Fast Lane To Nowhere

WITH Lost Highway, DAVID LYNCH has made a movie that will drive you bananas. His films (""Blue Velvet,'' ""Wild at Heart'') and his groundbreaking TV series ""Twin Peaks'' fused reality with dreams. In ""Lost Highway,'' reality has become a dream. But Lynch has forgotten how boring it is listening to someone else's dream. You know, the ones where you become someone else, your mother becomes your cat and your spouse becomes the microwave. In ""Lost Highway'' (co-written by Barry Gifford), Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) is a jazz musician who suspects his wife, Renee (Patricia Arquette), is having an affair. When she's gruesomely murdered, he's tried and sentenced to the electric chair. In his cell he suddenly turns into Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty), an auto mechanic. The flabbergasted cops release Pete, who soon meets Alice (Arquette), the girlfriend of sadistic mob boss Mr. Eddy (Robert Loggia), who's also sadistic mob boss Dick Laurent. Alice is a blond Renee look-alike--or is she Renee? And is Pete Fred? And who in hell (literally) is the Mystery Man (Robert Blake), a corpse-faced galoot who can be in two places at the same time?

These mysteries become not fascinating but maddening, a Rubik's Cube that's metastasized into 256 sides. Yes, yes, ""lost highway'' is the highway we're all on, careering to nowhere. Oui, oui, identity has lost its solidity in the postmod world of image scrimmage. Da, da, violence lurks in every human heart. Lynch has become the Heisenberg of cinema, telling us that the uncertainty principle rules our lives. Sex is either frantic (Pete with Alice) or failed (Fred with Renee). Murder is the true orgasmic activity of millennial man. Lynch tells us this with the most dazzling style of any filmmaker. (The soundtrack is a tone poem that fuses '90s nihilism from Nine Inch Nails to Marilyn Manson with the neo-noir dronescapes of Angelo Badamenti and Barry Adamson.) But ""Lost Highway'' takes us on a joyride to emptiness. It's a dead end.