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LOST HIGHWAY

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty, Robert Blake, Natasha Gregson Wagner, Gary Busey, Robert Loggia
Director: David Lynch
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Universal
Features: See Review
Length: 135 Minutes
Release Date: March 25, 2008

ďWeíve met before, havenít we?Ē

Film ***1/2

If you keep up with our end of the year DMC Awards, then you know of the section that caps off every awards list, the list of titles that we demand to finally hit DVD. Well, as the years progressed, it seemed that every title that I wanted to hit the format had finally convertedÖand yet I always felt as if every year I was forgetting a movie that hadnít made the leap yet. Low and behold, the title that kept slipping my mind was none other than David Lynchís Lost Highway, which I did remember to include in that very section this past year.

Cut to three months later and the wait that lasted more than a decade has finally ended. Kudos to Universal for finally making it. Youíve made me and many others incredibly happy.

My longtime mentor, Mike J, has been what Iíd like to call the David Lynch historian of our website. With the exception of a few titles, heís handled penning pieces for a great deal of the filmmakerís work, including Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart, Mulholland Drive and even Lynchís cult television phenomenon, Twin Peaks. Although Iíve seen all the aforementioned films, as well as Dune, Mike is more of an expert on Lynch than I could ever hope to be.

So not only have I managed to dethrone the reigning David Lynch expert for this review, but I also have the difficult task of reviewing the one film from the director that defies any possible description, Lost Highway. Take my word for it, trying to explain any of Lynchís other films would be a walk in the park by comparison. At the same time, Iíve seen Lost Highway more times than I have any other David Lynch film, so I have a feeling I can do it justice. Here goesÖ

For me, Lost Highway can best be described as David Lynchís most David Lynch film to date, if you can imagine such a film. In my mind, no other film of his represents the kind of dreamlike/nightmarish world we come to expect from Lynch than this one. Since first seeing the film in 1997, Iíve always believed that the shocking, uncompromising dark worlds presented in Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart were just warm up periods. For this movie, Lynch was going to take his brooding atmosphere one step further, by placing the viewer in a roller coaster without breaks and plunging them into a nightmarish world that never really stops, much like the nighttime highway shot which bookends the film.

Basically, Lost Highway is comprised of two story sections. Whether or not they take place in the same universe, involve the same people or are even parallel to begin with is left for you to decide. Remember, in Lynchís world, the rules of convention go right out the windowÖand in this case, at full speed.

We are first introduced to Fred (Bill Pullman), a late night jazz musician who lives in an upscale home with wife Renee (Patricia Arquette). The couple is experiencing some true strange occurrences in the form of a videotape that arrives at the doorstep, which shows a recording of their home. Then another one arrives the next day, only this time the recording made it all the way to the couplesí bedroom, right when they were sleeping.

In addition to that, Fred admits to having a dream involving his wife, one in which she appeared but not as herself. Shortly after that, a creepy pale mystery man (Robert Blake) presents himself to Fred during a home party. And not too long after that, one last videotape pops upÖone showing Fred murdering his wife in a grisly manner.

In no time, Fred is found guilty and sentenced to death. And here is where the film takes a whopper of a detour and into the second story section. One morning, a prison guard inspects Fredís cell, only to find an entirely different man wearing the prison issue clothes.

That man is Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty), an auto mechanic and ex con. Once out of prison, and having no clue of how he got there, Pete returns to work at the auto garage. We soon learn that Pete has a close relationship with Mr. Eddy (Robert Loggia), a gangster with another possible agenda, as well as blonde mistress named Alice (Patricia Arquette, again), whom Pete becomes romantically involved with.

Thereís no question that if you are a true fan of David Lynch, then you loved to have your mind messed with. And since I find myself revisiting Lost Highway more than any David Lynch films (even more than Blue Velvet, which is my favorite), I must really have a huge desire to have my mind screwed with. Or maybe itís because I donít mind drooling over Patricia Arquette at her all time hotness. I am not ashamed to admit that one of the things I most look forward to on every viewing is seeing Ms. Arquette in her blonde getup and sliver dress. She exudes sexuality in this film and isnít afraid to show some skin, which she does quite a bit here.

In terms of atmosphere, this is simply Lynchís finest hour on film to date, and when you consider all the other films heís made, thatís really saying something. Nearly every shot in the movie offers something remarkable, if deranged, to the eye. It may be debatable, but Iíve long felt that Lost Highway is Lynchís most visually arresting film yet.

Sound plays an important role as well, both in loud and quiet moments. Take Robert Blakeís first appearance, in which all background music and sounds immediately cease. Itís as effectively creepy as Blakeís look and devilish laugh, both of which send chills up the spine. The music on the soundtrack is a plus to. If a film is going to depict a truly nightmarish world, what better mix tape to have along for the ride than cuts by David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, Lou Reed and Smashing Pumpkins.

Thereís no possible way I can defend Lost Highway as a meaningful film, simply because it isnít trying to be one. What makes this film such a riveting experience will only make sense to true David Lynch fans. This is the director working at a full throttle pace, letting his style do the work at the highest possible level.

Story-wise, is it frustrating? To a degree, yes, but for such a film to keep the viewer coming back to itÖnow thatís a rarest form of cinematic accomplishments. You can interpret it one way on one viewing, only to watch it again and have a whole new take on it.

Love it or hate it, and Iím convinced those opinions equal out tremendously, thereís no denying that Lost Highway is both one of the most adventurous films to emerge from both the 90s and the mind of David Lynch. Itís one true cinematic enigma, and a dynamic one at that. All I can say is that if you feel you can stomach the ride, and if your brain can take in the impact, then prepare for the ultimate trip into hell.

BONUS: The film marks the final screen appearance of Richard Pryor.

Video ****

As long as weíve all waited for this film to finally hit DVD, Iím pleased to report that Universal has handled this presentation with truly outstanding results. Itís without question the best picture quality Iíve seen the film in, especially after having watched the widescreen VHS copy I used to own. Daylight is only presented in bits and pieces throughout the film, as dark landscapes take center stage here, resulting in nothing but fantastic imagery. Colors are quite astonishing too. I wanted to see this film in the theater and never got to, but this presentation represents the next best possible quality.

Audio ***1/2

The first dialogue exchange had me doubting if the 5.1 mix would deliver, but the film played on and by the end the quality had elevated to damn near amazing. As mentioned earlier, sound plays an important role in the film, and those technical qualities play off tremendously well. Both the score by Angelo Badalamenti, and the tracklist of songs on the soundtrack are heard in a most remarkable form. Dialogue delivery is also extremely well delivered, especially in sequences where all background sounds/music have ceased. Like the picture quality, the sound mix does this long awaited release absolute justice.

Features (Zero Stars)

To lamely put it, it appears that the extras got Lost somewhere on the Highway.

Summary:

It once was Lost but now it is found on DVD (Wow, combining David Lynch with Amazing GraceÖtell me Iím not losing it). After a long eleven-year wait period, Lost Highway has finally made its debut on DVD with shining results. If youíve somehow forgotten how disturbing a trip down this highway is, then itís time for you revisit Lynchís most insane world put on film yet. And should this be your first rideÖbe prepared.

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