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'Lost Highway' to Nowhere

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 28, 1997

In "Lost Highway," David Lynch dabbles in spooky, chilly implication and a sort of hip incoherence. There are pregnant, sustained silences between principals Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette, a married couple to whom weird things are about to happen. Thereís an inexplicable murder; there are bizarre dreams, out-of-body experiences and a gnomelike figure (played by Robert Blake) who seems to be orchestrating everything. This is a head scratcher, all right. And Lynch, who wrote this with Barry Gifford (who wrote the novel "Wild at Heart," which Lynch also adapted), doesnít seem hard pressed to explain it.

Fred Madison (Pullman), a brooding, emotionally tortured jazz musician who plays appropriately tortured saxophone at a local club, believes his wife, Renee (Arquette), is having an affair. He also suffers a series of nightmares which are emceed -- as it were -- by a bilious, puffy faced man (Blake). At a party, Fred runs into the same mystery man, who knows he was in Fredís dream. It gets worse. Renee is brutally killed, and Fred (who has no memory of her slaying) is accused of -- and jailed for -- the murder.

Fred disappears from his cell -- inexplicably, of course. In his place is Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty), a young auto mechanic with a big gash on his head. Bewildered, the authorities release Pete. Now we follow his story.

Returning to the garage where he works, Pete (who has no recollection of how he ended up in that cell) gets a visit from a local crimelord (Robert Loggia) who has an interesting blonde bombshell in the car with him.

The moll, Alice, just happens to be played by . . .ā Patricia Arquette.

Maybe diehard Lynch fans will go for this stuff, especially with composer Angelo Badalamentiís ominous chord crunches -- similar to the ones he used in Lynchís "Twin Peaks" -- and such background songs as "Iím Deranged" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes." But the questions remain: Is the frequently naked Alice the same woman as the slaughtered Renee? Is Pete the same man as Fred? And who the hell is that weird little guy?

Apparently, no one should expect anything as helpful (and uncool) as an explanation to all this. "Highway," which Lynch has pretentiously dubbed "a 21st-century noir horror film," is nothing more than a 20th-century cul-de-sac. The maker of such great works as "Blue Velvet" and "Twin Peaks" has finally run out of road.

LOST HIGHWAY (R) ó Contains nudity, sex scenes, violence, profanity and the kind of slow pacing that could lose an empire.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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