Gobs of films opened in the last two weeks, and a weary nation ran to the cinema to take a brief break from bad news. There's nothing like street crime, stalkers, and surrealistic despair to take your mind off of current events. A few early fall releases did big box office, including Training Day, Joy Ride, and Serendipity.

But David Lynch's Mulholland Drive isn't bound for blockbusting. It's for those who want a challenge, and especially for those who enjoy David Lynch's maze-like, nonlinear storytelling, which is usually rife with villainy and unhappy surprises. Lynch developed Mulholland Drive as a television series, but the studio pulled the plug. Lynch fans feared the work would be buried forever, until the director announced he would re-edit it, condense it, film a new ending, and release it as a movie. How could he condense 13 hours into two and have it make sense? Lynch's characteristic response would be, Who says it needs to make sense?

Drive seems right in step with the director's repeated exploration of evils that reside beneath the surface of America's shiny, happy goodness. Lynch may well be on a mission to prove there is no such thing as an incorruptible American dream. While his stories tend to unearth sights too grisly for most moviegoers, Lynch, like Dante with his Divine Comedy, illustrates various levels of hell to point to the flaws in our human nature. He takes the celebrated American dreams and peels them open to show the ugly base appetites that "drive" them.

Mulholland Drive is a dream. I'm not spoiling the surprise: the film opens by zooming in slowly on a big red pillow. What follows seems a traditional linear story, at first. Betty (Naomi Watts), a young perky blonde, follows her dreams to Hollywood. ...

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