Friday, July 29, 2005

Killer Movie Scenes: Mulholland Drive ~ The Audition Scene

The audition scene in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive is masterful; the scene around which the rest of the movie pivots. Up until this point the tale is a mystery wrapped around an enigma of a dull, dualistic kind: either we're experiencing a naive neophyte's fevered dream of the pursuit of Hollywood stardom or we're locked into an embittered loser's hallucinatory idealisation of a past that never was. However we choose to deconstruct the story, the overture's clumsy romanticism is decidedly off-key and Lynch struggles to smuggle his characteristically malevolent medicine into this sickly spoonful of faux-sentimentality. Thus far, Mulholland Drive is a genetically modified silk purse, displaying decidedly unflattering detritus of sow's ear, masquerading as a movie.

The audition scene, however, is truly metamorphic: Mulholland Drive suddenly shifts gear from simple arithmetic to Euclidian geometry. The hick crosses the Styx to Hades and discovers drugs, depravity and death. Characters switch identities and comforting certainties are abandoned in Lynch’s impressionistic, surreal, shape-shifting denouement.

The scene is a subtle deconstruction of the clichéd wannabe/starlet audition scenario. Wally is an avuncular fellow who, as a friend of Betty's aunt, has pulled a few strings to secure her audition. Jimmy is an ageing actor: a predatory lothario with a permatan. Betty turns the cosy, creepy, misogynistic interview set-up on its head with an entirely unexpected injection of real passion (all the more shocking when counter pointed with the lifeless pre-audition rehearsal, which we'd seen her perform earlier with her friend Rita).

The pathos of the scene is provided by the realisation that her "taking control" (adopting the role of femme fatale rather than naive ingénue/victim) is the catalyst for her demise. Catharsis in Lynch's world generally leads to damnation rather salvation.

WALLY: Well then, take a seat everyone. Betty why don't you join Jimmy and we'll play the scene. Is there anything you'd like to say Bob... something to Betty before they begin? (Betty stops on her way across to Jimmy and looks to Bob the director)

BOB: No ... it's not a contest, see, the two of them with themselves, so don't play it for real until it gets real. (Betty doesn't know what to say. She catches Sarah's assistant, Nicki, rolling her eyes)

BETTY: Okay. (Betty continues walking toward Jimmy who opens his arms to her as she approaches. He's old enough to be her father)

JIMMY: Just tell me where it hurts, baby.

BETTY: What?

JIMMY: I want to play this one close, Bob. Like it was with that girl, what's her name, with the black hair. That felt good. Whaddya think? (Betty looks from Jimmy to Bob)

BOB: That'd be good, Jimmy. Just don't rush that line again. I told you... the line where you say, "Before what?"

JIMMY: I was playin' off 'em. They say, "They'll arrest you"... and stuff like that.. "put you in jail"... they say it like that. They all say it the same way, so I react like that.

(Jimmy turns to Betty)
JIMMY: (cont'd) Look ... what's your name?

BETTY: Betty.

JIMMY: Yeah ... Betty. You don't rush it. I don't rush it. We play it close, just like in the movies.
(Jimmy reaches out and puts his arm around Betty and bringsher in against his pot belly)

JIMMY: (cont'd) Dad's best friend goes to work. (Jimmy smiles as he brings Betty a little closer. She is trying to concentrate through the nervousness and Jimmy's breath. There is a silence as Jimmy looks her in the eyes. Everyone in the room is looking Betty in the eyes)


BOB: And ... ACTION!

(Betty and Jimmy start the scene. It is very difficult for Betty as Jimmy has her in an absurd clench now)

BETTY: You're still here?

JIMMY: I came back. I thought that's what you wanted. (Jimmy plays this with a big lecherous smile. He gives the last part of the line across her cheek up to her ear)

BETTY: Nobody wants you here. (Betty uses the anger of this line to push herself away from Jimmy)

(Jimmy reaches out and grabs her wrist)
JIMMY: Really?

(Betty pulls her hand away and stands her ground)
BETTY: My parents are right upstairs! They think you've left.

(Jimmy smiles broadly and moves again toward Betty)
JIMMY: So ... surprise!

(Betty pushes him back)
BETTY: I can call them... I can call my dad.

JIMMY: But you won't.
(He grabs Betty by the wrist again and pulls her in to him. He puts his hand on her waist and it accidently slips and keeps going down her hips. He jerks his hand back. Bettylooks down and sees Jimmy's hand hovering above her thigh. Betty takes her hand and gently presses down on Jimmy's hand. She slowly looks up with the most seductive smile. Jimmy lets his hand rest more firmly on her thigh, and squeezes her thigh as he sees her smile. With his other hand Jimmy gently pulls her closer)

(Something has started coming over Betty and she catches the drift of this scene in a different way. She's surprising herself)
BETTY: (almost a hot whisper) You're playing a dangerous game here. If you're trying to blackmail me... it's not going to work.

(Jimmy now surprises himself. He becomes almost tender and genuinely worked up from the heat coming off Betty)
JIMMY: You know what I's not that difficult.

(Where the scene should turn to anger from Betty it can't now and Betty plays it as she feels it. She stays in very close to Jimmy - looking him right in the eyes)
BETTY: (whispering desperately - slowly) Get out... Get out before I call my dad. He trusts you... you're his best friend. (her arms go around him) This will be the end of everything.

(Jimmy gets lost. He doesn't know where he is anymore. He can only see Betty's eyes)
JIMMY: What about you? What will your dad think about you?

(Betty still playing it in a dreamy whisper... lost in heat)
BETTY: Stop... just stop! That's what you said from the beginning. If I tell what happened... they'll arrest you and put you in jail, so get out of here before...

JIMMY: (caught by her transfixing, sultry eyes, and almost breathless ... he finds himself taking an extra long pause) Before what?

(As scripted Betty pretends to pull the knife from behind herback, but wraps the knife around behind Jimmy and pulls him into a kiss)
BETTY: (as she kisses him - whispers) Before I kill you.

(Jimmy panics and pushes Betty away with his hands on her shoulders as if forcing himself to come out of a trance. He finally is able to say his line)
JIMMY: Then they'd put you in jail.

(As scripted Betty is supposed to cry now and it is very easy for her to do this because she's ashamed at how the sex of the scene took her over. Tears begin running down her cheeks. She backs away)
BETTY: I hate you... I hate us both!

(She pretends to drop the knife. The scene ends. Everyone in the room has become mesmerized by Betty, but they soon drift back to reality and begin applauding theperformance. Sarah turns to Nicki)
SARAH JAMES: I'm going to take her over there.

NICKI: Big time!

WALLY: (to everyone) Wow!

(Betty wipes her eyes and turns smiling - still shocked at herself)
BETTY: Well, there it was.

JIMMY: There it was it was! Baby, you got a way!

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