One morning musician Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) was at home and heard his front door intercom buzz, but when he pressed the "Listen" button all he got was a low key voice saying "Dick Laurent is dead", a phrase which meant nothing to him. Going over to the window, he could not see anybody outside, but this was merely the beginning of a series of events which would cause great upheaval in his life. The next was when his wife Renee (Patricia Arquette) opened the door the next morning and found a videocassette in an envelope on the stairs; what was on it was very alarming indeed...
When Lost Highway was released, the reaction was one of even more bafflement towards a David Lynch movie than usual, which meant it was only really popular with his diehard fans. By the time Mullholland Drive arrived four years later, his moves to rendering his storytelling as bizarre as possible, whether that be dreamlike or nightmarish, had become more accepted and that film was regarded as a late masterpiece from the director, but without Lost Highway it's debatable whether he would achieved that level of accomplishment. Then again, that ultimately led to Inland Empire, which had many of those diehards suggesting Lynch had lost his touch at last.
Which might explain why he never returned to feature film making, as he became heavily involved with promoting transcendental meditation and his musical interests, which presumably were easier to manage than getting a movie together, especially one where he was going to take so many chances: investors don't appreciate productions which likely will alienate their audiences. Which was what Lost Highway did, as if the central plot which contained such a murderous trauma within that it shattered the laws of physics around it and sent reality spinning off into oblivion then left those who like their entertainment to make sense with a proper beginning, middle and end utterly baffled and even aggrieved.
When that ending was essentially the beginning from a different angle it was understandable that leaving the cyclical plot with all the information you now had was going to frustrate the fans of the mainstream, yet the key to Lynch works such as these was to how they made you feel rather than how they made you think. Even when you knew the O.J. Simpson trial was a major influence, pondering over the details was not going to cut the mustard in enjoying Lost Highway even if it did turn into the equivalent of a fifties pulp paperback thriller by and by, you had to immerse yourself in its moods and tones, its strange soundscapes and its deep shadows. The characters themselves sometimes seem to be aware of what's going on, at others adrift as the central crime sends out shockwaves of outrage through each and every one of them.
Pullman appeared to have been cast for his profile's resemblance to Kyle MacLachlan's, but he got across the brittle, driven and discombobulated personality Fred needed, like many here seeming traumatised for reasons they cannot grasp even before the nightmare gets out of control. Arquette changes from haunted, sweet and lighter than air in her behaviour to a more sinister femme fatale, though that was nothing compared to the changes Fred went through thanks to Lynch's superb way with a creepy horror scene. When the videotapes reveal someone has been recording him and his wife while they sleep it's the cue for serious strangeness, none better than the sequence where Robert Blake approaches Fred at a party and tells him to phone him at Fred's home because he's there right now (and he is): the film almost has trouble living up to this part, but its menacing charge is unforgettable.
Lynch's casting coups may not have done much for Balthazar Getty's career (perhaps due to tales of the young actor making fun of the director behind his back) but his character has to be more of a blank, more malleable than the others. The way he enters the frame is after Fred is arrested and sits in his cell; so horrified is the saxophonist he doesn't simply deny he's responsible for the crime, but he turns into another person who already exists to try and get away, the most audacious aspect to Lynch and co-writer Barry Gifford's storyline. And still those memorable actors appear: the filmmaker was generous enough to offer Richard Pryor a role when he was so ill nobody was willing to hire him, Robert Loggia plays a gangster prone to psychopathic rages (particularly if you're a bad driver), Jack Nance made his final appearance after being a mainstay of Lynch's oeuvre, and Gary Busey was excellent as the quiet, afraid father who cannot bring himself to tell his son what he saw happen to him. And what did happen? Watch and you'll kind of get the idea. (Some) music by Angelo Badalamenti.
One-of-a-kind American writer-director and artist. His low budget debut Eraserhead set the trends for his work: surreal, unnerving but with a unique sense of humour. After Mel Brooks offered him The Elephant Man, Dino De Laurentiis gave Lynch Dune to direct, but it was an unhappy experience for him.
Luckily, despite the failure of Dune, De Laurentiis was prepared to produce Lynch's script for Blue Velvet, which has since become regarded as a classic. He moved into television with Twin Peaks and On the Air, but it was with film that he was most comfortable: Cannes winner Wild at Heart, prequel/sequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, plot-twisting Lost Highway, the out of character but sweet-natured The Straight Story, the mysterious Mulholland Drive and the rambling, willfully obscure Inland Empire. His return to directing after a long gap with the revival of Twin Peaks on television was regarded as a triumph.