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Lost Highway (1997)

29 March 2001 by Gnoll One Comment

LOST HIGHWAY


1997, Dir. David Lynch
135 min. Rated R.
Starring: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Robert Loggia, Robert Blake.

Review by Noel Wood

LOST HIGHWAY is a killer movie. In my humble opinion, it is secondary only to BLUE VELVET for the honor of best David Lynch film. I’ve seen it half a dozen times myself, I recommend it to friends whenever I get the chance, but one thing still bothers me: I STILL DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THE HELL IT MEANS.

I remember seeing this movie opening night. Saw it at the one theater in Atlanta that was artsy enough to open a David Lynch film in a stadium-seating auditorium. One of those big AMC theaters with the curved screens. By the time we got there, the place was pretty full, and we had to sit in the very first row. And believe you me, there’s nothing like a close up of Bill Pullman’s cheek that spans your ENTIRE field of peripheral vision. The whole time I’m watching the movie, I’m thinking how cool this house that Fred and Renee live in is , and yet wondering how they manage to afford it. I mean, it doesn’t appear to me that Renee has a job, and Fred does what, plays the saxophone in a nightclub? There’s NO WAY these two can possibly afford to live in this house, unless Renee is off doing porno movies on the side. This is one of the things I just don’t understand.

Okay, for those who haven’t seen the movie, I warn you in advance: some minor spoilers may follow. I’ve never been one of those people who makes a big deal about putting spoilers in reviews. I usually don’t even bother reading film reviews unless I’ve already seen the movie or don’t plan on seeing it, so I’m bound to leak a detail or two in a discussion about it. You can’t really say much about a movie unless you spoil something.

Okay, we got Fred, who we get the aforementioned extreme cheek close-up of in the opening moments of the film. He gets the mysterious message at his call box one fine morning telling him that “Dick Laurant is dead.” The point of the next two hours centers around who exactly Dick Laurant is, why he’s dead, and how a paranoid saxophonist can afford to live in this kick ass house. Following this, in what either is actually coming after the opening sequence, before it, or during it, depending on who you believe, Fred and Renee start getting mysterious packages at their door containing videocassettes showing the couples’ home, first from the outside, then from the inside, and finally showing Renee getting slaughtered like a pig. In the meantime, we get a bunch of weird Lynchisms like Robert Blake’s character appearing before Fred at a cocktail party and telling him that he’s in Fred’s house AT THAT VERY MOMENT. I don’t really understand the importance of said scene, but it’s pretty damn cool.

So Alice is dead, and Fred goes to jail for first-degree murder. After putting up with prison guard Henry Rollins more than likely spouting messages about how violence is bad and if you’re violent he’ll kick your ass he starts getting really bad headaches. The headaches get so bad that one morning he wakes up and he’s no longer President Lone Star, but that annoying kid from Young Guns 2. So they let him go, and he’s no longer Fred but Pete, a mechanic who gets to sleep with Natasha Gregson Wagner and whose dad is Gary Busey. Anyway, he’s friends with this gangster known as Mr. Eddy who has this girlfriend Alice who looks an awful lot like Fred’s dead wife Renee. Pete winds up getting busy with Alice, which of course pisses off Mr. Eddy, who is apparently really this Dick Laurant guy. Dick Laurant is a porn mogul who has made movies starring Alice or Renee or both or neither or who knows at this point. All we know is that Pete and Alice run away but Pete eventually turns back in to Fred and kills Dick Laurant, then tells himself that Dick Laurant is in fact dead at his own call box at the killer house that he definitely can’t afford now.

As much sense as all this SOUNDS like it makes, I still can’t really figure out what the shit is going on for much of the movie. I mean, I’ve heard all kinds of theories on it and all of them are pretty viable to an extent, but for the most part, I don’t think ANY explanation really makes sense. I don’t think there’s supposed to be a point here. Welcome to the world of David Lynch. You know how in high school they got you to read Hemingway books and then tried to pick apart all the symbolism and shit even though Hemingway wrote everything to be completely literal? I think that’s what’s going on here. Lynch just makes movies that make PERFECT FUCKING SENSE to him because that’s how he sees the world. You and I might sit here and debate for hours on whether or not this is all a momentary vision of Fred’s recounting because he “likes to remember things his own way”, but David Lynch thinks this is as cookie cutter storytelling. I’m not kidding. On the soundtrack there’s a cover of the R&B ballad “This Magic Moment” by Lou Reed. It’s a really warped cover of the song that sounds nothing like the original but I think that it’s a direct interpretation of the song by Reed because, just like Lynch, he’s so fucking warped in the noggin that that’s the way the song sounds to him.

So there’s my take. Lynch purists will probably come after me wielding knives for stating anything other than David Lynch carefully carved out this storyline and that every moment in it has some deeper, scathing psychological meaning, but I just don’t think so. I think, much like with Blue Velvet, it’s just a basic simple story that makes perfect sense to the person who is telling it.

One Comment »

  • Thomas Reitz said:

    The article is very informative as well as so creative. You have very great knowledge having this subject. So nice! It’s a great to see you here.

    Thanks!

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