As year-end lists get tallied and naughty critics claim to know who's been nice, "Lost Highway" is likely to get lost in the fray. In what may be Lynch's best and most Lynchian film yet, the director seems to be even more determined to escape the shackles of narrative convention, even after four years of being unable to get his projects financed. Dark and disturbing, unrelenting and unsettling, gorgeously made, sizzlingly sensual yet coldly fatalist, it shows Lynch at the top of his form. In its fever-dream orchestration of incident, sound and music, Lynch has made a musical -- one that after you've seen it, you find yourself humming in your sleep. In interviews Lynch is notoriously elusive, wanting never to pin down meaning, symbolism or directorial intent, but he is fond of saying things much like his characters would, such as that he's "lost in darkness and confusion." "Lost Highway" is the story of Fred Madison (Bill Pullman), who has a world of trouble boiling through his head over his feelings for his wife, Renee (Patricia Arquette) -- jealousy, madness, rationalization, some large thing. Whether taken as fantasy or nightmare, Lynch's revisionist noir yarn is as pungent as a punch in the face, as quixotic as revisiting a lost love; it's essentially a romantic tragedy, tinged with a deep undercurrent of sadness and hurt. Lynch and co-writer Barry Gifford use minimal
means in trying to convince us that Fred could transform himself into another person out of his emotional pain; the amazing surfaces that the former painter composes while working through the plot are nothing short of ravishing. And yet... is the story banal, riddled with psychological clichs, or grandly mysterious? I lean toward the latter. Panavision. 123m.
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