Vanishing point

David Lynch's new film, Lost Highway (18), fills Adam Mars-Jones with dread and wonder whileLiese Spencer eavesdrops on a transatlantic intervie w with the director at the Edinburgh Film Festival
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The Independent Culture
There are three David Lynches in the room and they're all 20ft high. There's an appropriate surreality to the cult director's appearance at the Edinburgh Film Festival; by a miracle of ISDN, Lynch has been sent down the wires from California and projected onto a triptych of massive screens. In a corner of each squirms interviewer Mark Cousins, the man with the unenviable task of trying to get this most oblique of outres to explain his latest movie.

Lynch's first film in five years, Lost Highway is an accomplished exercise in 21st-century noir. A nightmarish road movie that takes the audience on a spin through the unmappped arteries of the subconscious, it opens with Bill Pullman answering his intercom to hear the enigmatic message "Dick Laurent is dead" and is soon snarled up in a sinister, impenetrable mystery. "Who is Dick Laurent?" asks Cousins. "I have no idea," says Lynch.

Droll deadpan is the order of the day, with a side helping of obstructive understatement. Perhaps Lynch got the idea from a dream, Cousins suggests. "No, that wasn't a dream," replies Lynch. "That was reality. It happened to me one morning."

Between the poor quality of the picture, and the time-delayed lip-synching, Lynch comes across as a kind of jerky, pixillated Jimmy Stewart. One who's having no truck with Cousins's literalism. "A lot of things are very abstract and I find those abstractions very beautiful. It's nice for the mind to be free to find meaning for itself."

Sitting in a bare room with his shirt buttoned to the chin, Lynch's big hair is the only note of extravagance: a deranged souffle of a quiff. His candid face and the way he sits with his hands folded neatly on the desk in front of him make it feel as though we're watching some kind of futuristic political broadcast - the President of the Dream States of Symbolism addressing his people.

To be fair, Lynch does hand out one or two factual morsels. His casting of Robert Loggia in the role of violent gangster Mr Eddie stemmed, he says, from the fact that he was hired but never used for the role of Frank in Blue Velvet. "I remembered how angry he got then," says Lynch. "I thought he was going to kill me."

He mourns the fact his comedy The Dream of the Bovine (about men who used to be cows) will never be made and admits a compulsion to press up against his fears: death and women.

All too soon the tantalising audience is over. The lights are up and the cameras roam the crowd. People clap and wave ecstatically at Lynch. He waves back, from whatever planet it is that he lives on