Criterion Review: MULHOLLAND DR. on 4K UHD

David Lynch’s sublime and surreal feature comes to 4K Criterion


A love story in the city of dreams . . . Blonde Betty Elms (Naomi Watts) has only just arrived in Hollywood to become a movie star when she meets an enigmatic brunette with amnesia (Laura Harring). Meanwhile, as the two set off to solve the second woman’s identity, filmmaker Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) runs into ominous trouble while casting his latest project. David Lynch’s seductive and scary vision of Los Angeles’s dream factory is one of the true masterpieces of the new millennium, a tale of love, jealousy, and revenge like no other.

Mulholland Dr. captivated upon release in 2001, and has only grown in esteem since. Time has allowed for a greater appreciation for the depth and sheer artistry on display. From enigmatic writer/director David Lynch (Twin Peaks, Inland Empire, Eraserhead). Mulholland Dr. is a film that stays true to his soul, and cryptic nature, with Lynch crafting a beguiling mystery that isn’t exactly focused on answers. The story revolves around a girl named Betty (Naomi Watts), following her dreams of becoming an actress by moving from small town Canada to Los Angeles. Stumbling from a car accident and into Betty’s life with a bag of cash, a blue key, and a case of amnesia is a woman who comes to adopt the moniker of Rita. Betty looks to help Rita discover her past, while also looking towards her own future. A neo-noir mystery, unfolding as her journey into the Hollywood machine eventually plunges into a haunting fever dream.

The film has one foot in classic Hollywood, the other firmly planted Lynch’s surreal subconscious. A reverence for film, but also an expose of the cost of dealing with Hollywood, and the toll it takes on a psyche. It’s in this fracturing that Mulholland Dr. secures its legacy, by blurring the lines between two realities. One propelled by the hope of Betty, and her burgeoning relationship with Rita, the other a more nightmarish alternate take. With events and even characters tilting toward darker impulses and deeds. The parts combine to craft an evocative psychological thriller. A lurid and enigmatic affair that is undeniably Lynchian in construct. A score from longtime Lynch collaborator Angelo Badalamenti only enhances the brooding allure. Evocative in feeling and provocative in construction, demanding multiple views to piece things together.

Beyond this enthralling aspect, the resonance of the film stems from the breakout performances of the two leads. Harris is dynamite, oozing glamor and mystique. Watts is a perfect counterpoint, a radiant heartbeat, authentically cutting through facade and mystery. Exceptional leads, with a host of exceptional (and often off-kilter) supporting performances, married to Lynch’s craft, ensure Mulholland Dr. Leaves an indelible mark on the mind.

The Package

Criterion’s first 4K release includes both 4K UHD and Blu-ray copies of the film. Both are sourced from a 4K restoration from 2015, done under the supervision of Lynch, alongside director of photography Peter Deming. Compared to the included (and still great looking) Blu-ray, the 4K offers an impressively pristine image. Color is rich, with a well ranged palette. Detail shines even in darker sequences. A nice, natural layer of grain that only adds to the allure of a luscious presentation. Throughout the image quality maintained in a very fluid and dynamic transfer. Unsurprisingly, Criterion’s foray into UHD is a triumph.

Extra features are confined to the Blu-ray disc:

  • Interview from 2015 with Lynch and Naomi Watts: Lynch digs into the difficulties of filming Mulholland Drive, the allure of LA, and the reception of the film since its release. Watts reminisces about her first meeting with Lynch and how it led to a turnabout for her foray into an acting career
  • Interview from 2015 with casting director Johanna Ray, and stars Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, and Justin Theroux: A nice look at Lynch’s casting process, before each of the cast discuss how they got their roles, the experience working with Lynch, and memories from the shoot
  • Interview from 2015 with composer Angelo Badalamenti: in this new video interview, Angelo Badalamenti discusses his long and illustrious career, his professional relationship with David Lynch (with excellent comments about the scoring of Blue Velvet), and the iconic soundtrack for Mulholland Drive. The composer also discusses the various ideas David Lynch had for the film’s final sound design (sound effects/tempo management/dynamics). The interview was conducted exclusively for Criterion. In English, not subtitled. (20 min, 1080p).
  • Interview from 2015 with production designer Jack Fisk and cinematographer Peter Deming: Fisk dives into his partnership with Lynch, and how entwined the film is with Los Angeles. Deming gets into more technical detail about filming specific scenes, aspects of lighting and color palettes, etc
  • On-set footage: An archival addition, featuring Lynch, composer Angelo Badalamenti, and other cast/crew members, discussing the overall mood and feel of the film, behind the scenes footage, and glimpses of scenes being shot on set
  • Deleted scene: A short sequence in the police station
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an interview with Lynch from the 2005 edition of filmmaker and writer Chris Rodley’s book Lynch on Lynch: Also contains stills, and details on the restoration of the film
  • New Cover by Fred Davis

The Bottom Line

David Lynch’s beautiful and beguiling feature remains a cinematic landmark. Exquisitely crafted, with a vibrant commitment and intensity from Watts and Harring. The step into 4K has been a long time coming for Criterion and it was well worth the wait. Revisiting Mulholland Dr. has always been rewarding, and this new transfer offers a superb excuse to do so.

Mulholland Drive 4K UHD is available via Criterion now

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