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Lost Highway

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Lost Highway

Starring: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette
Director: David Lynch
Rated: R
RunTime: 135 Minutes
Release Date: February 1997
Genres: Drama, Horror, Suspense

*Also starring: Balthazar Getty, Robert Loggia, Robert Blake, Gary Busey, Richard Pryor, Natasha Gregson Wagner

Review by MrBrown
2 stars out of 4

David Lynch's reputation as master of the surreal is not in any danger with the release of his first film in five years, Lost Highway. In the new film, Lynch's bizarre, dream-like approach is as fascinating as ever... and every bit as frustrating as well. Lynch's gift has always been his curse, and his latest work is just more evidence supporting that fact.

The "plot" defies traditional explanation, but I'll try anyhow. The excellent first act introduces us to married couple Fred and Renee Madison (Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette). Immediately we get the sense that all is not well here: Fred, a jazz saxophonist, suspects that his pretty brunette wife could be up to no good whenever he is away performing at a club. Things get creepy when the two start finding videotapes anonymously dropped off on their doorstep each morning. These tapes begin innocently enough--an exterior shot of their house--but each successive tape goes further, entering the house, eventually showing things that should not be seen by outsiders. Somehow figuring into this is a white-faced Mystery Man (Robert Blake), who, in a genuinely spooky moment, confronts Fred at a party. This segment of the film is Lynch at his best; with the aid of cinematographer Peter Deming and master composer Angelo Badalamenti, he ably creates a chilling atmosphere of dread that gets under the skin. We know something bad is bound to happen; we just don't know what.

Needless to say, things do get bad; unfortunately, the bad extends to the audience. Lynch's fervid imagination once again gets the better of him, as the weirdness of plausible situations clears out to make way for the just plain weird. Fred is sentenced to Death Row for a brutal crime depicted on one of the videotapes, and after suffering a series of massive head pains, he wakes up one morning a new man--literally: 19-year-old mechanic Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty), who is promptly released from prison. Pete eventually gets sexually entangled with Alice, the sultry blonde girlfriend of a local gangster/pornographer (Robert Loggia). The "clever" twist? Alice is also played by Arquette.

To describe anything that goes on beyond this stage is pointless, for at this point it becomes clear that the film, which began so promisingly, is actually about nothing; all established characters and plots are virtually irrelevant. What Lynch and co-scripter Barry Gifford (who also had a hand in Lynch's horrid mess Wild at Heart) ultimately appear to be after is an experimental exercise in elliptical dialogue and situations; in non-linear, circular narrative. Granted, this _is_ an interesting experiment; I can't say I was ever bored. But I just wish there were some kind of accessible story within this interesting framework, a real plot on which to hang all the graphic sex and gruesome violence--in short, a point to all of this. Say what you will about Lynch's last film, 1992's much-maligned Twin Peaks--Fire Walk with Me, but at least that film, its many baffling "Lynchian" touches aside, had a genuine story at its core; distinct characters and plot can be delineated. Here, there's a lot to feed the visceral senses, but nothing else.

Lost Highway, like other Lynch films, does stay with you long after it's over. But for once I'd like to know exactly why it does. In the end, Lost Highway lives up to its title--a long, winding road that will leave all travellers lost.

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