Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mulholland Dr. will either fascinate you, or you'll hate it

Mulholland Dr. (drama, mystery, thriller)
Cast: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux
Director: David Lynch

Optimum Home Entertainment | 2001 | 147m | Rated R | Sep 13, 2010

MPEG-4 AVC | 1080p | 1.85:1

English, French, Italian: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

French, Dutch, Italian

Single 50GB Blu-ray digibook, Region B (UK import)

The Film 5/5

Mulholland Dr. is a wild ride and it's best to experience it without knowing anything the first time you see it. The plot is non-linear and the ending isn't typical Hollywood fare. Most of my friends hated it and thought it was a waste of their time. But for those who like it, the experience is up there with the best that film has to offer. If you are analytical and curious enough to watch the film two or three times in quick succession, you're the type of person who may end up loving this film. If you haven't seen it and think you fit that description, I hope you will give it a try.

Mulholland Dr. is my favorite film of all time. The prospect of seeing the Blu-ray both excited and scared me as I wondered whether the presentation would be worthy of the film.

It elevated it to a different level.

The story is full of mystery and unfolds like a detective story for the first two-thirds of the film. Betty (Naomi Watts), an aspiring actress, wins a jitterbug contest and uses it as an opportunity to fly to Los Angeles to seek out an acting career. Immediately after, we see a car crash in which Rita (Laura Harring) suffers amnesia and seeks refuge in Betty’s empty home. The two soon meet and Betty tries to help Rita remember who she is.

The film was intended to be a television series and the first two acts were formed by the aborted pilot. Eventually, new funding allowed Lynch to finish the film and it evolved into an entirely different story. The plot isn’t linear, and the distinction between dream and reality becomes increasingly blurred.

This is a complex puzzle that is very hard to take in on the first viewing and is therefore not for everyone. If you like fast-paced action and straightforward stories wrapped up neatly by the end of the movie, you probably won’t appreciate the film. If you enjoy mysteries and being confused and unsettled, it may interest you.

It changed the way I watch movies.

This is the kind of film that possesses you. The best way to view it is to let it carry you along and wash over you. Save your analysis for repeat viewings. And if you have an inquisitive mind, there will be many repeat viewings.

I first saw this film without understanding all of it, but I found myself going over it in my mind and watching it again the next day. Then I wanted to tell all my friends about it. Over time, it has surpassed everything I have ever seen. It’s full of intrigue and makes me feel so many different emotions. It’s quite brilliant and Lynch’s best work, although all of his projects are valuable and important.

Watching one of Lynch’s films takes you on a journey into a different world. There’s something not quite right with the world, but it’s hard to identify exactly what it is. But it adds to the feeling of unease. In Mulholland Dr., he uses interesting camera angles to show you a glimpse of what is ahead. As a result, you become part of the story and see it unfold as the main characters do.

There’s a lot going on in this strange world. We are shown several different characters, initially unconnected, with no explanation of their overall role in the story. This probably happened because the threads were meant to be expanded on in the television series. You will meet film directors, detectives, a hit man, and a whole host of minor characters.

The film is punctuated by moments of bizarre humor. Some of the comedic scenes make me laugh out loud, and that’s not an easy thing to achieve. There are also moments of violence and mystery and ultimately true desolation.

The final act turns everything on its head. Betty and Rita become Diane and Camilla. It’s initially confusing, but everything becomes clear when you think about what you have seen and felt.

It’s full of symbols and metaphors and has an underlying theme which examines the Hollywood industry as a whole.

Lynch creates a mood better than any director I have ever seen. The colors, settings and actions of the characters all enhance the atmospheric presentation, and Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting score completes the experience. Mulholland Dr. has many of the elements that made Twin Peaks my favorite television show of all time. If you like one, you will almost certainly like the other.

I’m not going to expand any further on the plot, such as it is, because it may put you off seeing the film. It’s complex, but it’s very rewarding when you examine the experience after the fact. It’s the kind of film that encourages people to develop their own theories. Lynch refuses to explain it, preferring that you develop your own idea about what it represents.

The film can be viewed as a series of interesting scenes. In fact, that’s probably a good way to view it for the first time. The final act isn’t a predictable occurrence. If you’re someone that finds that refreshing, like me, then you should check out Mulholland Dr. if you haven’t already done so. Several film magazines voted it the best film of the last decade. It’s certainly something that can be appreciated even if you have other favorites.

Video Quality 4/5
The disc opens with trailer in SD, highlighting other StudioCanal titles, but don’t let that worry you. We see Rita in a car crash early in the film and the scene is shot in the dark and looks soft, as are several other scenes in the film. The film is supposed to look that way. But the majority has good detail and better lighting. I didn’t see any dirt or print damage and the overall presentation was extremely clean and pleasing. I didn’t expect the video quality to be great, but I was pleasantly surprised. The opening shots deserve 3.5 due to the lighting and softness, but other scenes reach 4.5. Overall I’ll give it a 4.

Audio Quality 5/5
The opening jitterbug scene gives you an idea of how Mulholland Dr. is going to sound; in a word, wonderful. The ensuing car crash is loud and full of detail. Lynch is obsessive about choosing exactly the right sounds to match the scene, and getting the volume exactly right. The sounds of gravel, doors opening and dialogue are all perfect. When it comes to louder scenes, such as Rebekah Del Rio singing, or the rumbling undercurrent during aerial shots, it’s also handled perfectly. I don’t think I have ever heard a better presentation in terms of sound quality. I imagine it’s exactly as Lynch intended.

Special Features 3.5/5
An Introduction to the film by Thierry Jousse (9:54 HD)
In the Blue Box (27:33 HD)
On the Road to Mulholland Dr. (23:40 SD)
Interviews with Mary Sweeney (SD) and Angelo Badalamenti (SD and audio only)
Back to Mulholland Dr. (23:52 in SD)
20-page booklet

Some of the features are excellent and include interviews with Lynch and members of the cast. The most enlightening feature for the first-time viewer is Back to Mulholland Dr., which includes a simplified interpretation of the film. Please don’t watch it until you have seen the film or it will alter the experience.

Similar Movies
The closest thing to Mulholland Dr. is Lynch’s other work such as Lost Highway and Inland Empire. Ingmar Bergman’s Persona also includes similar themes as does Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

Firstly, be aware that the Optimum BD is locked to Region B, so only buy it if you can play it. I’m not going to tell you to buy this before you’ve seen it, despite my glowing praise. As I have already mentioned, it’s not for everyone. If you are a fan of the film and can play Region B material, buy it without hesitation. If this is the first time you have heard of it, rent the DVD or catch it on cable. Try to watch it on the biggest screen you can, without pausing, and with no other distractions. Watts and Lynch deserved Oscars for their work, but I guess there weren’t enough explosions, dumb jokes, or people getting hit in the groin.

Overall score 5/5 

See where Mulholland Dr. ranks in my Top 20 dramas.

Return to index of every review on the site.


  1. Best movie I've seen in a long time. Might make my top 10. Only for those who love to analyze, though. Once you get it, you realize why it's so great.

  2. It's a perfect blend. Lynch, Badalamenti, Watts and Harring.

    I hope the Blue Velvet Blu-ray will include deleted scenes and enhance that experience too. I can't wait for October...