Impure cinema: Mulholland Drive (2001)

“Impure Cinema goes back to Bazin’s original title precisely for its defense of impurity, applying it on the one hand to cinema’s interbreeding with other arts and on the other to its ability to convey and promote cultural diversity” ( Jerslev, 2014: 1).

Impure cinema is related to multiple media from literature, painting, video and even theater. Now, many films combine  others elements and it is hard to define the genre of films. These films break traditional styles, such as linear narrative and provide the new viewing experiences for audiences.

When we talk about impure cinema, we  think  about Lynch’s films, such as Lost Highway (1999), Mulholland Drive (2001) and so on. Lynch not only is a director but also a painter and photographer. His films are populated by multiple media devices as a way of reflecting on the media of film. For example, the film Mulholland Drive describes the story of a meandering Mulholland Road and amnesia after a car accident. Rita and a woman who wants to become a Hollywood actor around Los Angeles find clues and answers, followed by a Distortion beyond the dream and the reality of the adventure.

Although the film is full of murder scenes, car accidents, ghosts, black humor and other elements, it does not belong to any type of film. The full of fable metaphor of the film can be described as Lynch ignoring the audience and it being a pure self-nightmare show. Lynch completely disregarded the narrative structure and inner logic of the traditional film, deliberately using a lot of confusing techniques and metaphors to discourage the audience from recognizing the real world, trying to erase the boundaries between fantasy and reality. Many audiences find it very hard to understand the content of the film and  David Lynch’s  works involved many dreams. The reality hides in the dream so that it is very difficult for the audience to distinguish. Therefore the audience must look at the two as a whole, and it can be said that they must break through the traditional model of suspense films. The color of the film’s picture combines the elements of the painting and the background music is depressing, which bring a visual impact and attractive viewing experience to the audience.


Jerslev, A. (2014), “David Lynch Between Analogue and Digital: Lost Highway, The Straight Story and The Interview Project” In: Jerslev and Nagib eds, Impure Cinema: Intermedial and Intercultural Approaches to Film, London: I.B. Tauris, 1-299.

Written by Dandan Li

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