychopomp that leads us to Mulholland Dr.

mud 1but we also know that the explosion of the car, the smoke, is a premonition or foreshadowing of the explosion of the smoke at Diane’s suicide, at the end, so, right away (at least on second viewing), we are wondering, who exactly is this Rita?

mud 2the fact that she sneaks down towards LA and the lights which seem to repeatedly hover like a cross in the eye

mud 3and then rather improbably hides in bushes

mud 4means that her coming to be in Betty’s life, parallels her as Camilla, later, stopping Diane in the same care, on Mulholland Dr. and then leading her dreamlike to a reckoning

mud 5the Hollywood Hills have such a deep lore in horror, and here is another example of someone leading another to a waterloo experience that will crush her. So, early on, Rita unnamed is in a car, and because of a crash wanders injured through the Hills to find the apartment that Betty is staying in, so they can meet cute. But then later, Diane is in the car, knowing she is coming to meet Camilla, whom she loves, but apparently is going through a rough time with, and then the car stops, and Camilla comes down to by a short cut personally lead her up to the execution of their relationship in public, at a dinner party (perhaps Camilla thought that this friendly access would soften the blow, but maybe not). Thus, one scene is a transposition of the other, in full reverse, and, for that, one in retrospect (but not in seeing it the first time) as a fantasy dream formation, subjected to inversive dreamwork, by Diane to rewrite their history positively using pieces of the disastrous end.

At first, we simply assume that this woman is a real woman, though she is acting rather odd. When she decides to sleep under the furniture, in an apartment she has broken into, this is the first inkling that all is not well, in terms of the logic of what is meeting the eye

mud 6then Betty comes to her aunt’s apartment, and it is a haunted house, way too Sunset Boulevard, indicating it is not real

mud 7and she is not even put off the unreality of meeting Ann Miller as the landlady

mud 8though the movie signals to us that all of this is going on in her head, as signaled by this traditional shot of the back of her head (see my treatment of Repulsion)

mud 9and then after a tour of the lavish, old fashioned, old Hollywood apartment, she spies into the bedroom

mud 10where a picture of a girl plays the part of a blue boy picture to warn us, a young woman is in trouble

mud 10 (2)

and by way of her excited body in her sparkling fantasy-representing pink sweater, she sees through a rather dark landscape, of the Whisterlian sort

mud 11to the first manifestation of Rita, her clothes on the floor

mud 12this is a weird thing. It says a few things. On a purely practical level, it suggests that Rita stripped down right away, and, not entirely of right mind, left everything on the floor, including her purse filled with money, and walked nude all the way over into the bathroom, to shower. This indicates both absent minded dreamlike action on her part, and a sore survival need to return to normal, because she’s been crawling around the bushes all night, and stinks. But then, symbolically, the trail of clothes on the floor leading to a body is a movie trope of great age and standing, but usually ending with sex at the end of the trail. It is often discovered by a husband or lover, and in fact we have a sequence like that in the movie, with the director and his wife, but in any case acts as a trigger to provide an erotic charge, it turns her on. At the same time, at the bottom of REM dream, falling down the whoosh into dream, is, often, the splat figure, a figure entirely crushed by the fall, possibly dead, so this trope brings death into the picture too. So, right away, a strong suspicion that this is a subjective perceptual image, not reality. Anyways, now she goes through to the bathroom, first, oddly, stopping to smile at herself in the mirror, an odd mirror arrangement with a secondary mirror in support

mud 13and then from that glass, and the weird sort of teeth like art décor tile formation, she turns to find frosted glass, and a naked body in the shower. So, this is a shower sequence, but it is odd

mud 14I want to point out that this is a classic “lattice shot,” one really does wonder where the directors learn all this, but any shot in which the primary figure is on the side looking out or in and often with her back to you that means that, ipso facto, by the nature of the shot (but again we experience film so quickly even I did not pick up on this on first viewing), what she sees is in her mind, or at least part of her fixating obsession. The other odd thing about this is that not only is it a meeting cute, but it is a very odd almost fetishistic Female Dressed Female Naked control formation, meaning again that she is not real, (very strangely, in this new year, I also just viewed The Hypnotic Eye, and there is a very strange shower scene in that one in which vengeful Alison Hayes stands clothed to force hypnotized Marsha to strip and step in under a scalding spray that will kill her) but, also, how many people have you met on planet earth naked body first, that is, how many people have been naked when you first met them? Very few, I would imagine. For me, that casts the image back to a kind of infantile, when did we first meet imagining, the 2001 star baby framing those musings to come up with this pretext story. Finally, though it is rather late in the day for this, as this was a classic 70s horror movie trope, what we “see” of her most of all in this pose, her breasts elided, is her shadowiness, evoked mostly by her presumably unshaven crotch

mud 15again, it has to be asked, as to the reality test of this story, how many women have you met in this life vagina first, none. So, right away suspicion in the shower scene that it has been orchestrated to communicate to us that Rita is a figment of Betty’s dreaming imagination, the thing she needs to make this perfect fantasy of arrival in Hollywood perfect, a lesbian love. But, of course, whatever her deeper mind wants, Betty being Betty backs off apologetically, shocked to have walked in on a naked lady, because that is just soooo Hollywood

mud 15 1now we find out that Rita is in fact clueless, amnesiac, an old soap opera trope, and she casts about for a name, and finds one on a poster for Gilda, a movie starring Rita Hayworth, so she says she is Rita

mud 16and the double mirror indicates that she will latch onto that persona, but also that, given the earlier shot, this persona may be a projection’s of Betty. Now she comes out to talk, in her bathtowel, which is quite intimate

mud 17and though it’s true she exhibits some mental issues, with her injury, and her blankness is now evoked by the misty landscape behind, it has to be noticed that Betty puts her hands on her very, very quickly, I mean not three minutes after they have met, that too is odd

mud 19and after she sits her down, meaning five minutes after their meeting, she has both hands on her, her upper wet chest erotically exposed, on the bed

mud 20

and, here, too, profiled by the “blue boy” picture on the wall

mud 20 (2)

and then she lays down to sleep, all she wants to do is sleep, and, in doing so, basically shows Betty the whole show that she was so shy about seeing earlier in the shower

mud 21there can be no mistaking the foreshadowing effect of the hand gestures in this shot

mud 22later, when we come back to her, still sleeping, we are given license to see her as a figment of the figurations on the closet paintings, and as a filling out of the figure of the robe

mud 23then later Betty is happily talking on the phone, but finds out that there is no woman staying at her aunt’s apartment, and there is, as a result, a total stranger in the bed in the other room

mud 24Lynch now gives us this new approach by the distancing effect drawn from the trope of the gown prowl in horror movies, as we pan close by threatening trouble landscapes and potted plants

mud 25we zig zag through the hall, coming upon this painting, representing her as stranger

mud 26and then we come back on her through a door chink, meaning that she is trouble a third time

mud 27their second meeting is an encounter, opposing each other

mud 28but then it is this conversation, with tears, that makes Betty, that quickly, fall in love with her

mud 29this then the conversation too where we get the unzipped handbag, symbolic of intimacy by way of a suggestive form

mud 30so, early on, in her imagination, with a perfect alibi formation, with no strings attached, and exonerating her entirely, like a caught in the rain have to get out of these clothes sexual fantasy, Betty imagines herself coming to Hollywood and falling instantly, day one, for a total beautiful stranger who also does not even know who she is, except she has a lot of money. It is shady. After another break to other ends of the fantasizing, we return to find Betty now totally on board to help Rita find out who she is, and so the great fantasy Hollywood caper is on. But Rita is still in her robe, and profiled by that picture, in back, making one wonder again of her reality

mud 31this now weaves them through the diner, which is a dream spot for Betty, and because of other things that happened there, Rita remembers a name, Diane Selwyn, so they look it up, and go looking

mud 32they call her up, that is, they call up the number, and Rita comments that it is strange to be calling yourself, another self-reflexive device along the way

mud 33then the map comes out (Betty has said let’s go look because I haven’t seen any of Hollywood, and what better more authentic way to do that but through a film noir mystery plot

mud 34next day, Betty rehearses with Rita reading lines, but at first we don’t know this, so it seems like the relationship has gone sour, but no, they are having fun

mud 35then Ann Mille discovers Rita and asks who she is

mud 36and we also find out that the aunt wants to know who she has staying in her apartment, and also that men drive by to case the joint, for reasons they do not quite know

mud 37when she returns from her audition to take Rita to search for the address of Diane Selwyn, the men are still watching, adding to the fantasy drama

mud 38But then the movie does one of its odd pauses. That is, as the mis en scene is cruising along, Lynch pauses to concentrate in detail on a particular sequence. There are several aspects of the search for apartment 12, or 17, that is interesting, in terms of dream formation. Firstly, they go round the back, and secondly, the complex is an antique set in the middle of more modern buildings, this makes of it a counter space on two counts

mud 39then, there is a tunnel that one has to go through, to get into the courtyard, deepening its cult quality

mud 40then they glance by another event in the mis en scene, which involves the men again, and appears to involve the men taking the chosen starlet to star in the movie, and we have seen her a few times, and will again at the dinner party, to go off to her new quarters, as the moll of the moment

mud 41there is also a lot of disorienting vegetation and since Rita is in a red top which lays obvious her generous chest, compared to Betty’s rather boyish figure, there is a twinge of Adam and Eve meaning here too, that is, a drive toward essentialism, a belief by both of them that they are headed toward the solution to the mystery

mud 42but then they are waylaid as it turns out for weird unexplained reasons apartments were exchanged and the resident of apartment 12 now lives in apartment 17, having exchanged with the current resident (a fact which suggests strong personal, even intimate connection, deepening the same-sex link)

mud 43the degree to which the woodedness of the surroundings and the rusticness of the tudor style was emphasized made me think that we were delving into a sarcophagus, and from all this I got a bad feeling, worse that they had to break in from the rear, with Betty’s rear showed up

mud 44but then immediately upon entering the apartment they are overcome by the smell of decay, and it turns out that on the bed in the bedroom is laid out a body of a woman who has been dead for at least two weeks, if the level of decay means anything, and the smell, and, for that, for them, it leads to a dead end, they do not know who this person is. The face of the decayed person is also effaced so that they cannot see that, what we will learn later, it is Diane

mud 45it is at this revelation that the movie indulges in the only spazcam or blur effect of the proceedings, and they are both shocked

mud 46What has happened here, but we only know this in retrospect of seeing the ending, is that Betty has encountered her real avatar, Diane, that is, a fantasy figure in the mind has encountered the real creator of the fantasy, and she is long dead, having shot herself in the face. It would appear by the mis en scene that Rita experienced early on is a fantasy of self by Betty-Diane, and, then, as the relationship develops, a double of Betty’s wild side, which then helps Betty, too shy, to come look for and find the boy of Betty-Diane who has committed suicide. Thus, Rita is, ultimately seen here as a an unreal internal psychopomp fantasy figure possibly of her repressed homosexuality, to lead Betty to the posthumous awareness and sadness that she committed suicide.

But in the flow of the movie, the result of the finding of the body is a shock to the spurious mendacity of the fantasy which is being carried on in the movie, and it is expressed by that. It is also expressed by the fact that very soon after this self-revelation, seeing one’s death but not being prepared to see it, Betty decides that Rita needs a disguise and to do that she transforms Rita into a copy of herself, This represents a kind of defensive retrenchment, pulling her into her, to shore up her denial of the facts of who that body on the bed is (suicides often project into the future to imagine how horrible it will be for survivors to suffer over their demise)

mud 47This strongly suggests that first Rita was a fantasy figure of the perfect lover, encountered cute and magically, and needing her, and then she is pulled in, after a shock, to be revealed as but a doppelganger of herself. That is, she is the other half of herself, and she is in fact seeking out love of self, by way of this partial recipient of it. This, in the mirror, creates a kind of narcissitic feedback loop, that then leads to the next scene. Betty is alone in bed, awake, aroused by Rita being in the same apartment as her

mud 48therefore when Rita, eternally wearing only that towel, always, in her being, getting out of the shower, peeks around the corner, under the aegis of the picture, says goodnight, she gives Betty an “in” to change the scenario of separation

mud 49saying that she does not have to wear that wig now offers her the alibi in, in keeping with classic adolescent fantasy, to then say she does not have to sleep on the couch, there is plenty of room in the bed, and thus make this sexual offer in a nonsexual way, as a convenient courtesy. But then after Rita takes off the wig, she also, for bed, has to take off the towel, and at last we see her entirely naked get into bed. Remember that Betty was appalled and thrilled to first encounter her as a human being naked in the shower, with a heavy emphasis on the shadows of her private area. And now she gets way more than she asked for in simply offering her a comfortable corner of the bed, as she comes to bed cluelessly nude, her boobs and bush entirely hanging out, all over the place

mud 50here, too, again, profiled by the blue boy picture

mud 50 (2)

this is a full on display of her boobs from every angle too, then Rita turns out in this case, naked to her, to be entirely engaging, and grateful

mud 52and so leans over to kiss her thank you goodnight

mud 53which very quickly turns into a completely different kind of kiss, a sexual kiss, and they make love with exposure limited to Watts’ breasts

mud 54and again back to hers, the major points of interest in the current situation

mud 55I have argued that the lattice in dreams is represented by a single form which just hangs there, like a chandelier, and there is little question that this love scene was required to make sure that Rita with her breasts, in particular, hanging heavy, to indicate that she is entirely the center of the obsessive lattice stage of dream of the movie. It is also interesting that having already entered into a copycay wig stage of imitating Betty, Rita after having made love to Betty is represented as a kind of half of Janus of Betty

mud 56it is then at this point that Rita wakes up and asks Betty to go with her somewhere, at 2 in the morning, and how could she having just fucked her that night say no, so she goes to a theater, where they encounter some figures leading to the blue haired demon who utters the word silenzio, and they cry, possibly only the visualization of an intimation of mortality, that life is short, and time is of the essence, where they see to encounter a torch song singer who then defers to a woman in the opera box in a blue wig who utters the word, Silenzio, described earlier as an avatar in younger form of the witch of death which predominates in this corpse imagining

mud 57then, when Betty is revealed as the fantasy figure inside of Diane’s imaginings, Rita reverts to being real life Camilla, whom real life Diane was in love with, but is now in the process of being dumped from, and she is so upset that she cant get out of bed, has completely bottomed out, and even in the kitchen is so nuts as to see her in the flesh in front of her, when she is not there

mud 59which gives us the frisky love scene, which turns out to be a dumping scene, on the couch, an entire fantasy, but which aligned with the way in which far into a relationship sex becomes more incidental and opportunistic and less ritualistic

mud 60then there is a kind of a flashback to another scene in which she was cruelly asked to stay to witness Camilla give in to the affections of the director, bringing tears to her eyes

mud 61and then there is the business with the dinner party rebuff, and the news that she recoils from, that Camilla and the director are getting married, and even some offputting insider gossip with the chosen girl

mud 62all of which ends up with Diane wanting to, way opposite of Betty falling in love with this mysterious woman, to have her revenge by murdering this woman who toyed with her, and then let her loose, to return to heterosexuality

mud 63there is no question, then, that Rita/Camilla is the lattice figure, obsessed upon, hanging heavy, in the movie. From her, all the other complications come. From Betty/Diane’s love for her, told as a fantasy cute meet alibi in the Betty part of the movie, and as a cruel dumping in the Diane part of the movie, all of the mania and eventual madness of the proceedings derive. That is, she is twisted in her figuration inside out of the imaginings of Diane’s vengeful dying brain as first a pure fantasy and then as a terrible reality that altogether by that blunt twist drove her crazy, to want to kill. It may well be that in retrospect from her raging dream brain Diane saw it all as a narcissitic love of self or doppelganger, but it remains that as the movie settles in on Rita-Camilla, she is the instrument by which all else is brought down (much in the manner of the movie that is quoted to offer her an identity, Gilda, see analysis) and clearly the reason that Diane goes mad and commits suicide. This analysis has shown that as a lattice figure Rita-Camilla was then pushed down the whoosh, into complications of identity and encounters with death, and at last ends up as being the cause that makes Betty in anger and rage and despair shoot herself to death on her bed, only, oddly, to lie there, a mystery, until discovered by fantasy avatars of herself days later (in the manner of they’ll be sorry when they find me suicide fantasies too). The key point of this whole core plot of Rita is that it is never quite clear if Rita is real, and the fact that Diane ends up in the car in the exact same position as Rita in the opening scene of the movie only reinforces the possiblity that all of this was nothing more than a bottomed out masturbatory fantasy of selfhate as well. And it is to support with nuance the complicated nature of the way that her relationship with Rita-Camilla drove her mad that the movie superimposes and circumscribes around the romance a dream structure which gives a death trajectory to suicide of this sad tale of forsaken love.

The dream of the suicide: encountering guardian figures in the hypnagogic structure of David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. (2001).

Rev., Jan 6, 2017.

Disclaimers: There are no spoilers here, as a screening of the movie before any of this makes sense is assumed.

It seems opportune that I screen Mulholland Dr. (2001), just as soon as I expand my musings in dream theory to an ancient and even Roman dimension. In my musing on movies, and in conjunction with the fact that six years I was told I never have deep REM dreams anymore, and yet something was still going on in my head when I was in light sleep, I devised a staged model of sleeping which parallels scientific dream theory at present, but also has strong parallels to Macrobius’s phased notion of sleep in the ancient era. According to this model, there are five stages of sleep, entoptic, glass onion, lattice, whoosh and deep REM sleep. This, I have explored endlessly over the past few years. Then, I discovered that somehow the language of the modern movie was imbued with this secret knowledge in ways that art and literature was not, and the question then is, why, or how? I would guess that because it was a visual moving art with parallels to dreaming, as noted by Belting, this lead to these micro internal explorations of the shifting nature of eyesight as it muses on this or that. And yet in the formalist regime, a visual critical system parallel to the material-rationalist world we live in, most of the dream involvement of movies is treated only superficially, if at all, and people are always after the fact, and need an explanation. In addition, it has now occurred to me that movies are populated by a whole cast of stock characters who serve as ushers or gatekeepers to the phases of the dreaming as the movie fluctuates from one stage to another, and that these figures are parallel to the guardian figures that the ancients also apparently believed presided over the stages of sleep, and were also positioned within the labyrinth of sleep (I have figured that there are between 34 and 54 figures that show up in a creative odyssey in dream thinking in a movie). Finally, on the basis of all this, I began to note that the art of the Roman sarcophagus was stylized to accommodate the veils of consciousness as they surrender to death (confirmed by Platt), and one passes from life to death, and these phases were imagined by the Romans as parallel to dream stages, meaning to them death was a dream, but then at bottom it did bottom out into a concrete place, where true death takes place.

All of this now coalesces in a moment to allow me to make an attempt to unlock the mystery of Mulholland Dr. (2001), David Lynch’s ultimate statement on the Hollywood dream. I think that the movie demonstrates that Lynch has a pagan imagination, that he envisions the phases of sleep as consisting of different states of consciousness, that he also imagines each phase introduced by a figure of a godly or demonic sort, and then represented by an avatar of the dreaming self. It also strikes me that the overall obsession of the movie is with death, and that since it is apparent that when Betty and Rita break into apartment 17 to find a body on a bed that has decayed and it later turns out that that body is Betty’s, when she was Diane, sleeping, but, then, killing herself

mul 1that the whole movie can be mapped out as a disjunct representation, on its surface, with lots of fluctuations and forkings, of the dream of a suicide. It could even be said that, even more extremely, that the movie traces the disappearance of consciousness in the dying mind of a person who has just shot herself to death (in that sense, one of the most painful explorations of the horrible question, I wonder what they really is like, those first few moments after death?). This seems like a radical conclusion, and it may be off a bit, but it would seem that in general the movie bears this out.

To work out the structure of the movie, one has to first simply grab onto some moments where scenes in one scenario parallel to those in another, and thus acts as ‘clues’ to figure out what is going on. This is done only by having seen the movie previously, where one’s mind can loop back and put two and two together, when in the viewing they are not put together until the second recurrence of the image happens. Here are the parallels I have devised thus far.

Early on, Rita is in a car being driven to Mulholland Dr., and there is a crash as some kids in hot rods come barreling down the canyon, crashing head on

mul 2that same shot is then repeated way at the other end of the movie when Diane shoots herself, and the room explodes in magic smoke

mul 3The smoke then clears to a sighting of the blue witch, a classic hag attack, I believe a harbinger of death

mul 4the witch has shown up previously at the end of the odd sequence in Winkie’s, the diner, where the unnamed man with the eyebrows tells of a dream, and that he is afraid of something behind the diner, and back there, we find the witch

mul 5later a variant of the witch shows up at her door warning her of trouble, Louise Bonner played by Lee Grant, and accompanied by Ann Miller, all veteran actors

mul 6then later the witch shows up after Diane meets her hitman to order to the killing of Camilla/Rita,  she is the custodian of the blue box, which shows up several times

mul 7it is related to a blue key, which first shows up when Betty and Rita look into Rita’s purse, to see who she is, and out comes some money, and the blue key

mul 9the blue key opens the blue box

mul 10the blue witch and the blue key appear to be related to the blue haired elderly woman sitting in the opera box at the mysterious performance Rita takes Betty to at two o clock in the morning

mul 11and, indeed, it is right after that, when they get back, that they look at the blue box the most closely in the movie and put the key in

mul 12and open the box, there apparently being nothing in it

mul 13but then the box drops

mul 14and the movie experiences its biggest “break” or plug pull, as the dead aunt now presumably comes into her apartment, having occupied it all the time, wondering of a haunting, if she had not heard people, and so it is suggested that Betty and Rita’s possession of Betty’s aunt’s apartment was entirely a fantasy in the mind of Betty, and the movie now breaks back to the “real Betty” which is Diane, an actress come to Hollywood to be famous, but who is having a terrible time, made worse by the fact that she appears to have had an affair with Camilla/Rita, who has now dumped her, and is kind of torturing her. But we will get to that second break, at the dinner party, in a bit.

All of this suggests to me that the blue witch is the presider over the threshold from the lattice, the whoosh down into deep dream, but then since this is a nightmare, the splat figure hitting bottom, to bounce out of dream in a nightmare panic wakeup, and the blue box is more or less the mechanism by which the plot moves from the dimension of the sleeping body to the surfacing to reveal the real life experiences that the dream has tried to evade or obfuscate. And yet she is also, since REM is not here, a threshold figure to death, perhaps then the personification of Diane’s sleeping body as it bears down on itself to then die. Since the smoke at the end of the suicide reprises the smoke at the beginning of the drama, the accident that hurts Camilla, this could even be construed as a suicide’s dream, or an imagining of the draining away of consciousness in the head of a suicide, in figurative sort of way. By this circular scenario the first trip up Mulholland Dr. is a figurative evasion, transferred to Rita, the gun shot that suicides her.

But then the smoke and the passage up Mulholland Dr. also bespeak a whoosh too, and so that level must be filled in. Here, too, though it is not worked out entirely, here, I would argue that, in terms of the dream phases in which the movie takes place, the sleeping body of its framework waking to higher and dropping to lower levels as the movie progresses, and even looping out into adjunct spaces when, momentarily awakened, or lightened up, one’s rational mind momentarily kicks in to want to explain and rationalize why a figure is there, the Betty-Rita fantasy is the working out of the symbolic glass onion phase, Rita/ Carmilla is of course the lattice that the mind of Betty/ Diane obsesses on (so this is, all of it, a lesbian revenge breakup story), then the whoosh itself, the vertiginous falling, this is less well worked out, but I will argue that the space that occupies this zone is the oddly placed diner, which is surprisingly central to the workings of the dream logic of the movie, for having such a cryptic and incidental role in the consciously-perceived proceedings, and then we drop straight to the palace of death, and that would be the Twin Peaks man in his glass enclosure, the mob boss like God pulling the strings, and then even the Silenzio blue haired avatar of the blue witch who presides over the dying moment.

Getting back, then, to connecting tissues, back to the diner, we see it a few times. Early on there is a strange, unexplainable scene, which seems, like so many of Lynch’s dream sequences, to go on too long, of a strange character explaining a dream, in the diner where the dream takes place. The diner is Winkie’s on Sunset Boulevard. The place helps lame critics to easily link this movie up with Sunset Boulevard, the movie, but Winkie’s is perhaps a diegetic wink at them for thinking that, and bespeaking the blinking that occurs as one moves from one phase to another.

mul 15he tells the dream

mul 16and there was another guy over by the counter

mul 17then he claimed that there was a man in back of the place, who could see through the walls, and it made him very afraid, and that was the whole dream. But it also means he takes him out back

mul 18and they go down a whoosh

mul 19and there is a specific haunted place in the alley behind

mul 20and it is there that he sees the witch which causes him to faint

mul 21later on, we see the killer that Diane will hire, with a prostitute, walking behind the same sort of place, if not the exactly the same place (in dreams one rarely returns to exactly the same space and one’s memory is impaired)

mul 22and then later after Betty takes Rita off on an exciting film noir caper to find out who she is, calling up the police to see about an accident on Mulholland Dr., then meeting up, reading the newspapers, just like in the movies, in the diner, in the same seat, apparently, as the earlier figure sat

mul 23she notices that the waitress looks familiar, and is named Diane

mul 24and it is at the diner that Rita says, I remember something, a name, Diane Selwyn

mul 25but it is very shortly before that that Betty returns to find Rita sitting on the edge of the bed, crying, and in the crying, close-up, she apparently falls for her, and will now go out on the caper with her, to find out who she is

mul 26and it is at this point that Lynch again very slowly and carefully in close-up emblematizes in microcosm a hidden fact of the story in the unzipping of the bag, making it, by that slow mo treatment, a symbol of private parts between them

mul 27and in the bag is the money

mul 28and face of an old man, or man

mul 29and the key

mul 30and then for the last time we return to the diner, she is Diane, and ordering a hit against Camilla, from the sleaze we have seen a few times before (in what I would classify as momentary-waking-explainings of his presence in an adjunct space)

mul 31and she looks up to notice that the waitress’s name, who looks nothing like her at this point, is Betty

mul 32Camilla is represented by a head shot, which she wants her shot in the head, or her breaking up and betrayal

mul 33and here too there is a blue key involved

mul 34and when she looks over to the counter, she sees the man we saw earlier explain his dream and his fears of that place, staring at her, she’s creeped out

mul 35to then return us, in that alley space in back, to the witch

mul 36from this zigzag weavings of connectives I would argue that as the sleeping-dying mind of Betty-Diane is fabricating a fanciful dream version of her life in Hollywood, to exonerate herself of her failure, and cleanse herself of the awful feelings that have overcome her, she has at the plug-pull or “break” moment of the movie a night panic, which is not exactly a hag attack, but possibly related, and related no doubt to the Ephialtes terrors of the nightmare leapers (see Roscher), in which in panic the whole thing explodes in her mind and she realizes with horror the what have I done? reality of things and is utterly despondent, the kind of panic, using forced by depression, and then teleological thinking, that ends up in a suicidal moment, and, for that, the eyebrowed male figure is also a threshold figure, but he is the equivalent of Mercury, believed by the Romans to be able to pass between life and death, and therefore often depicted on the sarcophagi of both men or women opening the door between the zones, thus leading her to death, or the recognition at least of the crime she committed that now in guilt leads to her death, and he exists as the threshold figure at the entrance into the whoosh, and the crime of the diner might be the whoosh flattened out, and it is he who ushers her to death, the blue witch. It is also wonderful to me that Lynch catches on that these figures that represent for example “death thoughts” exist in the dream-structure of the brain in very specific places, often even externalized into places of ill repute, in the real world, and thus the early scene where the man at the diner talks about the stark unexplainable fear of a figure behind the wall, he is bespeaking Diane’s fear and shock that she actually did this, it is the scene of the crime, guilt over which will propel her suicide.

mul 37So, the diner is the symbolic space that hosts the whoosh, the crime, and it is the event of this crime, that she wants most to forget. She is filled with rage and regret, gall and guilt, really, completely messed up.

There are two ways to go from having landed at this juncture, in an adjunct sacred spot in the wild space outside the fantasy diner. When we see the witch drop the bag with the blue box in it, dropped as if some fish and chips in the alley, there is a strange object next to it

mul 38(again, this has always been Lynch’s linchpin space, in terms of his particular visual genius, detailed emblematic microcosms that bespeak other elements of the movie)

mul 39the other object is the lid of can of soda or beer, meaning that somehow the blue box has been envisioned from, and is now being cast back into, alleyway garbage, as might be tossed out by clients leaving a diner

mul 40but the truly truly Lynchian wtf moment here is he then makes use of that can-top to envision in a hallucinatory way two little figures

mul 41this then cuts back to the blue key, but now it is on the table of Diane’s apartment

mul 42she stares at it

mul 43but with such attention that there is a close-up, and then it goes further, she, afraid, haunted by what she has done, sees the same little people crawl in under her door

mul 44there they are, two little old people crawling under her door

mul 45

she closes her eyes, hoping it will go away, aware that some sort of hallucination fueled by turmoil in the liquid in her entoptic eye field has caused her to see this horrible thing

mul 46This miniaturized sequence, that then goes macro, is made plausible, and fronted, by a previous sequence in which, alone as Diane in her rundown apartment, she imagines that Rita is there, with her, and this sequence too fluxes from micro to macro. She is awoken by knocking, and it is the neighbor wanting her stuff back, but she sees the blue key, and hears that two detectives are looking for you (meaning that they suspect she had something to do with a killing)

mul 47then there is a close-up of the coffee machine, and its red light must’ve activated in her a capacity to envision Rita, because she is there

mul 48but then she disappears, but, just as quickly, is there again, and it is a very frisky scene that is imagined, as topless Diane sportily crawls over the top of the couch to Rita at this point playing the role of nothing but the figuring out of the couch

mul 49the ability to touch her perhaps figured out by the piano tschotke that is still on the table, indicating this as taking place earlier

mul 50but then this breast to breast lesbian fantasy, or memory, is broken up by the fact that after being entirely receptive and open and lying around topless Rita announces that this is it, we can’t do this anymore

mul 51and then Diane seems to try to get rough and even rape Rita, accusing her, it’s him, isn’t it, she is furious

mul 52and after having given a startling performance of her bright and happy faces, Watts now offers us some truly dark faces, and after an intervening insult of revelation of the way it is on stage, she is back in the apartment, and making ugly faces indeed

mul 53crying

mul 54and even laboring very, very hard, almost with fury

mul 55and we discover that she is masturbating, hard, desperately, trying by this imagining to get Rita back and to fixate on her, and if by magic like to like, to arouse her further down her own pants

mul 56she fixates on the gap between the rocks of her wall and the ceiling, a little dark gap that I presume she is imagining as Rita’s crotch, and by that likeness come

mul 57this then marginal crawlspace fixation evocative of madness and setting up the plausibility of her also seeing the little people come in from under the crack in the door, a place so rich in horror history as a trope of evil (I also want to point out that though in general I believe Lynch has progressed past the polarized modernist model of conscious versus unconscious, and waking versus dreaming, ignoring all the spaces between, by that dual binary model therefore demonizing as psycho or mad all the crawlspaces between the two, and it was in fact in the context of that model that I first explored crawlspace, as psycho space, in the early 90s, and later in art began to appreciate a more nuanced view of such space by way of the art of Polly Apfelbaum and, more or less, with My Secret Business, Kiki Smith, this site was exactly the space that Smith herself first found evidence of crawlspace parsing of mental dream space in her art, and here is Lynch doing the same thing, in his fluxing forever between extreme detail and lifesize living), but then the two are in the room with her, coming in close up, terrifying her

mul 58she completely freaks out, and in classic horror movie trope way, they chase her down her dreammaze halls, she backing off in hysterics

mul 59and is so pushed over the edge that without thinking, in pure instinctual panic, she jumps on her bed, everything blue

mul 60grabs the gun in her drawer next to the bed, puts it in her mouth, and pulls the trigger

mul 61to which we again see her body, dead, lying in the blue smoke

mul 62shockingly, for those wishing to follow the movie in a rational way, the figures that in miniature crawl out of the disposed bag with the blue box of death in it, and under her door, then to become life-size and haunt her in a classic hag attack, literally a nightmare panic attack, as, in fact, Ephilates, are the people she arrived in Hollywood with, when she was all golly gee aw shucks pure and innocent Betty come to Tinsel Town to be famous

mul 63and this arrival is so picture postcard perfect that she arrives to a sign

mul 64and they wish her well, and bon voyage

mul 65but, then, surprisingly, the camera stays with the couple, we don’t know who they are, and we see the world out of their back seat

mul 66and they are beaming, not just smiling but beaming, all teeth, all smiles

mul 67and with the smiling woman in particular, with all her teeth (or dentures) showing

mul 68

we then cut to the Hollywood sign, and realize that she he is the personification of the Hollywood sign

mul 69and that she represents not just the Hollywood sign and therefore all the innocent dreams of ingenues come to town, but the Hollywood dream as projected from Diane’s aunt, or even grandmother, from way off in Ontario, and therefore a Hollywood dream that by 2001 is about 70 years old, and this accounts for the odd opening title sequence of the antiquated jitterbug

mul 70and seeing Betty as a dreaming idealistic projection onto that antiquated dream space

mul 72but then we descend into a pillow (it’s right there, for those who will not see that this is a visualized dream narrative) we descend face forward into a pillow, meaning all of this is something going on in the mind of Diane-Betty as she is sleeping

mul 73and the Hollywood of idealism and dream and Tinsel and glamour is instantly replaced by its darkside twin, Mulholland

mul 74but then she arrives at her fantasy old Hollywood apartment, and it is even run by a still robust 1930s star Ann Miller, all done up in pearls with that old 30s showgirl moxy

mul 75then Rita is amnesiac in the formulation of her dreamwork, and thus has to be patched together with references to Gilda and Rita Hayworth

mul 76and we see the sign again when we break from the director meeting the cowboy, to her and Rita trying to figure out who Rita is, and getting into the whole caper

mul 77then she goes off, with all her smalltown girl naïve gestures of moxy to the audition

mul 78and we end with her spirit exulting over the lights of Los Angeles

mul 79and see that she is accompanied now by other dancers, one of them Rita (making it possible that the nice old lady who ushered her in, then scared her to death, was the prototype from which Rita was fashioned as a fantasm)

mul 80all of this means to me that the two old people who usher her in to Hollywood are not only personifications of the Hollywood sign, but personifications of a dated Hollywood dream and, as such, I place them as the ushers at the threshold of dream leading her into the glass onion fantasy phase of her evasive cover-dreaming to erase from her memory the plot she undertook to kill.

But, then, to wrap up with trying to identity all the threshold figures that occupy the various forkings or branchings of the dreaming mind that oversees and frames the whole proceedings, there is also the cowboy, and the mob boss who is trying to make sure that Camilla gets the job. First, with the cowboy. He is one of these strange Lynch personfications that mystify critics, and have no realistic role in his movies. But they serve as dream figures or guardians of the gate as they help the mind of the dreamer of the movie to navigate through the movie. If the Hollywood Sign elderly people are the ushers into the glass onion fantasy stage of the movie, then I place the cowboy at the bottom of the fantasy leading out of it, into deeper stuff. He is such a clichéd figure, and speaks in oracularly cryptic ways, that he can only be that figure in her head that will not let her forget Camilla. We first see him in a very adjunct way. In one of the segments of the movie that I liken to a brief awakening from a dream, to then set the rational mind temporarily to work to try to rationalize it, we follow the director on some errant imaginings of what his life must be life (but all of it Diane thinking what he had to go through to cast her, or not), and after he has walked in on his wife fucking, then got beat up and thrown out by her latest lay, then had to go to a crummy hotel, then had all his funds stopped, a cryptic assistant who offers him her body for the night (she has the same whimsical elf-eyed oddness as the desk clerk played by Alan Cumming in Eyes Wide Shut, a very curious manner, that movies exploit a lot), he has to drive up to the end of a canon to a corral, a glass dream extenuation space, to find him.

mul 81and he tells the director, after some narcissistic insistence, to choose the right girl at auditions tomorrow, meaning presumably that he was hired by the mob boss and those dealings to make the point in the guise of a hit man who, crazily, is such a killer that he dresses up as an old fashioned Tom Nix Hollywood cowboy, and meets people in out of the way places to say cryptic things to him. And he says, if you choose right, you will see me only one more time, but if you choose wrong, you will see me two more times. It is hard to determine what exactly means. I took it to mean that if you choose wrong I will be the last person you see, I will come to kill you. But it is also to remember all of this is going on in Diane’s mind, so he can be read as an avatar of her will to kill Camilla, a figure to fixate on Camilla. I would also relate him to the biker at the diner who after accepting the money, says that it will be done. So, he is the figure that tells her, through the director, in her dreams, if you forget about her, you will survive, but if you choose to fixate on her, and never get over getting dumped by her, you will see me twice more. And, in fact, we do see him twice more. Later on, just after the blue box has fallen on her aunt’s carpet, and the movie “pulls the plug” and now we come in one Diane lying in the place of the dead body on the bed in apartment number 17, and before she wakes up, we see him standing at the door, watching her

mul 82so he is the break figure that represents the impulse that weighs down and destroys her fantasy evasions by reminding her that she is still obsessed with Rita/Camilla, and can’t get away from it. And then we do see him one more time, in what must be a wtf shot to most viewers, and maybe even to all but Lynch, but at the dinner party, at the table, when she is taking a lot of hits to her ego, having to explain herself as she is backing up in increasing pain at seeing Camilla with the director, and announcing their engagement, just before she flinches in rage away from it, and we plug-pull a second time back to the Diner and her making an assignation for a hit, the cowboy walks through the room in the background a third time, announcing, explicitly, that he represents dreamwise the break of her fantasy, into a killer impulse against Camilla/Rita, meaning that as a threshold dream figure he exists at the bottom of the glass onion, as we drop into the fixated zone of Rita.

The vertically formalist array of guardian or psychopomp figures that lord over the proceedings of the movie, as believed by the ancients to occupy the transitional and threshold spaces in the descent to dream, this whole army of personfications and symbolic figures, is completed by death himself. And he is more or less outside the picture, but is classic David Lynch, as he showed up in Twin Peaks too, and it is the apparent mob boss, incapacitated, sitting in a curtained room

mul 83in a wheel chair, behind glass, so obviously has breathing and germ problems too, and he is pulling the strings of getting either Rita or the other girl cast, pressuring the director, and in Diane’s mind he would be the embodiment of the “it’s all a fix” mentality that she resorted to after the crushing of her dreams

mul 84there is not much to say of him, except that he exists at the very bottom of it all, he is god, he weighs her down, insisting on her never forgetting Rita/Camilla, never getting over that, and, for that, he is Thanatos, the god of death, who pulls her down, insistently, to death. Thus, all up and down the vertical shifting structure of the dreamwork of this movie, all of it going on in the head of Diane, Lynch has really very Romanly scattered a host of stock symbolic figures to guide us in taking the temperature of the moment and knowing at what level of escape or facing-up we are at, and these are the Hollywood Sign couple at the beginning of the glass onion phase (and before the drivers seen from behind in the limo in the entoptic phase), the cowboy figure at the bottom of the glass onion fantasy stage, Rita herself, of which in a bit, and the one fixated on, but then, below her, a Mercury figure, the Winkie’s Diner man leading her down the whoosh, the Blue Witch at the bottom of the whoosh (with the blue haired opera box lady whispering Silenzio a less extreme form of her), and then the Mob Boss as Thanatos at that point when the nightmare ends, not by waking up, but by suicide. For all this, I posit that Mulholland Dr. is entirely a dream inside Diane’s head, as she tosses and turns, sometimes lifting back up to lighter stages of dream, and fantasy, but then dropping back to nightmare phases, and then often having short waking moments where she rationalizes and even in horror realizes what she has done and is paranoically depressed to the point of mad hallucinations resulting in her committing suicide. It is all about then, the dream of a suicide, if not, strictly and literally speaking, the dream drain that occurs in a body that has just committed suicide.

I read it said, in passing, that in order to follow the movie, you should follow the red lamps in it. It is certain that a red lamp is a classic horror movie trope meaning that death is coming, and I can document for you many examples of it. It is also true that the red lamp does appear at “break” moments in the movie . The red lamp first appears after we see Betty arrive in town

mul 85involved in some sort of phone call to some entity who perhaps is being asked to watch her

mul 86it was never entirely clear to me whose phone this is, or whose bed table this is, but I did note that the ashtray is in a mosaic style I made in school, so it is old-fashioned. But the second time that the red lamp appears is in the context of the plug-pull back from the evasive Betty fantasy, to the bottoming out in the Diane reality, but it would appear that the masturbation that Diane had recourse to, in desperation, perhaps worked (ie she came), because now in that musing the mis en scene flashbacks to a previous encounter when she is ready to go out, with Rita/Camilla, but now Camilla calls, with a car, a change of plans, and the phone is under the red lamp

mul 87and we pan down from the lamp, to the phone and ashtray again, in exactly the same sequence

mul 88and Diane comes in, dressed in a black dress with a red fringe, to answer it

mul 89commencing, by its assignation, ie take the car, her encounter with Mulholland Dr., and her tragedy there, entered into by red lights

mul 90the red lamp, therefore, exists in the real apartment 17 where the dead body of Diane is lying all this time, and in the first instance reminds us, in a jarring intrusion of reality into the fantasy, where this is all coming from, and, in the second, actually launches us into the folded back second flashback in the Diane recounting her experience section, after the masturbation (even representing a fucked vulva, another trope) and thus again directing us to the body in the apartment. In both cases, the red lamp signals that there is a break in zone from one level of dream to another, in each case it suggests that things have heated up and a kind of climax is approaching, but if you follow the red lamp you will not find your way, it is only by paying attention to the back and forth of imagery from spaces claimed by threshold figure mental avatars of Diane’s moods as she dreams that will you be able to see that this is all a dream imagined by Lynch as happening in the mind of a suicidal sleeper, if not an actual body left over from suicide.

In Part two of this note I will fill in the blanks by focusing on the lattice figure, fixated upon by Betty/Diane, of Rita/Camilla.