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Presented in collaboration with Cinema Studies at RMIT

The Best Films You’ve Never Seen: A Night of Surrealist Cinema

A night of surrealist cinema: David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive (2001), screening with Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

‘The Best Films You’ve Never Seen’ is back with a double screening taking place at The Capitol on Tuesday 18 July. The line-up includes Maya Deren’s renowned experimental short film Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), followed by David Lynch’s 2001 surrealist neo-noir Mulholland Drive.

Derren directs and stars in Meshes alongside her husband and collaborator Alexander Hammid. Shot on 16mm in the couple’s Los Angeles home, it explores its central character’s interior experience through its formal repetition and variation. The spiralling dream sequences of this groundbreaking avant-garde film have often marked it as a key work of cinematic surrealism, but as critic and scholar Adrian Martin notes, we can also think of Derren’s film as a “proto-film noir”. 

Made almost sixty years later, Lynch’s Mulholland Drive invites us into a similarly menacing Los Angeles imaginary, via the director’s distinctive brand of contemporary surrealism. Starring Naomi Watts in her breakthrough role as aspiring actress Betty Elms, Mulholland Drive interrogates the figures of the Hollywood actress and the femme fatale through a narrative that twists back in on itself to explore the duality of Hollywood: a place that’s both dream and nightmare.

In Sight and Sound’s 2022 Greatest Films of All Time list, both films have made it into the top 20 for the first time. Meshes has secured a place in the top 100 for the first time, debuting at an impressive #16, acknowledging Deren’s contribution to cinema. Mulholland Drive has been included in the top 100 before, but its ranking has now soared from #28 to #8.

The two films have sparked countless interpretations of their meaning and symbolism. RMIT academic Alexia Kannas will provide context for first-time viewers and fans alike as she introduces the films.

Read a film review of Mulholland Drive (2001) written as part of a partnered project between RMIT Cinema Studies, The Bowen Street Press and RMIT Culture.

Click here to read an introduction by Dr Alexia Kannas, RMIT Lecturer, Media & Cinema Studies.

Image Credit: Still from Meshes of the Afternoon, courtesy NACG/FMC