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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

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1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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4.  Jerry Saravia read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

Few directors have such a unique, some would say bizarre, style as David Lynch. He received Academy Award nominations for THE ELEPHANT MAN and BLUE VELVET, but other pictures of his, such as DUNE and WILD AT HEART, have been panned by many. His latest, LOST HIGHWAY, is his most unorthodox film yet, but one of his better ones.

The press kit describes the movie as a "psychogenic fugue" and a "Moebius strip" with elements of Lewis Carroll and Franz Kafka. Yes, it is all of those and more.

LOST HIGHWAY blends film noir with the tension of a horror movie. The power comes from the director's use of silence. Characters are genuinely frightened by what is happening to them because they cannot figure it out. They react with stunned silence. (As you read this review you may be inclined to conclude that you have no interest in seeing the movie, but the film works more effectively than any possible verbal description of it might lead you to believe.)

When Renee Madison (Patricia Arquette) comes into the house with an unmarked envelope she found on her front steps, her husband Fred (Bill Pullman) inquires, "What's that?" After a long pause, she answers, "a videotape." Another pregnant pause, and then he asks, "Who's it from." She ponders for a while and then tells him, "I don't know." When they play the tape, its abstruse message is a two second video clip of the front of their house followed by the loud hiss of blank tape.

The sound effects editing and the music enhance the heavy tension. At first, the film has complete silence interspersed with dialog -- no background ambient noise at all. Slowly, low natural background sounds are introduced and then this gives way to music consisting of long, low rumbling notes designed to frighten.

I see so many films that I get somewhat desensitized, but the first part of this movie managed to scare me badly with devices as natural as the sudden, loud ringing of a phone. An intense and very disturbing film in the beginning. When the parameters of the mystery are revealed, the tension stays, but the film becomes much less disquieting.

I am not going to cover any of the film's details. I will just set up the first few minutes of the film. Suffice it to say that the film involves character transformation, reincarnation, surreal dreams, and more.

To give a feel of what is in store for the viewers, consider another early scene. Fred meets an inexplicable "Mystery Man," played by Robert Blake, at a party at someone else's home. "I'm at your house right now," the man tells Fred. Handing Fred a cell phone, he challenges him to, "Call me."

The script by Barry Gifford and David Lynch perplexes the viewers with all of the false views and disconcerting realities of an Escher print. An omnipresent, but an identifiable fear dominates the picture's landscape.

Some of the vignettes in the film are priceless. My favorite could become an educational video for traffic schools. After viewing how a gangster known as Mr. Eddy (Robert Loggia) treats tailgaters, drivers will never dare follow too closely again.

The cinematography by Peter Deming pushes the limits of the film noir motif. Not only are scenes dark but some characters walk into the darkness and disappear as if into an astronomical black hole. The costumes and sets, both by Patricia Norris, portray a world of stark black and white images which, of course, make the red blood all the more dramatic by contrast.

I was caught up in LOST HIGHWAY's labyrinth. You can think of the show as a film constructed with non-Euclidean geometry. I still don't understand it, but the movie is not made to be comprehensible. What is less satisfying is the way characters caught in a deadly web such as this never seek advice on what is happening to them. The closest they come in LOST HIGHWAY is seen when mechanic Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty) laments, "Why me?" The answers to this and all of the film's conundrums are in the final analysis, unknowable.

LOST HIGHWAY runs needlessly long at 2:15. It is rated R for graphic violence, sex, nudity, and profanity. Teenagers should be mature if they go. I was fascinated by this long enigma so I recommend it to you and give it ***.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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