October 29, 2001 8:25 PM EST

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The director’s strongest, strangest work since the Twin Peaks days begins as the tale of a starstruck blond (Naomi Watts) who hooks up with a brunet mystery woman (Laura Elena Harring). For its first 90 minutes the film motors along this noirish route–Raymond Chandler shops at Frederick’s of Hollywood–then goes defiantly, wondrously weird. This handsome, persuasively inhabited spook show reveals Lynch’s talent for fooling, unsettling and finally enthralling his audience. Viewers will feel as though they’ve just finished a great meal but aren’t sure what they’ve been served. Behind them, the chef smiles wickedly.

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