David Lynch returns to top form in his latest
offbeat outing, Lost Highway
by Mark A. Altman
Since the acclaim that greeted David Lynch's transformational Twin Peaks several years back, the outrageous auteur has remained noticeably absent from the cinematic scene. Despite dabbling in television with such forgettable oddities as Hotel Room and On the Air, later returning to mine the Twin Peaks tapestry in the thoroughly disappointing Fire Walk With Me, Lynch retreated from the scene in 'the wake of some scathing notices and less than stellar box office.
Fortunately, Lost Highway marks the return of a master to some familiar territory. While the film is characterized by the bizarre imagery and the lack of traditional story structure that are typical of the Lynch oeuvre, the film is among the director's most fascinatingly offbeat entries since Eraserhead. Regrettably, this is not necessarily a completely good thing, since what gets lost in the symphony of perverse imagery, striking sound design and cerebral dissonance is any semblance of narrative coherence.
Lost Highway begins promisingly as a twisted film noir but quickly becomes something far different as it take a series of increasingly bizarre turns. To Lynch's credit, the film overcomes this lack of traditional story structure thanks to some of the director's most assured helming to date, a vibrant musical score combining the symphonic work of frequent Lynch collaborator Angelo Badlamenti with Barry Adamson and a powerful rock and roll soundtrack which includes music by Trent Reznor, Lou Reed, Marilyn Manson (doing a cover version of "I Put A Spell On You") and David Bowie.
As with the oft-brilliant Twin Peaks, another unheralded star of the film is casting director Johanna Ray who, along with Lynch, assembles an eclectic cast which even includes a cameo by Richard Pryor. Turning in a particularly strong performance is Bill Pullman as Fred Madison, a tortured jazz musician who becomes embroiled in a murder. A far cry from his avuncular President in independence Day, Pullman displays a depth and range he has rarely shown on screen. Likewise, Patricia Arquette shines in the dual role of Renee Madison and Alice Wakefield, the object of several men's obsessive desires. And while the ever-reliable Robert Loggia comes across as a second-rate Frank Booth (most notably in a scene in which he harangues a panic- stricken motorist for tailgating) in his role as a mobster with ties to an even more sinister force, he gives a solidly engaging performance.
However, the real revelation in the film is Robert Blake as a mysterious stranger. In Lost Highway, Lynch has done for Blake what Tarantino did for Travolta in Pulp Fiction. Playing the role with an unsettling blend of understatement and terrifying menace, Lynch has created yet another memorable ghoul, who, like Killer Bob before him, lingers in the dark recesses of memory long after the movie has ended.
With Lynch's unique brand of graphic gore, misogynistic violence and wild narrative incongruities, Lost Highway is not for everyone. It is best viewed as a snapshot from the twisted dreamscape of David Lynch.
LOST HIGHWAY (October Films)
Starring Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette,
Balthazar Getty, Robert Blake, Robert
Loggia and Jack Nance
Written by David Lynch and Barry
Directed by David Lynch
Copyright 1997 L.F.P Inc.
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