The City of Absurdity Lost Highway
a film by David Lynch
Wandering Lynch's 'Lost Highway'

By Mike Clark, USA TODAY

One travels down Lost Highway concerned about shoulders David Lynch's, that is. The weight of the world has been on them ever since 1986's ground-breaking Blue Velvet, a singularly provocative freak show this flailing filmmaker keeps trying to match without the earlier movie's crucial element of surprise. Or so it seems.

Disallowing TV's Twin Peaks to complicate debate, Highway is at least more titillating and a little less boring than Lynch's other post-Velvet salvos, though not initially. This is because Lynch and co-writer Barry Gifford devote 45 minutes to a borderline enervating prologue that might have been wrapped up in 15. Its principals: a sax player (Bill Pullman), his brunette wife (Patricia Arquette) and a mysterious Fellini-like character in modified Munsters pancake makeup and lip rouge (Robert Blake).

At this point, Arquette is murdered and Pullman convicted - whereupon the latter's soul (or something akin) inexplicably passes into the body of a young auto mechanic (Balthazar Getty). From here on out, the movie never makes quantifiable sense, though viewers willing to throw up their hands and yell "whoopee" may be fleetingly enticed to see how it plays out. The new players: Getty, an underworld "Mr. Big" (Robert Loggia), a porno ring and a blond Arquette (either the same or different person a la Vertigo's switcheroo).

Though nothing is resolved, amusing Lynch trademarks abound, from an unintimidating actor (Pullman for Velvet's Kyle MacLachlan), retro-1950s indoor sets, archly monotonic police interrogations and discombobulated music (bossa nova to Nine Inch Nails). Visually arresting, the movie does keep you going until the finale confirms suspicions that Lynch has painted himself into a corner.

It's true, as many are already saying, that Highway occupies a middle range between Velvet and Lynch's wretched Wild at Heart. Big deal. That's also true of nearly every movie that'll come out this year.

(R: nudity, sexual content, profanity, violence)

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© Mike Hartmann