Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) is certain that his wife Renee (Patricia Arquette) is cheating on him. Prompted by jealousy, Fred murders his wife. The bloodbath is videotaped by an unknown cameraman and dropped off at the couple's house. Convicted of murder, Fred's mind begins to unhinge, and the entire film changes lanes into an expressionistic, alternate reality.
Much of Lost Highway's recklessness comes from Lynch's use of contrast. Early scenes are presented as composed portraiture, with a static camera and subdued acting. Minute sound effects like the hum of insects lend the movie quietude. But as Fred's rage takes over, the camera comes unglued, racing down a nighttime highway and shuddering in and out of focus. Arquette increasingly spends her scenes naked. Robert Loggia, playing a mobster, hauls a motorist out of his car and pistol-whips him on the roadside. "Tailgating is one thing I cannot tolerate," he seethes. Most effective is the soundtrack assembled by Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor, with music from the likes of Marilyn Manson and Rammstein.
Lost Highway's dismal box office performance kept the movie off American rental shelves for years. The only way to see it was on an overseas version with tepid blacks and suffocated sound. Fortunately, Lynch's recent, repeated rise in popularity prompted a remastered DVD. Now, when Fred begins to lose his mind, he walks into a hallway of pure midnight instead of a screen full of charcoal. Phone-rings reverberate -- not with muted tones but with nightmarish intensity. Now film lovers can reevaluate this maverick, unsettling masterpiece. (Rated R)