Lost Highway

Next Exit: Weirdsville

Bill Pullman plays a nervous jazz musician, suspicious that his wife (Patricia Arquette imitating Bettie Page) has been having an affair. The vaguely unhappy couple suddenly has their lives invaded by a supernatural demon (Robert Blake imitating Bela Lugosi), who prowls around their house at night with a video camera, then leaves the tape on their doorstep for them to watch in the morning. While trying to come to grips with the situation, Pullman suffers a blackout, after which he is accused of his wife’s murder. He is quickly tried and sentenced to death in the electric chair. On death row, he disappears from his cell. Found in his place is a young local auto mechanic (Balthazar Getty imitating Brad Pitt). Then things start to get really weird (Vampyre imitating Carnival of Souls).

Filmmaker David Lynch returns with his first feature since 1992’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, the underrated horror film which prequeled his fascinating ABC television series. Lost Highway is his most overtly horrific work yet, a film that may well be the source of a great deal of aggravation to many viewers. Lynch’s films always retain a definite flavor of unreality, and here he takes that flavor and makes a full meal of it. The plot operates on its own internal illogic. It’s a perplexing film – just when you think you may be about to discover what’s really going on, Lynch purposely throws you a curve ball that has you scratching your head again.

We start out with the fright film, with Pullman haunted by supernatural forces (perhaps from the Black Lodge of Twin Peaks). The prison scenes are almost cartoonish. Getty’s story is straight out of such film noir classics as Double Indemnity, embroiling him in an affair with mobster Robert Loggia’s sexy girlfriend (Patricia Arquette imitating Barbara Stanwick). The gears keep shifting from suspense to drama to comedy to eroticism to horror.

Lynch’s aim seems to be to capture a nightmare on film, and like a nightmare, it appears to be perfectly realistic from one moment to the next, but many scenes seem to contradict each other. The videos left by Blake provide an early clue – dimly lit and grainy, the camera floats along the ceiling at an impossible angle, perfectly reproducing a common dream. What point he’s trying to make is unclear – Lynch’s movies are built to invite repeat viewing. I feel as though I’ll have to see this one half a dozen times before I’ll be able to properly review it.

One pleasant side effect of an illness is that you get those wonderfully entertaining fever dreams. David lynch has given us one to watch in a theater.

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