Ridiculously difficult to find on domestic DVD (and then only in a pan-and-scan version), David Lynch’s 1997 psychodrama finally emerges from Universal’s vault in all its weird splendor. There are no extras here; indeed, this release feels just as desultory as the last one—as if the suits were still smarting from funding a work of art. But the film stretches out majestically in widescreen. Fire up your audio to get the total impact of Lynch’s seismic rumbles, and bask (if you can) in his post-Peaks sensibility, one at last coming home to its adopted city.
Lost Highway is Lynch’s first Los Angeles movie. That fact can’t be stressed enough, given how crucially he would soon contribute to Hollywood’s self-mythology. In many ways, it’s a practice run for Mulholland Drive, featuring double women (Patricia Arquette as two voluptuous fatal femmes), double men (Bill Pullman’s impotent jazz saxophonist becomes, in a flash of blue light, Balthazar Getty’s virile mechanic) and double meanings (which half of the movie is “real”?). Audiences were puzzled, and frankly, Mulholland bears more conceptual fruit upon watering.
But the transitional strengths of Lost Highway are undeniable. Video technology is a specter of evil, arriving at the doorstep in mysterious VHS tapes of amateur surveillance footage (an influence on Michael Haneke’s Caché) and in the bizarre personage of Robert Blake’s white-faced stalker. You might not know what’s going on, but the San Fernando Valley never seemed so ominous.