The City of Absurdity Lost Highway
a film by David Lynch

from "Shock Cinema", November 1996
Shock Cinema
c/o Steven Puchalski
P.O. Box 518
Peter Stuyvesant Station

(October Films; Opening February 1997).

David Lynch is behind the camera again, and hardcore fans will be glad to know he's up to all of his old, twisted tricks. And if you thought viewers were confused by TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (which I still think is one of his best), just wait until they get a look at this fever dream in the guise of a movie. It's sure to be one of the most debated films of next year, as moviegoers stream out of the theatre, confused, drained and exhilarated. Dumping the campier elements of WILD AT HEART, Lynch is back in his "No Compromises to Normal Logic" mode---as technically brilliant as it is unsettling. I loved it.

Just as I was beginning to lose respect for Bill Pullman, after commercial pabulum like ID4, MR. WRONG and WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING, he redeems himself in this pic. As jazz saxophonist Fred Madison, his life begins to go out of kilter thanks to suspicions about his wife (dark-haired Patricia Arquette) and a series of anonymous videotapes, containing footage from inside their home as the couple sleeps. From there, it just gets darker, folks, and I can predict a record number of walk-outs when this hits your local multi-plex. In fact, the first 45 minutes are so claustrophobic and unsettling that it feels like a SoCal version of ERASERHEAD. Then it evolves into a more BLUE VELVET-style, film noir plot which has time folding in on itself; and characters going through bold, unexpected changes.

Still, I won't give away much of the plot, since it should be seen (and interpreted) by each viewer in their own way. Just be prepared for prime Lynch, in a deliriously fragmenting story that includes murder, pornographic films, prison, obsession, the nature of one's own identity, and an entirely separate subplot featuring Balthazar Getty as a grease monkey who begins shtupping a blonde temptress (again, played by Patricia Arquette) who's already owned by a local gangster. Meanwhile, fans of Arquette's more physical charms are sure to enjoy her dual role, which gives her several opportunities to strip down and strut about in all her glory.

As usual for Lynch-fare, the supporting is a hoot, starting with a barely recognizable Robert Blake turning up as "Mystery Man," who nudges the story more dreamlike directions. And with his shaved-off eyebrows, slicked-back hair and white pancake make-up, his demented perf is sure to send his old BARETTA fans running for the exits. In addition, there's Robert Loggia as a wealthy, hot-headed hood, Richard Pryor in a throwaway role of a garage owner, Gary Busey as an unorthodox father, Henry Rollins as a prison guard, and (of course) Lynch-vet Jack Nance in a brief appearance as a mechanic.

Equally important, the film is powered by Peter Deming's hallucinatory camerawork, plus a soundtrack by Angelo Badalamenti, which includes toe-tapping tunes from Nine Inch Nails, Lou Reed, David Bowie, and even Marilyn Manson covering Screaming Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You.". This is by no means an easy film to watch, but for Lynch fans this is a real treat, as well as a throwback to some of his more personal gems. It's good to see that Lynch still isn't afraid to invite viewers into his head, and (whether they want to or not) give them a long look at the world through his eyes.

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© Mike Hartmann