LostHighwayDavid Lynch was considered a pariah in the wake of TWIN PEAKS’S cancellation after two seasons, and the box office failure of its accompanying feature FIRE WALK WITH ME. To many viewers, they embodied the same criticisms: that Lynch had become too campy, that he’d sold out.  You can rest assured that with 1997’s LOST HIGHWAY Lynch definitely rectified those criticisms. Weird, creepy and uncompromisingly elliptic, it’s one of the most outright Lynchian films this genius filmmaker has ever crafted.

As with WILD AT HEART and FIRE WALK WITH ME, the cast of LOST HIGHWAY is packed with familiar faces. INDEPENDENCE DAY’S Bill Pullman and TRUE ROMANCE’S Patricia Arquette fill the lead rolls, while Balthazar Getty, Gary Busey, Richard Pryor, Henry Rollins, Robert Loggia, Natasha Gregson Wagner and Robert Blake round out the supporting cast.

Once again, crew-savvy David Lynch proves he knows how to pick ’em, as the technical credits are all top notch. Special mention must go to production designer Patricia Norris (much of the film was shot in Lynch’s own Hollywood Hills home), cinematographer Peter Deming, as well as Angelo Badalamente, Lynch’s regular composer. Badalamente is assisted by Nine Inch Nails’ lead singer Trent Reznor, who supervised the soundtrack (on which David Bowie, Lou Reed, Marilyn Manson and Reznor himself are heard, to name but a few).

A suburban couple (Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette) receive several packages on their doorstep. Each contains a videotape showing the inside of their house. As Pullman becomes increasingly suspicious of his wife’s nocturnal activities, things begin to grow darker (literally), until he can barely find his way through his own house. He receives another videotape, this time showing him murdering his wife. From there, he disappears, and literally turns into a young man (Balthazar Getty). In this new guise, he meets a double of his murdered wife (shades of Hitchcock’s Vertigo). He begins an affair with her, much to the dismay of her current companion, a mob boss (Robert Loggia).

So here we’ve hit all the bases of Lynch-dom: an obsession with the dark side of humanity, doomed romance, sex, violence, madness, despair and, of course, undiluted weirdness from start to finish.  It all portends a world that’s profoundly off balance…or just a very bad dream.

Not since his first feature, ERASERHEAD, has Lynch concocted such an uncommercial feature (although he would best both films with 2006’s 3-hour nonlinear freak-out INLAND EMPIRE). The pace is agonizingly slow, the main characters are distant and often unsympathetic, the atmosphere is crushingly grim and NO explanation is offered for the bizarre goings-on. It’s also a brilliant piece of filmmaking, beating out (with the exception of Cronenberg’s CRASH) just about everything else around at the time. In short, LOST HIGHWAY is pure, unfiltered David Lynch, proving that he remains of the most exciting filmmakers around.

Vital Statistics

October Films

Director: David Lynch
Producers: Deepak Nayar, Tom Sternberg, Mary Sweeney
Screenplay: David Lynch, Barry Gifford
Cinematographer: Peter Deming
Editor: Mary Sweeney
Cast: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty, Robert Blake, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Gary Busey, Robert Loggia, Richard Pryor, Henry Rollins