Punch-Drunk Love: Columbia Classics – Volume 4 (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Stephen Bjork
  • Review Date: Apr 18, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Punch-Drunk Love: Columbia Classics – Volume 4 (4K UHD Review)


Paul Thomas Anderson

Release Date(s)

2002 (February 13, 2024)


Columbia Pictures/Revolution Studios/New Line Cinema (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: A-
  • Video Grade: A
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: C+

Punch-Drunk Love (4K UHD)

Buy it Here!


[Editor’s Note: Though we’re reviewing the films in the set one by one, Punch-Drunk Love is currently only available on physical 4K disc in Sony’s Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection: Volume 4 box set. It’s available on Amazon by clicking here, or on any of the artwork pictured in this review.]

Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection: Volume 4 (4K UHD)

In his 1977 romantic comedy Annie Hall, Woody Allen wrote that a relationship was much like a shark: it has to constantly move forward or it dies. The same thing is true of most artist’s careers, Allen’s included. You have to follow your muse, but sometimes your muse might lead you in directions that your fans aren’t expecting and may not even want. Annie Hall was a transitional film for him, blending his earlier sometimes surrealistic form of comedy with dramatic elements that would become much more prominent in his work going forward. Not all of his fans were equally willing to go along for the ride, something that Allen acknowledged in Stardust Memories when he had a group of aliens appear to tell him that “We enjoy your films. Particularly the early, funny ones.” Yet Allen stubbornly followed his muse anyway, wherever it happened to lead him. The same thing is equally true of Paul Thomas Anderson, who gained a dedicated following with his early films, only to start going a completely different direction with his fourth film Punch-Drunk Love.

Punch-Drunk Love also ended up landing at a transitional stage of Anderson’s career, right before he followed his muse down paths that no one would have expected. While his debut film Hard Eight (aka Sydney) was well received, it didn’t necessarily establish any easily identifiable templates for his work other than his ability to craft keenly observed characters. His sophomore effort Boogie Nights, on the other hand, was a sprawling epic of Americana that featured interlocking stories with a variety of different characters. Magnolia followed suit on an even grander scale, with multiple storylines and characters that didn’t necessarily even connect directly with each other, and with only Aimee Mann on hand to provide a musical link between all of them (in a scene that remains one of the most astonishingly audacious things that Anderson has ever done). It seemed that Anderson had become the spiritual heir to the kaleidoscopic worlds that Robert Altman created during the Seventies—not surprisingly, he was later brought in to serve as a potential backup on Altman’s final film A Prairie Home Companion.

Yet as much as Anderson had demonstrated a gift for being able to tell these kinds of complex multilayered stories, his muse was already leading him elsewhere. After the three-hour long Magnolia, he announced that his next film was going to run at half that length, and it would feature none other than Adam Sandler as its lead. That was a trifle unexpected, to say the least, but Anderson was an Adam Sandler fan, and he saw something in the actor/comedian that nearly everyone else had overlooked. While Aimee Mann’s lyrics had served as a direct inspiration for much of Magnolia, Sandler’s volatile comic characterizations proved no less of an inspiration for the majority of Punch-Drunk Love. (His other major inspirations were John Brion, Jeremy Blake, and David Phillips, but more on them in a moment). Anderson ended up deconstructing Sandler’s idiot manchild persona from films like Billy Madison and reconstructing it into something far deeper and much more affecting. Yet that would never have happened unless Sandler had laid the groundwork first. Punch-Drunk Love may be a Paul Thomas Anderson film that stars Sandler, but it’s also an Adam Sandler movie that was directed by Anderson. The two are inextricably intertwined.

Anderson did gift Sandler with arguably the best character that he’s ever played, either before or since: Barry Eagan. Barry suffers from extreme social anxiety, a fact that’s at least partly due to having been raised with seven domineering sisters who just won’t give him any peace. They think that he’s a freak, and they’re only too willing to keep reminding him of that fact—even calling him incessantly at work. Barry runs his own company out of a nondescript warehouse, selling novelty toilet plungers. He’s also come up with a clever scheme on the side to exploit a loophole in a Healthy Choice frequent flyer miles promotion, buying up pudding cups in order to amass over a million miles. Of course, he’s a natural introvert, so it’s not like he’s actually planning to use them. Yet a chain of otherwise unconnected events will soon force him out of his shell. He discovers an abandoned harmonium on the sidewalk in front of the warehouse; makes the mistake of calling a phone sex line that’s really a blackmail scam; and most importantly, he encounters a woman named Lena (Emily Watson) with whom he feels an instant attraction. Everything is going to combine to make Barry understand something that he’s never realized before: that he has the capacity for love that will give him the strength to do anything. Punch-Drunk Love also stars PTA vets Luis Guzman and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Sandler’s comic schtick has frequently revolved around having bottled up internal rage that can boil over at a moment’s notice, but not always with a clear motivation for doing so. It took Anderson to take the bits and pieces of Sander’s unstable persona and package them into a character who always remains sympathetic no matter how much that he’s prone to paroxysms of rage. While it’s never mentioned directly in the film, Barry displays borderline autistic tendencies, but even without that as an explanation, it’s clear that the constant social abuse from his sisters has caused him to withdraw further and further into himself. Barry is an introvert’s introvert. It isn’t just that he doesn’t know how to act around other people; he’s never been given a real opportunity to try. He doesn’t even understand himself because he’s never been given the chance to have authentic interactions with other people outside of high-pressure social environments. As he explains to one of his sister’s husbands, “I don’t know if there’s anything wrong (with me), because I don’t know how other people are.” He’s never been given a baseline to define what “normal” behavior may be. It’s only through his awkward interactions with Lena that he begins to discover who he truly is.

It’s axiomatic that extroverts can’t really understand introverts, but Anderson did his best to draw viewers into Barry’s world by turning Punch-Drunk Love in to fully subjective experience. The visuals, lighting, sound effects, music, and even the transitions between scenes are all filtered through Barry’s perceptions. In that regard, Anderson’s regular cinematographer Robert Elswit proved invaluable, although composer John Brion and artist Jeremy Blake proved to be equally essential collaborators in creating what’s essentially a first-person perspective shot with a third-person camera—in literary terms, it might be appropriate to think of it as being third-person omniscient. We’re seeing Barry from a detached perspective, and yet the style of the film still manages to place us inside of his head. Even seemingly irrelevant details like the Barry’s frequent flier machinations (inspired by the real-world “pudding guy” David Phillips) helps viewers to understand his obsessive-compulsive attention to details that other people might miss.

Still, in the end, the only thing that matters is Lena. She’s the only person in his life who’s willing to meet Barry on his own terms, while still expecting him to do better. Barry’s stifling family environment has kept him perpetually locked in his shell until the pressure causes him to burst at the seams, but Lena is the first person who doesn’t just grant him the opportunity to be himself, but she also gives him the chance to grow. He’s still an introvert, and he’s still going to suffer from social anxiety, but thanks to his discovery of his own capacity for love, he’ll always be able to find comfort in her arms.

...and in his harmonium, too, but that’s a story for another day.

Robert Elswit shot Punch-Drunk Love on 35mm film using Panavision Panaflex Platinum cameras with anamorphic Panavision Primo lenses, framed at 2.39:1 for its theatrical release. As Rita Belda explains in her restoration notes, with a relatively recent film like Punch-Drunk Love, it’s more appropriate to refer to this as a remaster instead of a restoration. The project was overseen by Paul Thomas Anderson, and at his request, the source was a timed interpositive instead of the original camera negative. Anderson’s goal was to maintain the look of a 35mm film print. The IP was scanned at 4K by Prasad Corp. in Burbank, and they also performed the initial digital cleanup, with final remastering and grading done by Roundabout Entertainment in Burbank. That included the new High Dynamic Range grades in both Dolby Vision and HDR10.

The results are beautiful, and entirely in keeping with the aesthetic that Anderson and Elswit originally intended. Elswit shot most of the film on Fuji 125T stock, which is a slow-speed, high-contrast stock that necessitated wide-open apertures, but it produced a detailed negative with fine grain that didn’t lose much from the generational loss inherent to the IP stage. The grain here is still tight and well resolved, but without the excessively sharp edge to it that can sometimes occur with 4K scans of the OCN. Overall levels of detail are strong even with an IP as the source. Everything looks pristine, too, without any traces of damage remaining. Still, the primary reason why Anderson and Elswit chose Fuji 125T stock was because of the contrast and color saturation that it provided, and that’s really obvious with this new HDR grade. Their main inspiration was Jean-Luc Godard’s early color film A Woman is a Woman, especially in terms of the bold blues and reds. Blue is the dominant color in Punch-Drunk Love, and Sandler’s iconic blue suit is beautifully saturated in this version, created strong visual contrast with the purples and reds of Emily Watson’s wardrobe. The kaleidoscopic transitions also stand out more than they did previously. It’s a gorgeous look in 4K with HDR.

Primary audio is offered in English Dolby Atmos and 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Punch-Drunk Love was released theatrically in 5.1, and the 5.1 track included here is an unadorned version of the theatrical mix. As always, it’s nice to have the theatrical mix available even when Atmos or DTS:X remixes are being offered, but it would be a huge mistake to dismiss this Atmos track without auditioning it first. The sound design of Punch-Drunk love is entirely subjective, with the music and effects being used to place viewers inside Barry Eagan’s head. That’s an area where object-based mixes can really shine, and this new Atmos track is one of the most interesting uses of subjective audio since the outstanding Atmos mix on Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!. While it may lack the overall dynamic impact of a typical action movie, there are still some startling dynamic shifts like the one during the opening car crash, which leaps instantaneously from near silence while Barry is lost in his own world to dramatic intensity when he’s shocked out of it. Yet the most fascinating aspect of the new mix is the way that it expands the presence of John Brion’s score to surround the viewer. Whenever Barry feels his world spiraling out of control around him, the music starts swirling through all channels including the overheads. It’s an uncanny effect, and it’s a perfectly appropriate one for Punch-Drunk Love.

Additional audio options include French, German, Italian, and Spanish (Spain) 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, plus Spanish (Latin America) 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitle options include English, English SDH, Arabic, Chinese (Traditional), Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), Swedish, Thai, and Turkish.

Sony’s 4K release of Punch-Drunk Love is the sixth film in their Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection: Volume 4. The set also includes His Girl Friday, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Kramer vs. Kramer, Starman, and Sleepless in Seattle. The packaging is similar to the other three volumes, with two wings that open up, each of which houses three films in individual Amaray cases with slipcovers. (The inserts use the original theatrical poster artwork, while the slipcovers offer new artwork.) At the back of the box is a separate compartment that houses a hardbound book featuring essays on each film by different authors (Mark Kermode, in this case) as well as individual restoration notes by Grover Crisp, Rita Belda, and the late James Owsley, who passed away in 2022.

All of the films in the collection include a Blu-ray with a 1080p copy of the film, most of them based on the same 4K masters as the UHDs (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and Kramer vs. Kramer are the exceptions.) There’s also a paper insert tucked inside with Digital Codes for each film. There are no extras on the UHD for Punch-Drunk Love, but the following extras are included on the Blu-ray only:

  • Deleted Scenes:
    • The Sisters Call (Upscaled SD – 7:10)
    • Are You from California (Upscaled SD – 2:26)
    • Mattress Man Commercial (Upscaled SD – 0:56)
  • Blossoms and Blood (Upscaled SD – 12:03)
  • John Brion Featurette (HD – 27:19)
  • Recording Session (Upscaled SD – 9:55)
  • Scopitones:
    • First (Upscaled SD – :21)
    • Harp Finger (Upscaled SD – :15)
    • Punchy Doorbell (Upscaled SD – :23)
    • Mysterio (Upscaled SD – :24)
    • Boy Businessman (Upscaled SD – :18)
    • Healthy Choice (Upscaled SD – :23)
    • He Needs (Upscaled SD – :46)
    • Lena (Upscaled SD – :17)
    • Come and Get Me (Upscaled SD – :36)
    • Exit Love Story (Upscaled SD – :27)
    • Waimanalo Walk (Upscaled SD – 1:27)
    • Sissy Lake’s Love (Upscaled SD – 1:17)
  • Additional Artwork (Upscaled SD – 2:41)
  • Trailers:
    • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:26)
    • International Trailer (HD – 1:02)

Most of the extras date back to the original Sony DVD release of Punch-Drunk Love in 2003, with a couple of the ones from the 2016 Criterion Blu-ray mixed in as well. The original extras kick off with three different Deleted Scenes that are interesting, but it’s easy to see why they were cut. Are You from California disrupts the flow of Barry’s first confrontation with Dean Trumbell’s henchmen, while The Sisters Call gilds the lily regarding the way that he’s harried by his sisters at the beginning of the film—the idea was conveyed much more efficiently in the theatrical cut. The Mattress Man Commercial is the most interesting, with Phillip Seymour Hoffman appearing to do his own stunt work in a promotional clip for Trumbull’s mattress store. It’s still easy to see why it was cut, since it would have undercut the character’s menace. Blossoms and Blood is a collection of deleted scenes and alternate takes that Anderson edited together into a condensed version of the film, all of it held together by John Brion’s music and Jeremy Blake’s artwork. In that vein, Anderson also created a different collection of faux Scopitones for the film. Scopitones were early jukebox versions of music videos, playing 16mm film loops instead of records. Anderson’s versions are all briefer than the original ones, but fortunately there’s a Play All option. Finally, there’s also a montage of Additional Artwork from Jeremy Blake.

The Criterion extras include the John Brion Featurette, which is an interview with the composer. He explains the overall design for the music in the film and the way that he and Anderson worked back and forth with each other to create the unique feel of Punch-Drunk Love. He also explains where the harmonium came from, and makes the interesting point that there’s no actual harmonium in his score, just the sounds that Sandler was playing. It really was an interactive process between the composer and the director, akin to what Ennio Morricone did with Sergio Leone. Brion wrote some of the music in advance so that Anderson could listen to it on set in order to set the tempo for his tracking shots. As Brion explains it, Jeremy Blake was really the third part of their interactive process, as he was working on his artwork at the same time. There’s also some footage of the Recording Sessions at Abby Road Studios in 2001.

There are a few extras from the Criterion Blu-ray that are missing here. It also included a conversation between art curators Michael Connor and Lia Gangitano about the late Jeremy Blake (who passed away in 2007); some Studio Interviews and a Press Conference from the 2002 Cannes Film Festival; and a 2000 NBC News interview with David Phillips, aka “the pudding guy.” So if you have the Criterion Blu-ray, you’re probably going to want to hang onto it for those additional extras. In all other respects, Sony’s 4K version of Punch-Drunk Love is the one to own—it’s a significant upgrade in terms of picture and sound quality.

Punch-Drunk Love (4K UHD) Punch-Drunk Love (4K UHD)

And with that, we end our run through the Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection: Volume 4 on a suitably high note. While some people are inevitably going to be dissatisfied with the selection of titles included in each volume of the Columbia Classics series, there’s more than enough memorable ones in Vol. 4 to make the set worth the hefty purchase price. As always, though, your own mileage may vary. I’ve enjoyed the entire time that I’ve spent with it, including the titles that I probably wouldn’t have picked up otherwise. The downside with collections like these is that there will nearly always be titles that you don’t want, but the upside is that they encourage you to give those titles another shot. Maybe old discards will become your new favorites. Maybe not, but it never hurts to give things another try.

- Stephen Bjork

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