The Score: 8 out of 10
Lost Highway (1997) is an important milestone in David Lynch's career and launches his unofficial identity confusion trilogy, which he would continue with Mulholland Dr. (2001) and later complete with Inland Empire (2006). Clearly drawing on his experience depicting inner conflict in Twin Peaks, (1990-91) Lynch takes the concept of inner struggle to a whole new level in a visceral film experience centering on a husband's disturbing jealousy and denial.
Lost Highway Opening Credits
|People Paying Millions for You to Make a Movie May Require Certain Creative Compromises|
|Bill Pullman Joins the Ranks of Actors Who Deliver Their Best Dramatic Work Under David Lynch's Direction|
|Bill Pullman Receives a Strange, Inexplicable Message Through His Intercom|
Fred Madison is a Jazz musician at a local club, whose wife has decided to stay in for the night rather than accompany him at the club as she normally does. When Fred asks her what she plans to do with her time instead, she responds that she wants to read. Fred does not buy this, but his wife maintains her story.
|The Main Female Lead is Played by the Underrated Patricia Arquette, Real-Life Wife of Nicholas Cage at the Time of Production. Cage Starred in Barry Gifford and David Lynch's Last Feature Film Wild at Heart (1990)|
|Fred Calls Renee at the House and Receives No Answer|
|The Madison Residence|
|Patricia Arquette's Renee Madison Discovers a Something Peculiar on their Front Steps|
David Lynch wrote in his book Catching the Big Fish: "At the time Barry Gifford and I were writing the script for 'Lost Highway,' I was sort of obsessed with the O.J. Simpson trial. Barry and I never talked about it this way, but I think the film is somehow related to that.
|A Manila Envelope Containing a Mysterious Piece of Evidence Important to Help|
Solve the Mystery, Echoes a Bizarre Incident from O.J. Simpson's Murder Trial
"What struck me about O.J. Simpson was that he was able to smile and laugh. He was able to go golfing with seemingly very few problems about the whole thing. I wondered how, if a person did these deeds, he could go on living. And we found this great psychology term—'psychogenic fugue'—describing an event where the mind tricks itself to escape some horror. So, in a way, 'Lost Highway' is about that. And the fact that nothing can stay hidden forever" (link to source).
|David Lynch Used His Carpentry Skills to Create the Triangular Nightstand Above, Being a Director Who has Always Given His Films a More Personal Touch than Common|
|As Fred Walks into the Room, Renee Discovers the Envelope from Outside Contains a Video Tape|
|Renee and Fred Watch the Video Together|
By David Lynch giving us this key insight, much of Lost Highway resonates with greater significance than it might otherwise. Perhaps if Lynch had clarified for his audience these parallels with O.J. Simpson, then the original batch of confused critics and viewers would have clicked with this material instead of dismissing it outright. As Roger Ebert said in his review at the time: "source)." (link to
Pictured: One of the Funniest Newspaper Advertisements Ever
|The Couple Discovers Footage on the Tape Showing Their House|
Unfortunately, Lost Highway has a tendency to confuse viewers a little more than it should. We argue David Lynch pushes his style a little too far, as he did before in his similar film Wild at Heart (1990). Although we understand many will disagree with our assessment, we have always felt the collaborations between Gifford and Lynch do not really gel perfectly with our tastes—with the exception of the Hotel Room (1993) episode Blackout. The two men obviously complement each other's styles in certain ways, but their collaborations seem to degenerate a little too quickly into lurid sex scenes and some gratuitous displays of graphic violence that feel a little too puerile and exploitative for mainstream audiences to accept. We understand this is likely their intention, but audiences should be forewarned.
|Renee Suggests it Might Be Footage Shot by a Realtor. Fred Suspects Otherwise|
Now Blue Velvet (1986), on the other hand, was both directed and written by David Lynch, and as a result the film benefits from a more consistent mixture of humor and horror. That same mastery of tone is again visible in Twin Peaks, which manages to remain completely unique and utterly bizarre without completely violating the threshold of good taste. But for us, Wild at Heart (1990) and Lost Highway (1997) take their portrayal of sex and violence to an extreme that will surely put off most mainstream audiences. But for many horror-centric viewers, these same complaints might actually be compliments. We simply offer you fair warning about the ride you are in for so you can make an informed decision for yourself.
|Lost Highway and Wild at Heart are More Gut-Wrenching Viewing Experiences|
Compared to Most of David Lynch's Other Films. Use Discretion.
Many filmmakers can pull off a simple horror gag to get you to jump out of your seat, but few filmmakers can get under your skin with real psychological horror. David Lynch clearly excels in this style, so only go into Lost Highway (1997) if you have thick skin for these kinds of stories. This film is not for the faint of heart or the easily confused. He will work your psyche even harder than normal, possiblymaking this Lynch's most demanding and disturbing film, which is really saying something. In our opinion, Lost Highway is a powerful work of art, but its level of entertainment value is lower than most of Lynch's other movies. That is our impression, but feel free to comment below to explain why you agree or disagree.
|Fred Madison Plays the Saxophone at a Local Jazz Club|
"Fugue in D Minor" by J.S. Bach
|Renee Leaves the Club Suspiciously with Another Man|
At another time, David Lynch reiterated that "the person suffering from [a psychogenic fugue] creates in their mind a completely new identity, new friends, new home, new everything—they forget their past identity. This has reverberations with 'Lost Highway,' and it's also a musical term. A fugue starts off one way, [then] takes up on another direction, and then comes back to the original. So it [relates] to the form of the film."
|Lost Highway's Structure Resembles a Moebius Strip|
|Renee Seems Unusually Supportive and Caring as a Wife, Which Just Seems to Drive Fred Crazier|
|Fred Shares a Dream He Had About Renee and that in the Dream She Was Not Really Renee at All|
|David Lynch Returns to a Familiar Visual Symbol from Twin Peaks|
|Supposedly in His Dream, Fred Approaches Renee...|
|But as He Approaches He Says that Renee Really was Not Renee, Echoing Fred's Own Transformation Later|
|Fred is Frightened After Recounting the Dream and Looks to His Wife for Comfort|
|But No Longer Sees Renee as Renee, But as a Strange Figure Lynch Refers to as the Mystery Man|
|Fred is Really Becoming Someone Else, But He Projects His Own State of Mind on Renee|
David Lynch remarked: "You can say that a lot of Lost Highway is internal. It's Fred's story. It's not a dream, it's realistic—though according to Fred's logic. But I don't want to say too much. The reason is I love mysteries. To fall into a mystery and its danger... Everything becomes so intense in those moments.
|Someone Broke into the House and Taped Them as They Slept|
|Renee Calls the Police for Help|
|This Image Connects Visually to Fred's Skewed Perspective of Renee Later|
|The Police Inquire About Whether the Madisons Own a Video Camera. Fred|
Explains His Dislike for Video: "I like to remember things my own way."
|When the Police Ask Fred to Elaborate, Fred Responds: "I do not necessarily want|
to remember things as they happened, but the way I want to remember them."
|Fred and Renee Go to Andy's Party, Apparently an Old Friend Who Hooked Up Renee with a Job Before|
|Robert Blake in a Chilling Performance as the Mystery Man|
The Mystery Man
Roger Ebert: "... a scene Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of."
|Fred Thinks Someone Else Might Be in the House But Finds No One Besides Them|
Then David Lynch makes an interesting cut from the interrogation scene to Fred being escorted to a cell on death row. The entire murder trial is handled with a quick death penalty sentence being pronounced by a judge in voice over. This opens the door to several possibilities. Did the police really arrest Fred at all? Did Fred actually have a trial and found guilty? Was Fred actually sent to prison to be executed on death row? Is Fred possibly imagining this justice?
Pretty as a Picture: The Art of David Lynch (1997): "The death row prison. Now here's a prime example of how the director and the production designer work. When we scouted that place it was a fire station building. And you walk into that place and say to yourself, 'Somebody's lost their mind.' They want to shoot a death row prison at THIS place? I mean, we all have our own imagination of what death row should look like... Then they build the sets and you arrive for the very first day of shooting and it's phenomenal. It looks beautiful. It's death row and yet it's not a death row. It's a David Lynch death row, which is what he wanted."
To give a sense of place, to me, is a thrilling thing. And a sense of place is made up of details. And so the details are incredibly important. If they're wrong, then it throws you out of the mood. And so the sound and music and color and shape and texture, if all those things are correct and a woman looks a certain way with a certain kind of light and says the right word, you're gone, you're in heaven. But it's all the little details" (link to source).
|Fred Suffers a Crippling Headache, So He is Brought to the Prison Doctor|
|The Prison Doctor Does Not Explain Anything, Simply Force Feeds Fred Some Pills|
|Afterward Fred is Brought Back to His Cell, Where He Requests an Aspirin|
to Help Him Deal with a Pounding Headache
|In the Tradition of Rocker Performances in Lynch's Past Films, Like Sting in Dune (1984), David Bowie and Chris Isaak in Fire Walk with Me (1992), Henry Rollins of the Rollins Band Cameos as an Unsympathetic Prison Guard|
|Fred Cries Out in Agony as His Mind and Body Transform in the Tradition of Werewolf Movies|
|He Looks Up and Travels Across the Lost Highway Where He Encounters Pete Dayton|
|Pete Dayton's Girlfriend and Family Members Later Hint at Knowing Something About this Incident|
|But Pete Does Not Understand It|
|After Fred Madison Meets Pete Dayton Along the Lost Highway...|
|Fred Apparently Turns into Pete|
|The Next Morning a Guard Performs a Cell Check to Make Sure Everyone is Where They Should Be|
|But the Guard Cannot Believe What He Sees in Fred Madison's Cell|
Fred Madison Becomes an Entirely Different Person
|Pete Dayton is Taken Home from Prison by His Parents and He Returns to His Normal Life as an Auto Mechanic|
|Robert Loggia Plays the Underworld Mob Boss "Mr. Eddy" Who Values Pete's Instincts for Car Maintenance|
We Transition from the White Side to the Blue Side
Mr. Eddy Hates Tailgating
|Be Careful Not to Tailgate... It's Dangerous|
|Lost Highway's Alice Wakefield is Similar to Twin Peaks' Evelyn Marsh|
|Evelyn Marsh, the Most Random Femme Fatale of the Small Screen|
|We Should Point Out that James is Working as a Mechanic in His Sweater|
|Pictured: The Worst Twin Peaks Subplot Ever|
|Sorry, We Meant Second Worst|
|Yeah, that Random Film Noir Adventure Definitely Takes Second Place to Ben's Nervous Breakdown.|
If You Cannot Tell, Bobby Briggs is in the Upper-Right Corner Blowing a Bugle
|Ben Horne's Nervous Breakdown Transforming Him into a Civil War General was Actually Worse,|
But at Least We Got to See Audrey Horne in a Classic Dress for that Excursion into Crazy.
|Fred Madison Becomes Pete Dayton, Auto Mechanic and All-Around Ladies' Man|
|Renee Madison Becomes Alice Wakefield, a Beautiful Victim or a Femme Fatale? You Decide...|
That Magic Moment
|Pete Falls Hard for Alice, Alienating His Former Girlfriend and Upsetting Mr. Eddy|
|Alice Asks Pete to Help Her Steal Money so They Can Runaway Together from Mr. Eddy|
|Alice is Mr. Eddy's Kept Woman and He Will Not Let Her Go So Easily|
|Alice Reveals to Pete How She was Forced at Gunpoint to Perform Explicit Acts for Mr. Eddy and Participate in Underground Porn Movies|
|This Lighting Technique Emphasizes Patricia Arquette's Eyes and was Common to 30's and 40's Film Noir|
|When the Mystery Man Returns into His Life, Pete Dayton Reverts Back to Fred Madison|
|Fred Madison Attempting to Evade the Law|
|O.J. Simspson Attempting to Evade the Law|
Link to Source
|And Who Knew the Best On-Screen Portrayal of O.J. Simpson Would Be Bill Pullman?|
David Lynch Interview
UK Horror Channel David Lynch Promo
Next week we analyze David Lynch's next film, a surprisingly gentle and family friendly Disney treat. The Straight Story (1999) recounts the true story of an elderly man whose health, eyesight, and finances limit his ability to visit a recently stricken brother living in another state, with whom he has been estranged for nearly a decade. So Alvin Straight decides to drive his lawnmower on a touching odyssey across America's heartland to make peace with his brother in person. The film is a pleasant change of pace from Lynch's horror-centric work, yet still showcases true Lynchian style from beginning to end. The Elephant Man (1980) and The Straight Story (1999) are often mentioned in the same breath as Lynch's most mainstream and accessible films.
The Straight Story Trailer
THE STRAIGHT STORY (1999)
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