Those who wrote off David Lynch after Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks aren’t likely to restore the wizard of odd to trendy favor on the basis of Lost Highway – the first Lynch film in five years. The story, concocted by Lynch and co-writer Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart), concerns jazz musician Fred Madison (Bill Pullman), who morphs into hunk mechanic Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty) after Fred is put in prison for killing his raven-haired wife, Renee (Patricia Arquette).
What the hell? When Arquette shows up at Pete’s garage as a bottled blonde named Alice who is ready to dump her gangster boyfriend, Mr. Eddy (Robert Loggia), for a roll in the hay with Pete, you may feel as dazed as Pete does. Lost Highway doesn’t keep the real world on the brink of chaos in the way that Blue Velvet did. It’s all chaos, with the flashes of hallucinatory brilliance that redeem any Lynch film. When Mr. Eddy gets out of his car to lecture and beat up a tail-gater (“Do you know how many fuckin’ car lengths it takes to stop a car at 35 miles per hour?”), the film is already high on its own surreal fumes.
Lost Highway, stunningly shot by Peter Deming, finds most of its fun in detours. Loggia’s hood is matched in madness by Robert Blake’s freaky Mystery Man, who makes a call in one house and answers the ring in another. Lynch parodies every film noir from Double Indemnity to The Devil Thumbs a Ride and gets himself a double dose of temptress in Arquette, who gives off enough comeon carnality to singe the screen. No wonder Fred wants to re-create himself to take another crack at this babe. Hilarious, hypnotic and sizzlingly erotic, Lost Highway is low on logic, but Lynch’s zonked, visionary magic makes it fly.