I won't spend much time defending David Lynch. By this point, most folks have already decided whether they love his work or hate it. Me, I admire him for his artist's eye and his tireless imagination, though I don't always find an emotional connection to his increasingly opaque dream dramas. Such was the case with Lost Highway and such is the case with that film's distaff counterpart, Mulholland Drive.
The film was originally shot as a TV pilot for ABC. The network turned it down and Lynch let it languish for a couple of years, until French producer Alain Sarde convinced him to finish the project as a feature. You can see where the line between the two is, about 3/4 of the way through. Suddenly the cinematography is crisper, the darks are darker, the lights are lighter, and the story plunges from its multi-character, PG-rated Twin Peaks-level weirdness into an altogether stranger, more sexual, and more emotional realm.
It's pointless to try to synopsize a David Lynch film, so I'll just give you the set-up: a young corn-fed actress (Naomi Watts) arrives in modern-day Hollywood to make it big. On her first day, she bumps into the mysterious Rita (Laura Harring), who has escaped a car accident but lost her memory. The two women bond as they try to discover Rita's true identity, there's a few other characters who seem to have their own storylines but fade away (definite side-effects of the aborted pilot), and blah blah blah - I won't give anything more away.
Not that I could anyway. The beauty of Lynch's films is that they ask nothing of you. They don't cry out "solve this puzzle!" because they are so intentionally disjointed and abstract that you are forced to subjectify your reaction to the story and come up with a theory that feels right to you, even if you acknowledge that you'll never be able to truly "get" it. That's what art is all about, essentially. And though I still prefer Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, I continue to respect Lynch's presentations of his characters' innermost hopes, fears and disappointments as deceptively dramatic storylines. After all, that's the stuff that dreams are made of.