By Jane Young
David Lynch is the contemporary film master of bizarre mysteries. Although often experimenting with irrational and absurd aspects of human nature, Lynch disavows labels like expressionist and surrealist. Regardless, the director’s latest film continues the trend of strangeness he began with Eraserhead and popularized with the TV series Twin Peaks.
Lost Highway is a dream-like portrayal of four people’s lives, which intertwine in several life-changing events.
Fred (Bill Pullman) suspects his wife Renee (Patricia Arquette) is having an affair, as he realized she is becoming increasingly detached. When she winds up dead, he is accused and jailed for her murder, although he has no memory of the night she died.
The plot switches dramatically here — Fred suddenly disappears from his jail cell and in his place is Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty), a mechanic who has no recollection of how he got there. Upon his release, he begins an affair with Alice Wakefield, also played by Arquette. It never becomes clear if Alice and Renee are the same woman, or just two with similar ives.
Bizarre occurrences are a constant thread in the film. A creepy stranger (Robert Blake) seems to have otherwordly powers and interferes in the lives of the two couples. In one scene, the mystery man (Blake) forces Fred to call his one home, and is at the other end to answer and carry on the conversation from both places.
Both Arquette and Pullman give surprising performances. Pullman seems nothing like the Mr. Nice Guy from Casper and While You Were Sleeping. Arquette is withdrawn as Renee, conniving and sweet as Alice. Somehow both women come across as dark and strangely sexual, due to Arquette’s subtle portrayals.
Lynch claims the film is not supposed to be understood on the surface. Many parts defy logic. But it works. The unanswered questions are not frustrating, as Lynch’s weird tone and style are captivating. The mood of Lost Highway oozes through Lynch’s unique sense of colour, music and camerawork. The strong acting is supported with some quirky cameos by Henry Rollins, Marilyn Manson, Gary Busey and Richard Pryor. All of this culminates into one surrealistic blur, but also leaves you with questions and possibilities to chew on for weeks.