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Overall Rating
3.01

Awesome28.57%
Worth A Look: 16.19%
Just Average: 7.62%
Pretty Crappy: 22.86%
Sucks: 24.76%

5 reviews, 75 user ratings


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Lost Highway
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by Jack Sommersby

"As Joylessly Dense as a Tax Audit"
2 stars

If you'tre one of those who go agog over an arty film that makes not a lick of sense -- to be arty for the sole sake of being arty -- then this David Lynch debacle should be right up your alley.

David Lynch's Lost Highway is a muddled and eventually boring non-thriller that doesn't have a coherent bone in its one-hundred-and-thirty-four-minute entirety. Instead of a genuine story it's full of attention-getting story segments, and only a few of these fragmented parts are worked out well. The film keeps threatening to break free and coalesce into an organic whole, but Lynch's overall conception is so fogged over with solipsistic sensationalism that he never develops his vision into something even remotely sensible or enjoyable.

This is a tragic disappointment considering this was Lynch's first film in five years and expectations were rather high. Here is one of the few American directors whose body of work has validated his deserved status as an auteur of the cinema. His groundbreaking, brilliant 1986 Blue Velvet emerged as a qualified masterpiece that still has the style, intensity, and wit to electrify audiences. But, unfortunately, Lynch soon began a nosedive into an abyss of overblown, maddeningly self-indulgent crap. 1990's Wild at Heart was horribly constructed and unnecessarily repulsive. That film reached its nadir quite early on in a scene in a bathroom stall where Diane Ladd's Marietta told Nicolas Cage's Sailor Ripley that he was nothing but "shit," and Lynch pointed this up by cutting to a shot of a toilet with a milky film on top. That was the end of the film. And 1992's Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me was so disassociated and lethargically handled that it came across as the uncouth product of an all-night Nyquil binge; even Lynch's trademark of delectably supple widescreen compositions was absent -- the film was unimaginatively shot in a boring 1.85:1 aspect ratio with mediocre lighting. Both films, alas, shared the same deficiency: strained manner over coherent matter. Lost Highway would seem to have the makings of a return to form for Lynch, with a tantalizing beginning effortlessly enveloping us from the get-go, yet things start to go horribly awry and never wind up getting back on track.

Our initial journeyman is a jazz saxophonist named Fred Madison (the always-reliable Bill Pullman) who's living an unpleasurable life with his pretty wife Renee (Patricia Arquette). They reside in Los Angeles and their Art Deco home is an absolutely perfect physical representation of their stagnant emotionalism: black couches and mauve walls decorate this empty wasteland called home where Rod Serling seems to have done the interior decorating. (Lynch and his longtime production designer Patricia Norris create a palpably textured sense of dread out of harmless objects.) You get the feeling the Madisons are just marking time and have accepted that their marriage is neither getting nor going to get any better -- their scenes together exude the human warmth of an autopsy. Their lives are soon changed when a mysterious package turns up on their doorstep: a plain white envelope containing a videotape with no markings and no indication of where it came from. They play the tape and are horrified at seeing the inside of their house on it, where the camera tracks from the living room and ending up in the bedroom, where the two of them are asleep. A call to the police turns up no helpful evidence or forensics to follow up on. The next day they receive another tape with the same content as before. Their monotonous lives are gradually being uprooted in the face of an unidentifiable terror, and this actually brings them closer together, revitalizing the small glimmers of compassion and caring left unchecked and dormant for so long.

Later that night, they attend a party where Fred is confronted by a creepy, eyebrow-less, white-pancake-faced man who calls himself the Mystery Man (Robert Blake) and seems to be staring straight into Fred's soul. He tells Fred that he himself is at his house this very moment and hands Fred a phone to call his house, and darned if this ghoul of a man doesn't answer on the very first ring. He and Renee leave the party and apparently escape danger by returning home. But their privacy has been unnervingly invaded, and this makes Fred look at the videotape again; this time he's seeing something different, something hidden -- his wife in bed not with him, but another man, and the night turns into a shocking scene of jealous rage and bloody carnage. These early sequences are expertly rendered by director Lynch. The atmosphere of dread and inevitable doom are frighteningly real, with Lynch rooting and playing out the terror through the Madisons' emotional barrenness -- they're an open book vulnerable to the powers of evil. Lynch never once pushes for effects -- he gets them through patience and imaginative zeal while controlled with the utmost precision. This is the way David Lynch used to make films.

Unfortunately, after a superb forty-five minutes, Lost Highway begins a structural downfall where the sequences turn flabby and internal logic gives way to the kind of whimsical notions that mean more to the filmmaker than us. Fred, after being given the death penalty for Renee's murder, is sent to prison, where he still maintains his innocence. Later, a guard is making his rounds and discovers there's someone else alone in the cell: a nineteen-year-old man, Pete Dayton (Balthazzar Getty), who has no idea where he is or how he got there. Pete's released and returns home to his family, where his father (Gary Busey) greets him with a paternal warmth; he's used to his kid's habit of getting into trouble and is just glad he's safe. (With his performance here and in Carried Away the year before, Busey displays a surprisingly effective flair for subtlety.) The next day, Pete's friends tell him that something weird happened that night, but he can't remember anything about it. He returns to his job at a garage (owned by Richard Pryor's Arnie) and is awestruck when L.A.'s biggest gangster, Mr. Eddy (Robert Loggia), arrives in his fiery red convertible; but it's not the car that grabs Pete's attention -- it's the stunning platinum blonde in the passenger seat, Alice Wakefield (also played by Arquette). Pete's completely entranced and can't make sense of it: it's not just lust but a sensual, instinctive pull. Soon, Pete and Alice are having a scorching affair in numerous motel rooms and planning to escape L.A. by robbing a prominent businessman's house, the same house that hosted the party attended by Fred, Renee, and the Mystery Man. I won't give more away, except to aver the rest of the film contains double-crosses, a return visit by M.M., a lacerated head, a lesson on tailgating, and a climax involving a burning house.

Lost Highway contains some alluring story elements that should enthrall and goose the viewer into a sinful sense of wonderment, but after a solid opening it turns into a hopeless mess of inanity. The storyline shoots off into Byzantine directions, and none of it's grounded with an accessible logic that we can lock onto; it's one thing when plot points don't connect, but it's insultingly vapid for Lynch and co-screenwriter Barry Gifford (who wrote the novel Wild at Heart was based upon) to come across as piously proud of their illogic. What of the Renee and Alice characters? They're played by the same actress, but so what? And the Mystery Man? He's certainly a nifty creation, mind you, and Blake is effective in the role, but he's simply used as a big tease because Lynch doesn't show us how this strange man is linked to the story. And are Fred and Pete a reincarnation entity or is this just an attention-getting concept (or both)? Lynch is so gleefully determined at creating endless labyrinth paths that he's worked himself into quite the artistic corner: He alienates his audience with narrative denseness while expecting us to remain spellbound by weirdness just for the sake of weirdness. But people eventually lose interest in something they can't have, and, as a result, the fascination we experience at first gives way to a good deal of hostility.

Luckily, every David Lynch film has some positive things worth noting. Loggia gives a grandly entertaining performance that manages to cut through the material's bull and infuse his scenes with a juicy, concentrated energy reminiscent of Dennis Hopper's maniacal Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. And Peter Deming's cinematography is luxuriously supple, with a bold and controlled scheme. But the film's follow-through is inane and without much in the way of flair. Even in the abysmal Wild at Heart there were moments when you could sense a genius inventor at work; here, this phenomenally gifted filmmaker seems to be operating on autopilot. The film hasn't been edited with a sound urgency in mind and doesn't glide forth with a consistent rhythm -- it endlessly progresses with the vitality of an ice floe. But it's Lynch's refusal to define or even moderately clarify his vision that ultimately thwarts him. I'm not insisting that he tailor his story down to a simplistic level of rendering -- great films needn't supply every single morsel of data to the audience and provide them with a refreshing lemonade to wash everything down -- but there's a fine line between presenting material with a responsible sensibility and showing off an ill-defined concept with an insultingly private self-indulgence. A film like this doesn't need (or warrant) an audience. I saw Lost Highway alone in a deserted theatre, and the film seemed so proud and self-congratulatory that I soon felt like an eavesdropper in someone else's bedroom. After it was over, I exited the theatre with a feeling of guilt for not having left sooner. For then, Lynch & Co. could have had the place to themselves, free to enjoy their film in private.

Skip it.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=285&reviewer=327
originally posted: 10/01/07 09:55:00
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User Comments

2/20/17 Dave An utterly ridiculous nightmare, but an effective one if you don't take it too seriously 4 stars
10/29/16 morris campbell strange surreal but if this is ur cup of tea check it out 4 stars
4/12/14 PAUL SHORTT SORDID, STRANGE AND SPOOKY 2 stars
8/10/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Time travel,mutating into someone else. WOW! 4 stars
7/03/10 brian Wha? 3 stars
12/23/09 Jeff Wilder Great score but incomprehensible. Lynch's weakest effort. 2 stars
11/25/09 Artemis B Gone Brilliant film. One of my favorites of all time. Did MP think he was being clever? 5 stars
1/06/09 FrankNFurter Yikes!Sad to see Lynch parodying himself unintentionally.Mediocre excrement! 2 stars
9/30/08 Shaun Wallner Awesome story! 5 stars
12/23/07 mr.mike just watched it a third time , i am adding a star 3 stars
10/12/07 Ronald Newbold Not a film everyone will "get" but if you do it will always remain a favorite 5 stars
7/30/07 William Goss Two barely compelling halves come to little fruition. More watchable than satisfying. 3 stars
7/21/07 ben dover very strange great rammstein music though 4 stars
6/09/07 Bob Greatr Lynchian mindf*ck. Incredible flick. 5 stars
6/01/07 fools♫gold I didn't especially love it; hell, I even like "Eternal Sunshine" JUST A BIT better. 7/10 3 stars
12/30/06 mr.mike my least favorite lynch film 2 stars
10/26/06 Isaac Baranoff My favorite Lynch film. 5 stars
2/22/06 jp with love from david lynch 4 stars
10/24/05 ShadowFace5 It's a thinking man's movie and a damn good one. 5 stars
8/12/05 ES Lynch the man who still, somehow makes movies despite this 1 stars
6/20/05 R god forbid you fill in the fucking blanks. "i have to participate, so it's amateurish!" 5 stars
6/09/05 Indrid Cold All the atmosphere with no substance; Lynch at his worst. 2 stars
5/23/05 Mike Lynch disappearing up his own ass or a timeless avantgarde masterpiece? I can't decide. 3 stars
2/12/05 Mike Lynch a talented director doing the same, surreal style with no substance every time. 1 stars
1/04/05 dave t anyone else feel like the main character at the end? extremely interesting film from lynch. 5 stars
9/25/04 Naka Lynch tries waaaaay too hard with this pretentious, overly-surreal nonsense. 1 stars
8/15/04 jmsynth there was a time when Mr Lynch made clever films... that actually made sense 1 stars
6/18/04 Aftermath3.14 Lost Highway = $h1t 1 stars
6/04/04 MyGreenBed Makes "Mulholland" look like the joke that it is. Still has it's flaws. Interesting. 3 stars
5/27/04 Guido Egas Brilliant movie, but too gloomy and surreal for some people. This is D. Lynch at his best! 5 stars
1/17/04 John a good set up and eerie as you'd expect from Lynch but what does it all mean? 2 stars
12/06/03 Brian great film, this movie opened my mind to what movies CAN be, unbound and amazing 5 stars
10/13/03 John Linton Roberson How you feel when you finish a jigsaw but the last piece is deliberately missing. 4 stars
8/28/03 dtom challenging...not for literalists. 5 stars
5/25/03 .Choadushouse. Made me want to kill myself, and thats a GOOD THING! 5 stars
5/25/03 John40 Only Mulholland Drive tops this masterpiece 5 stars
5/05/03 Freddi Only Lynch can make nonsenses look great 5 stars
3/06/03 y2mckay Whether you understand fuck-all about it or not - still an awesome movie 5 stars
3/06/03 Dr. Bitterpants Too bad Lynch doesn't care about his work or the audience. Never did, never will. SUCKERS! 1 stars
12/31/02 Jack Sommersby A fine beginning gives way to a pretentiously obscure follow-through. A real disappointment 2 stars
5/29/02 T-Money visually stunning. even better after you figure out what its about. not for all audiences 5 stars
5/15/02 SIGB just watch it - nothing I could possibly add to that 5 stars
4/17/02 Film Dude Made me want to kill myself. 1 stars
3/08/02 fi0na one of my biggest favs. I love it to death. 5 stars
3/06/02 ZenMasterFlash Took two tries to understand the story, but that's OK. A dark and surreal delight. 5 stars
11/27/01 Ian Barr Gets better on each viewing 4 stars
11/04/01 E-Funk Lynch's best since 'Peaks'. This movie is stimulating in every fashion and quite scary. 5 stars
11/03/01 Spankachu this movie is weird, really fucking weird 1 stars
6/06/01 King Jackass WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON!?!?!?!? 1 stars
5/25/01 Basil One of my favorite movies. 5 stars
5/08/01 weird v2.0 Mind-blowing, turns your brains 'on'. 5 stars
5/01/01 Morgie huh? 2 stars
4/15/01 Fafafoey Underrated mastpiece. Lynch is master of mood and environment. Underrated. 5 stars
3/23/01 Jay Gunn Bizzare, but intriging. A must see 5 stars
3/07/01 Jason Butler An eastern mythic take on true punishment. 5 stars
3/07/01 Mike Most people like shit like American Pie before art! 5 stars
2/20/01 Rocket Boy Another underappreciated Lynch film...Excellent, yet hollow. 4 stars
11/02/00 Cristopher Revilla WHAT THE FUCK WAS THAT? 21ST CENTURY NOIR?! BULLSHIT, BLUE VELVET IS BETTER! OR DID I .... 1 stars
10/16/00 Jorn L Excellent movie... requires a brain or an open mind to enjoy. 5 stars
5/31/00 the Grinch "Dick Laurent", Fred, and Pete are same person. Crone, Mother, Daughter. A logical nightmar 4 stars
12/26/99 katsumi puerile 2 stars
6/09/99 Elizaveta I don't really feel like trying to understand...indifference... 3 stars
5/26/99 GothamDK Typical Lynch. 2nd viewing is the charm. Better than Stone's U-Turn crap. 4 stars
5/25/99 iyu Boring, pretentious bullshit. At least Blue Velvet made you uncomfortable. 1 stars
4/14/99 Jon Jackson If David Lynch was a rapper his name would be the Genius-psyche this movie sucked hard! 2 stars
2/17/99 Bishop What is wrong with David Lynch here? This film has no meaning, is it supposed to? 1 stars
1/22/99 TB David Lynch confuses "artsy" and "bad" frequently..... this ones a piece of shit 1 stars
11/24/98 Fred Sex galore, but what the hell was Trent thinking to bless this ... God knows what it was? 2 stars
11/14/98 Barrie Best film of 97. It has shitloads of meaning and metaphor. Incredible visuals. 5 stars
10/18/98 Tuxedo Steve I understand it. Email me - n2350947@sparrow.qut.edu.au for the solution. Loved it, BTW. 5 stars
8/22/98 Mister Whoopee I sont comply with this "it's Lynch so it's ok" theory. I *WANT* to understand it. 1 stars
8/22/98 Superfly I give it this rating simply because it's different... very different. 4 stars
8/16/98 Johny Lynch rules, just watch and don't look for linear plot 5 stars
8/16/98 Miss Stress david lynch confuses the fuck out of me again, no big whoop! 3 stars
8/16/98 {{{OZ}}} Very Lynch. Very weird. Completely lost. Beat head on desk. Me die now. 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  21-Feb-1997 (R)
  DVD: 25-Mar-2007

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