Mulholland Dr. Review

The Story: An unnamed woman (Laura Elena Harring), perched in the back of a luxurious limousine, awaits her arrival - her evening however takes a strange turn when the driver turns out to be a hitman contracted to kill her. She narrowly avoids certain death thanks to a head-on collision and escapes from the wreckage relatively unscathed bar the fact she's lost her memory. At the same time, Betty (Naomi Watts) has just arrived in LA hoping to become the tea of Tinseltown faster than you can say saccharine. Somewhere else in town, Adam (Justin Theroux), a promising young director, has discovered that his film has been hi-jacked by the mob to become a vehicle for one of their protégés. He decides to test whether good guys always do win and decides to take them on armed with a mere golf club.

Mulholland Dr. finds Lynch in fine form once again and this time managing to transform his "take no prisoners" approach into a commercial success - not a bad feat for a director who's often struggled to find financial viability for many of his projects. Mulholland Dr. almost wound up being another loose end in his career after the networks who had funded him to produce a pilot for a series he was to create decided to bin the project and cut their losses. Still Lynch managed to secure funding from France and set about to turn it into a film.

The casting of the actors is pretty much perfect from the brilliant cameos by his friends (composer Angelo Badalmenti appears as a mobster) to the casting of the relatively unknown Watts and Harring as the leads. Setting his actors in those bizarrely lit interiors he so loves, he manages to keep the audience on their toes until the end and way beyond. Visually, he's reverted to experimenting slightly less than he did in Lost Highway, but his surreal flair is evident in every shot of the film making each scene an entity of it's own. Lynch's critics will have a field day ("Is there really a plot? Is this even supposed to make sense?") but those who are ready to make an effort and keep their brain in gear whilst watching a movie will find themselves watching it over and over again.

Bizarrely enough Mulholland Dr. seems to have managed to crossover to the mainstream quite easily to the extent that Lynch was nominated for the Best Director Oscar - that Ron Howard won it was probably a sicker twist than Lynch himself could have dreamt up. Without doubt one of the most intensely complex and visually staggering efforts of the last year - a tour de force by the master of the genre.

The DVD:
The Image: Although lacking a little something to be perfect, it's an excellent effort with the original sombre tones and colours being perfectly rendered and no visible artifacting. The image is sharp throughout with no unwanted blur appearing and is given the correct aspect ratio in an anamorphic transfer. Also it should be noted that the blurring of Harring's private parts are present here too (although it now seems that this was originally done on the film prints). It remains that this should not be visible if your TV is set up correctly as the scene is supposed to be quite dark. It should be pointed out that this was done by Lynch himself and should therefore not be construed as censorship.

The Sound: Bad news first - the R1 DTS track has not made it across the pond. That said the DD 5.1 mix is very good but tends to stay mainly at the front - possibly a choice made by Lynch given that he thinks that most 5.1 mixes tend to distract the viewers too much. The sound is clear and both music and dialogue come out perfectly with the full range of the spectrum being used.

The Extras: Lynch isn't a great fan of extras so a commentary was never an option for this. We do however manage to get something more than the barebones R1 release in the shape of cast and director interviews. These are relatively short but quite insightful: the three lead actors (Harring, Theroux and Watts) talk about their experience with Lynch for between 2 and 5 minutes each whereas Lynch talks a little about the movie for a similar amount of time. A nice addition but fans will be left thirsting for more. Another extra of sorts comes in the inlay where David Lynch sets out 10 keys to unravelling the film - they're not all nonsensical but they didn't help elucidate the film completely... Added to all the this we get the almost compulsory theatrical trailer which is slightly damaged and a little too contrasty and the compulsory cast and crew bios. All of the extras are anamorphically transferred despite the fact that the interviews are in the 4:3 format.

The Menus: Sombre and stylish they remain faithful to the films feel with the score playing in the background. You'll also find that there are 2 different main menus that seem to appear at random. Another Lynchean touch is the complete absence of chapter stops - this is specifically wanted by Lynch and not an oversight; you can however fast forward and rewind but none of the habitual scene skipping. Not really something I tend to use but I can see that some people will be most annoyed by this. Still it's nice to see a director's will being respected to such an extent by a studio.

Conclusions:Lynch's work has often been given a poor DVD release in R2 but this time we've got an excellent release although the extras are a little thin on the ground. There have been sounds that Lynch is preparing a double DVD release of MD with a commentary although given the holdups with the release of Eraserhaed we'll be lucky to get it within the next 12 months. For those who desire more extras, the French release will probably be the way to go but it remains that this is a very good release of an outstanding film.

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