Lost Highway

Movie •••½ Picture ••• Sound ••• Extras none

In retrospect, it's clear that David Lynch's 1997 Lost Highway - little more than a curiosity from America's most curious mainstream director - was a kind of unconscious dress rehearsal for the far more successful Mulholland Dr. That said, watching one of Lynch's missteps is more gratifying than watching the best effort from just about any other contemporary filmmaker.

A meditation on the O.J. murders, Lost Highway is a thoroughly murky affair. Its biggest problems stem from the script, which Lynch penned with ersatz noirist Barry Gifford, and from the surprisingly inept casting. Patricia Arquette is pretty meek for a femme fatale, and Robert Loggia is way too predictable as the mobster villain. But the worst offender is Bill Pullman. He's so blank-slate bland that there's none of the badly needed frisson when his character, having spent half the movie tooling around in the form of Balthazar Getty, remanifests himself at the end. (With Lynch, there's always a temptation to attribute stuff like that to his signature weirdness. But Pullman's turn, like Chris Isaak's nonperformance in Fire Walk with Me, isn't some perverse stroke of genius; it's just uninteresting and enervating.)

Universal seems to have put Highway on DVD just to get it out there. The video transfer doesn't do justice to Peter Deming's subtle, suggestive cinematography (which is far better served on the Mulholland Dr. DVD), and the sound is undistinguished. The disc has no extras either, but at least you get chapter stops, unlike some other Lynch DVDs.