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Mulholland Drive - Original Score

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Artist: Mulholland Drive

Album: Original Score

Label: Milan

Review date: Mar. 31, 2002

It’s widely known that David Lynch uses the screen as a visual notebook to record his unique dreams. Each of his films carries his signature motifs: the immediate transformation from reality to the absurd; the dark underbelly of Americana; and plots that twist in and out of each other until they are indistinguishable. Of course, Lynch’s movies often are not meant to be deciphered—and like dreams, Lynch insists, they defy any rationalization on the viewer’s behalf. While this doesn’t ring true for all of Lynch’s work (The Straight Story is as simple and perennially poetic as a film can be), certainly his most recent film, Mulholland Drive, both mystified and enraptured audiences.

Likewise, the film’s soundtrack, which contains original music by Lynch collaborator, Angelo Badalamenti, as well as others, creates an atmosphere as offsetting and haunting as the picture itself. Initially, the mood of Badalamenti’s compositions brings to mind his classic work on the Twin Peaks’ series, yet one quickly realizes the absence of Wagnerian leitmotifs, which makes up the entirety of Peaks’ character-based soundtrack. Only “Betty’s Theme” and “Love Theme” conjure up familiar moods throughout the album, and instead of standing on their own, these pieces serve to punctuate the final minutes of other longer, achingly beautiful tracks. For instance, “Love Theme” constitutes only the last minute-and-a-half of a track called “Dwarfland,” which runs into the double digits. While listeners may not come away from the album humming Badalamenti’s score, they will be moved by the composer’s patience and creepy evocation of the film’s ambiance. His classical pieces here take a low, drone-like approach to the material, allowing the City of Prague Orchestra to act as one unit, never letting an individual instrument soar above the rest.

In addition to his traditional pieces, Badalamenti provides two other tracks: the upbeat opener, “Jitterbug,” and the appropriately titled, “Dinner Party Pool Music.” Unfortunately, these tracks are the album’s weakest points—though they work in the film, they detract from the soundtrack’s somber consistency. Mulholland Drive also contains two older vocal tracks: “Bring It On Home” by Sonny Boy Williamson, and Linda Scott’s “I’ve Told Every Little Star.” The latter, a Doo-Wop piece sung in a pre-adolescent falsetto, is reminiscent of high school proms and James Dean idolatry—and is perfectly executed in that eerie 1950’s style.

Still, the album’s standout track, as well as the pivotal moment in the film, is Rebekah Del Rio’s cover of the Roy Orbison classic, “Crying.” In true Lynchian fashion, Orbison’s tune is sung not only a capella, but also in Spanish. Sounding, appropriately, as if it had been recorded in an empty concert hall, Del Rio’s voice is the strongest and most arresting aspect of the soundtrack. Lynch’s own musical contribution, with his Crazy Horse guitars and restrained rhythm section, creates short, brash excursions between Badalamenti’s longer journeys.

While his score for The Straight Story painted a concise and constant sound for the film, Badalamenti’s aural interpretation of Mulholland Drive is more eclectic. His classical pieces are haunting, providing excellent bookends to the soundtrack’s other themes, as well as supporting the album as a whole. Like the film itself, Badalamenti’s compositions serve as the basis for reality, while Lynch’s musical choices complement it by seeping into a more dream-like realm. While it isn’t a consistent mood piece, the album’s inspired and varied methods of storytelling make it well worth the patience.

By Addison MacDonald

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