Plot: What’s it about?
One of a few movies that has been released in the last year, Mulholland Dr. (Drive) will literally mess with your head. There’s really no two ways about it. I’ve read countless other reviews by film critics and will state that my interpretation of the movie would probably be as about as good of a guess as the next guy. But let’s talk about David Lynch a little bit, shall we? Lynch, and his legions of fans, is an interesting man. He’s best-known for his work on the television show Twin Peaks, but has made his share of films that many people revere as they would the bible! From his first film (Eraserhead) to the very moving The Elephant Man to the bomb that was Dune…not all of his films are as great as the rest, but they all have a very distinctive style and flare to them. Another movie that came out last year that reminded me of this film was the Tom Cruise vehicle, Vanilla Sky. Quite simply, we expect Lynch to mess with our head, but not Cameron Crowe. One worked and one didn’t. But what these two share is the fact that what you’re seeing may or may not be real and two-thirds the way through the movie, they turn the world upside down on us.
So here we go…I’m going to attempt to explain what happens here, but will not hypothesize as to the “true” meaning of the movie. I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who has not yet seen this film. Yes, while you may have to watch it a few times, it’s worth it. Even when the end credits roll and you say “Huh”? It’s worth it. We meet Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) as she is getting off the plane, a fresh new face trying to make in Hollywood. She is to move in her aunt’s place as she practices for potential parts. The night before, “Rita” (Laura Harring) is in the back of a limo and on Mulholland Dr. (the drive above Sunset Boulevard, but below the Hollywood Hills). She has a gun pointed at her, but before a trigger can be pulled, two cars (doing some sort of drag race) crash into the car, killing everyone but her. Hurt and suffering from temporary amnesia, she makes her way into the same apartment that Betty is going to occupy the very next day. Betty, thinking that “Rita” (she gives this as her name as she sees an old movie poster for Gilda starring Rita Hayworth) is a friend of her aunt’s is happy to see her, though it’s not long that the two find out that trouble is near.
Now, granted, this is about the first twenty minutes of a 146 minute movie! As Lynch does, we have a series of loosely tied together stories that may or may not share a common thread. We then meet two men and as one of them describes a dream he has had, they soon find a “monster” of some sort in the back alley. One of the men faints. Cut to a movie director, and this is the other “significant” story aside from Betty/Rita. Casting for a film, the director is told to choose one woman for a part when he sees her. Unwilling to cooperate, he meets a cowboy high above L.A. who tells him the same thing, in a rather cryptic way of course. Add to this, the fact that he comes home to find his wife in bed with the pool man (played by none other than Billy Ray Cyrus). There are a few other sub plots, but as I try and write this, I find myself more and more confused. Let’s just say that you will have to watch this movie at least twice. I’ve seen it twice and it does make more sense the next time around. Lynch doens’t spoon-feed us plots that we’re so used to. His movies polarize many viewers as is the case for movies that actually make you think. You want mystery and intrigue, this is for you. You want a few lesbian sex scenes, this is for you. You want the end credits to roll and stare blinking at the screen saying “Where did my two hours just go”, this is for you. But more importantly, if you want to try and figure out what the hell is going on, and have a movie make you think, then I can’t recommend it more.
Video: How does it look?
Originally shot for television, this is somewhat of a rarity for a Lynch film in that it’s shown in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Lynch has always stretched the boundaries of the screen with his films, so to say this doesn’t “feel” like a Lynch film is about as accurate statement as can be made (with this movie in particular). That said, Criterion has knocked the ball out of the park with their new 4K restoration. This movie pretty much has it all from vibrant colors to some very dark and eerie scenes. Saturation has been improved, black levels seem more consistent and contrast works well with them. It’s another fine effort from Criterion who, along with David Lynch and his DP, supervised this new transfer. It looks amazing.
Audio: How does it sound?
The previously-released DVD had dual Dolby Digital and DTS tracks and while we do lose the Dolby Digital track for this Blu-ray release, it’s of little consequence. A new (and the only audio track available) DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack had been mixed for this movie and it works – oh, it works! If you’ve never seen this film before, it’s a bit odd – the dialogue is intentionally muted an in effort to draw the viewer more into the movie. There are ambient surround effects, the front stage is very active at time as well, but it’s an interesting mix for sure. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie, and I’d forgotten how much of an experience it is to listen to this. Another fine job.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The previous Universal DVD only had a handful of supplements, though, thankfully, Criterion has added some new ones for this edition. Let’s dive in and check them out.
- On-set Footage – The cast and cast members give some of their thoughts on the film as well as some of the different scenes in it. Working with Lynch and the overall experience of being in this mind-bending film.
- Deleted Scene – Hollywood Police Station – Day – A three minute deleted scene that really doesn’t add much to the overall film, though let’s face it – if it were in the final cut, we probably would applaud it.
- David Lynch and Naomi Watts – Recorded new for this Blu-ray, we get some pretty candid comments from both Lynch and Watts. Lynch discusses the rather sordid production history of the project as well as his in-depth search for Naomi Watts’ character. Conversely, Watts tells us of her role in the film, how she was about ready to give up Hollywood and head back to Australia and how this role changed the direction of her entire career.
Laura Harring, Johanna Ray, Justin Theroux, and Naomi Watts – The supporting cast (along with Watts) is profile here and it gives us more of the same in regards to casting the film. We learn a bit as to how the roles were cast, their overall significance to the project and why David Lynch has a thing for head shots.
Angelo Badalamenti – Angelo Badalamenti, the composer for the film and a long-time collaborator with Lynch, discusses the soundtrack for Mulholland Dr.
Peter Deming and Jack Fisk – Production Designer Jack Fisk recounts his relationship with David Lynch, some of the films they’ve worked on and shooting the overall look and feel of the movie. Evidently Lynch has a real passion for the city of angels and it’s profiled here.
The Bottom Line
David Lynch’s films will mess with your head, but none more so than this one. It’s been nearly a decade and a half since I last sat down and watched this one and I’m really have no more understanding of the plot than I did back in 2001. I do, however, have a much more profound appreciation for the film as a whole. Criterion’s Blu-ray is, as expected, top notch and is not to be missed.