Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Robert Blake, Henry Rollins,
Balthazar Getty, Gary Busey, Robert Loggia, Richard Pryor. (R, 135 min.)
Enigmatic even by Lynchian standards, the storyline of Lost Highway was perhaps best
summed up by Lynch himself on a recent segment of The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
After effusing briefly about Robert Blake's clip, Leno queried the director about
the film's plot, to which Lynch replied: "It's about [long pause]... a man in trouble."
Very succinct, maddeningly vague, but also quite accurate. What better way to describe
this complex, wildly frustrating journey into the Lynch's tortured, oddly prosaic
film psyche? Like Blue Velvet, Lost Highway deals with the everyday turned upside-down,
or rather, gutted and then pulled inside-out. Normalcy is a fraud, and nothing is
quite what it seems, although fans of Lynch's Lumberton and Twin Peaks sagas will
find themselves stymied in the nameless, Los Angelesean desert suburbia of Lost Highway.
Now more than ever, nothing makes much sense. Fred Madison (Pullman) is a tenor saxman.
By night, he blows his horn at the local club; by day, he hangs out with his wife
Renee (Arquette), a Betty Page doppelganger. When the couple begins receiving mysterious
videotapes on their front porch -- tapes apparently made inside their home, while
they were sleeping -- the police are called. They offer little comfort, though, and
Fred begins to suspect his wife is having an affair. Things take a sidestep into
the awful when Renee is viciously murdered, and her husband is found guilty of the
crime. Incarcerated for a crime he may or may not have committed, Fred waits out
his days in lockup until, without explanation, he literally vanishes, and in his
place is found Pete Dayton (Getty), a young auto mechanic who inexplicably appears
in Fred's cell. Things get stranger from here on out, and considering the elliptical,
highly subjective nature of Lynch's film, there's no point in giving anything else
away. Suffice to say Fred and Pete's lives are commingled, with Renee at the center.
Lynch, who penned the screenplay with novelist Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart), seems
to be attempting to capture not just a sense of place and time (it never works --
Lost Highway is wholly, irrevocably, out of place and without any linear time or
time line to speak of), but also a sense of madness. Is Fred insane? Is Pete insane?
Who killed Renee (and is she even dead to begin with)? Cocky auteur that he is, Lynch
provides the audience with an abundance of clues, but no solid answers. What he does
provide is a deliciously delirious descent into his own mental mise-en-scene: It
may not appear to make any sense, but, my god, it looks good. Lost Highway pushes
the envelope of sight and sound, and merges these two most important elements of
film into a hallucinatory orgy. Angelo Badalamenti's score is wondrously arcane,
and Lynch's choice of soundtrack recordings perfectly echoes the spiraling sense
of onscreen disorientation, from Trent Reznor's eerie soundscapes to Lou Reed's ominously
carefree "This Magic Moment." Couple that with Peter Deming's dark, spare lighting
and camerawork, and you've got Lynch/Kafka overkill. With a running time of 135 minutes,
Lost Highway could have stood some final trimming -- some passages seem to go on endlessly,
pointlessly -- but you get the feeling the director just likes to make you squirm.
Confounding and disconcerting, Lost Highway is David Lynch consciously attempting
to outdo himself. He does, gloriously, and in doing so loses the rest of us in the
Full Length Reviews
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