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Mulholland Drive

Universal // R // April 9, 2002
List Price: $32.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted April 10, 2002 | E-mail the Author

I don't think that any filmmaker is currently making films like David Lynch. I can appreciate the art and craft that go into making such abstract (and yet somewhat controlled) weirdness, but I can understand the viewpoint of someone who, after the credits roll, would state, "what the hell did I just see?". "Mulholland Drive" does not see Lynch being any different than he usually has (with the exception of 1999's wonderful G-rated "The Straight Story"); again, he creates another nightmarish and imaginative landscape that I'm fairly positive only he could think up.

The film originally didn't start out as such. ABC wanted "Mulholland Drive" to become a TV series, then ended up passing on it because it was too odd. (Uh, what were they expecting from Lynch, normal?). After it became apparent that the material filmed wasn't going to make it onto the small screen, Lynch filmed additional scenes and filled things out into a feature-length picture.

The film's plot is somewhat difficult to discuss, but the film does open with Rita (Laura Elena Harring) in the back of a limo speeding down Mulholland Drive. The car comes to a halt and when it appears something definitely not positive is going to happen to Rita, the car gets into a horrible accident. Not remembering who she is, the young woman stumbles down a hill and finds her way into an apartment. The tenant has left the building, but her niece, Betty (Naomi Watts), a pretty, perky girl from Ontario, has just flown in to live there. Startled to find a woman in her shower, Betty excuses herself as we see the woman find her name, Rita, from a poster in the girl's shower. Betty believes that the girl must be a friend of her aunt's and decides to help the newly dubbed Rita find out who she really is. Eventually, the two become (much) closer, as well.

On the other side of town, a director (Justin Theroux, who was also the DJ in "Zoolander") finds out that he must cast a certain actress in his latest project or - well, we get a sense that the result won't be good if he says no. That's pretty much all that really needs to be explained. Like much of Lynch's work, there's forward momentum without a story that really ties together or always makes much sense. It's the way that Lynch plays things that makes the weirdness so fascinating, regarding even the most odd of events as ordinary. Interesting only because it's weird? Somewhat; interesting because not only is it weird, but because the world that has been created here seems to have been so delicately and confidently constructed from the bottom up. I realize that it doesn't make any sense to me, but I have a definite feeling that it all somehow makes perfect sense to Lynch.

It's not a picture without some elements that I disliked. At nearly two and a half hours, Lynch's picture began to wear out its welcome a bit. Given the fact that little is revealed about the characters, I found it rather difficult to care that much about them at first. It's the performances and some twists in the story as the film ends its first hour that brought my attention in further. While Naomi Watts's gee-whiz portrayal set off warning signs in my mind pretty quickly upon her first appearance in the flick, the performance and the character change over the course. Her and Harring have nice chemistry together, as well.

At the end of it all, I look at "Mulholland Drive" as an interesting ride of a picture. I found it entertaining and well-acted and, of course, weird in that fascinating way that Lynch films are. Of course, it certainly also helps that Lynch can develop menacing and/or haunting atmosphere better than most filmmakers today. I'm not going to call "Mulholland Drive" a masterpiece, but it's the kind of picture that, while I'm sure it will never make complete sense, starts to become a bit clearer upon a second viewing. As with all Lynch pictures that I've seen, additional viewings either reveal new things to appreciate or unlock new clues.

Note: As with other Lynch movies on DVD ("Straight Story"), "Mulholland Drive" contains no chapter stops. This proved to be incredibly annoying at first, as I didn't remember this fact and found that chapter advancing past the ratings information brought me to the end - the authoring credits for the DVD. While I suppose I understand Lynch's reasons for doing this, it seems a little much.


VIDEO: "Mulholland Drive" is presented by Universal Home Video in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. The picture quality was generally good throughout. Sharpness and detail are fine, if not outstanding - the picture usually appeared crisp and nicely defined, although some moments looked a little softer or murkier in comparison.

A few little problems arose during the show, but there weren't any major issues. I spotted a couple of very slight instances of pixelation, but it wasn't very irritating or even that noticable. On a positive note, the print appeared crisp and clean, with little or nothing in the way of specks or marks. Colors appeared warm and cleanly presented throughout, with no smearing or other flaws that I've noticed. Overall, a perfectly fine effort, if not quite flwless.

SOUND: "Mulholland Drive" is presented by Universal in both Dolby Digtial and DTS 5.1 audio by Universal. While Lynch uses music (including Angelo Badalamenti's great score) and sound effects wonderfully, this particular film does not put the rear speakers to much use at all. Surrounds are employed a few times for light ambience or music, but otherwise, they go unused. Still, this is a dynamic soundtrack at times, with some deep bass and one very beautifully captured sequence with a singer at a nightclub. Audio quality seemed perfectly fine, as dialogue (with the exception of one or two instances of shouting early on, which sounded slightly shrill) remained clear and the music came through crisply and warmly.

MENUS: Otherwise basic, non-animated menus are livened up a tad by touches of the score.

EXTRAS: The trailer and bios. That's it.

Final Thoughts: Treating it as a dark, abstract dream of a picture that isn't supposed to make complete sense, I thought "Mulholland Drive" was a weird and entertaining ride that was helped considerably by the performance of Watts. Universal's DVD provides enjoyable audio/video quality but, as with most of the DVDs of Lynch films, there's little in the way of supplements. The DVD is recommended for fans of the film or Lynch; those who haven't seen it should at least first check it out as a rental.

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