‘Mulholland Drive’ 4K UHD Collector’s Edition Review
A blond starlet fresh off the plane with dreams of Hollywood fame. A film director spiraling out of control after his latest picture becomes embroiled with the mob. A mysterious brunette with a bag full of cash, suffering from amnesia following a car crash on Mulholland Drive. In the hands of most directors this would be a solid premise for a piece of good old fashioned film noir. In the hands of David Lynch, it is still that, but so much more.
Beginning life as a feature length pilot for television (it was ultimately rejected by ABC, the network which had aired Twin Peaks a decade earlier) ‘Mulholland Drive’ sees aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts in her spellbinding, star-making performance) arriving in Hollywood. Betty is going to stay in her aunt’s apartment while she is out of town, but when she arrives finds a beautiful woman (Laura Harring) already there. Having stumbled away from a car wreck with a purse full of money, a mysterious blue key, and no memory of who she is—she takes the name Rita from a poster for ‘Gilda’ which is hanging in the apartment—she is befriended by Betty, who promises to help Rita find her identity.
As the two women start doing some amateur sleuthing, completely unaware of what they are getting themselves into, Rita also helps Betty prepare for her first audition. A big part has just opened up on a studio picture being directed by Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux), however, he is being strong-armed by the unsavoury money-men financing the film, who want a specific girl for the role.
Elsewhere, there’s a cop, there’s a hitman, and even a steamy romance. On the surface ‘Mulholland Drive’ could have been a film noir from the 1940s. But it’s not. It’s a David Lynch film, and even in the relatively straightforward main plot, he weaves it with surreal flourishes, and his trademark gift for making the seemingly innocuous feel deeply unsettling. A man sat in a diner recalling a nightmare leads to one of the most heart-stopping scares in recent memory.
When Lynch then upends everything, it is one of the great Pandora’s Box (literally) moments, deliriously transforming the film into something new, and making us reassess everything we have seen so far. His noir mystery morphs and transfigures into a savage satire of Hollywood, and the ugliness and cruelty that lurks behind the beauty and glamour. It becomes a dreamlike study of identity and obsession, lurching into nightmarish violence. Hilarious at time, and truly horrifying at others.
There’s a temptation to over-analyse – which I would guard against. The first viewing can be quite disorienting, but the more you revisit the film over the years, the more it makes a perfect kind of sense, as strange and disquieting as it is. Also, there is no one explanation fits all, simply by the fact of how this started as a TV pilot. Lynch introduces characters and plot elements that ultimately go nowhere, because he never got to make the rest of the show. But it all works, in a frightening and weird kind of way, and twenty years later, it remains Lynch’s masterpiece.
This 20th Anniversary Collector’s Edition includes a 4K restoration (approved by David Lynch) on UHD and Blu-ray in an inner digipack. There are two posters and set of five artcards, a booklet including essays from Anna Smith and David Jenkins, and it all comes packaged in an outer clamshell box featuring all new artwork by Krzysztof Domaradzki.
If you’re stuck trying to decide which 4K UHD version to buy, it is worth noting that this edition compares very favourably to the Criterion release. More often than not, if there’s two versions available, and one of them is from Criterion, then that is the one to buy. That might not be the case here. StudioCanal and Criterion have collaborated on the 4K restoration, so the picture is identical in both releases, and I think this overall package of extras (most of which are ported from previous releases) and all new artwork might just have the edge. Of course, you could just double dip and get both!
The extras on the disc kick-off with ‘Back to Mulholland Drive’ (23 mins), a French documentary from 2003 made by Canal+ which attempts to unlock the secrets of ‘Mulholland Drive’ and make it all make sense. Also from the archives is ’On the Road to Mulholland Drive’ (23 mins) which is a behind the scenes documentary from 2002.
There are two terrific new interviews with Laura Harring (14 mins) and the film’s editor Mary Sweeney (17 mins), as well as two archival interviews with composer Angelo Badalamenti (16 mins) and Cahiers du cinéma critic Thierry Jousse (10 mins). Finally, from 2010 is ‘In the Blue Box’ (28 mins) featuring a number of French filmmakers and critics, and also Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly talking about their love of the film. If they’d managed to get new interviews with Lynch and Watts this would have been the perfect release. Even so, it is still as essential as they come.