October 2011
A review of the


Lost Highway


The advertisement for David Lynch’s Lost Highway that appeared in newspapers in 1997 appropriates, handily, Siskel and Ebert’s drubbing of David Lynch’s Lost Highway. TWO THUMBS DOWN! the headline screams in victory. “Two more great reasons to see… Lost Highway.” There are more sets of two here than thumbs and reasons: there are two coldly disturbing stills from the movie, which is itself about dual identities, showing the faces of Bill Pullman and Patricia Arquette with their eyes cropped out. (The see in “great reasons to see” thus refers not only to the film but also to something the film’s protagonists are not permitted.) The images have no narrative context, and, because there is no space between them, they collide violently as both one image and two. The advertisement succeeds as an approximation of the psychic, identity-smashing violence of the film, but more so as an example of détournement, the Situationist technique of derailing and subverting the work of official culture. Here is a moment where the familiar verdict of America’s best-known film critics suddenly becomes unfamiliar and strange, turned back on itself. Hung out to dry, Siskel and Ebert’s two thumbs flutter like lost signifiers, retrofitted to give power to that which they denounce.

—Nick Rombes

Nick Rombes, an English professor at the University of Detroit, Mercy, is the author of Cinema in the Digital Age (Wallflower Press, 2009) and A Cultural Dictionary of Punk (Continuum 2009). His work has appeared in the Oxford American, Filmmaker Magazine, and the Rumpus.

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