David Lynch's "Lost Highway" is his most imaginatively directed and most
thoughtful film since his debut "Eraserhead." Unlike the overrated "Blue
Velvet," it will also drive you up the wall with frustration (not unlike
"Eraserhead") since you won't be able to make head or tail of what is
Bill Pullman plays an impotent saxophone player, Fred Madison, who lives
in a posh L.A. house with his beautiful wife, Renee (Patricia Arquette).
One day, Renee finds a videocassette on her front doorstep. They both
watch the tape. It turns out that someone is videotaping the exterior
of their house. They ignore it ('Maybe it's a real-estate video'). They
keep receiving more video packages until one reveals Renee's murder!
Fred is framed, or is he? He is incarcerated and, through some mysterious
circumstances, metamorphoses into a young mechanic named Peter Dayton
(Balthazar Getty). What the hell is happening here? Is Fred dreaming he
has become someone else, or is he denying and forgetting the evil he has
wrought, namely the murder of his wife?
The second half of the film deals with the mechanic Peter who does
automotive favors for a vicious gangster boss, Mr. Eddy (Robert Loggia).
Then Peter becomes transfixed by Eddy's blonde moll, Alice (also played
by Arquette). In a nod to "Vertigo," Lynch makes us wonder if the two
women are the same person or if they are different people. Then there's
the recurring appearance of the Mystery Man (a scary Robert Blake) who
is first introduced at a party talking to Fred - the scene where the
Mystery Man makes a telephone call to himself is one of the eeriest I've
ever seen. But does he really exist or is he a figment of Fred's
"Lost Highway" is a spectacular film full of loose ends and inexplicable
scenes of horror and fear. It is chilling throughout and darkly
photographed by Peter Deming; at times you, the viewer, will be unaware
of where you are in relation to the scene.
Lynch's slight weakness is when he aims for elements outside of his
style. The Mr. Eddy character, for example, has a scene where he brutally
beats a driver for tailgating him ('Do you know how many car lengths it
takes to stop a car at 35 miles per hour?') - this is more Tarantino
terrain than Lynch's and it feels unnecessary. The other problem is the
sex scenes which, with some exceptions, are unerotic and repetitious
at best (a similar problem plagued "Wild at Heart"). The one sex scene
that works is towards the end where we see Pete (or is it Fred?) and
Alice (or is it Renee?) in a blazingly erotic romp in the hay with
fierce winds billowing in the background.
These are very minute flaws in Lynch's most enigmatic and most
profound film in the history of cinema. You'll leave the theatre in a
state of disillusionment saying "what the hell was that all about?" There
are no resolutions, no logical connections, no easy answers, and no
sense of redemption in Lynch's world (And no real conclusion to boot).
Add to that the most bizarre cast since "Twin Peaks": Richard Pryor, Gary
Busey, Marilyn Manson (!) and the late Jack Nance (Henry from "Eraserhead"),
and you are in for one of the wildest, best films of the nineties. It
is his darkest, weirdest, nastiest bit of business ever (Red Alert: the
Mystery Man appears to be in two places at once, which mirrors the opening
and closing shots of Fred talking to himself through a speaker - a
surreal joke about Fred's duality). Lynch has said he likes unsolved
puzzles. "Lost Highway" will leave you thinking for days on end as to
its meaning. It is the viewer's interpretation that really matters.
Copyright © 1997 Jerry Saravia