*Originally written in 2004 (and another where I inexplicably give a plot synopsis, so don’t read if you haven’t seen).
David Lynch creates another incredibly interesting, mesmerizing, beautiful, and dark experience which at times surpasses both Eraserhead and Blue Velvet, but one which will likely confuse and frustrate, at least the first time you see it. Featuring vast amounts of imagery, apparently differing and interweaving plots, and a large, excellent cast Lost Highway is a film which you are not likely to forget.
Bill Pullman stars as Fred, a saxophonist who is in an awkward relationship with his beautiful wife Renee, played by Patricia Arquette. He never seems to be able to get close to her, even though they have been together supposedly for years. When he finds a videotape at his doorstep, he watches in horror as it shows the inside of their house -someone has been coming in and watching them sleep. At a party, a mystery man (Robert Blake) seems overly interested in Fred and claims he is at Fred’s house now, even though they are standing together at this party at another house. Fred phones home, and the mystery man answers, being at both ends of the phone. Later, Fred finds another tape – this one showing him killing his wife – he is arrested shortly after as his wife actually has been killed. On death row Fred vanishes from his cell and in his place another man – Pete, appears instead. The cops let him go, but follow him. He is a mechanic who, like in Blue Velvet, becomes involved with a shady character called Mr Eddy with a violent temper and his mistress Alice, also played by Arquette. Pete is intrigued by Alice, and the two sleep together. Alice cries out to be rescued from her life, so Pete concocts a plan to save her. However, she does not appear to be all she seems, and Pete knows he is in too deep to escape. He cannot get a concrete hold of Alice. Then things get strange….
As with any real piece of art, you can come up with your own thoughts and explanations of what you see and hear while watching Lost Highway. The entire film is designed to haunt and disturb, from the slightly abnormal sets, to the look of certain characters, to the music, images and performances. At times this is incredibly quiet, and the volume must be played at full blast to hear what is being said. There are a few violent scenes, lots of sex which never seems erotic, but always necessary. Most of the actors give understated, cold performances and rarely try to explain or understand what is happening to themselves, but special mention must go to Richard Pryor. He plays the wheelchair bound Arnie who works with Pete, but it must rank as one of the most terrifying performances ever. It is deeply unsettling, his eyes seeming to see everything that no-one would ever want to see. Apparently at early showings, certain scenes were mixed up so the film played in a different order. Perhaps linear story-telling is not always needed. Unfortunately for most people, the story needs to be safe and simple, so many will be turned off by this. The film never attempts to show any sense of happiness, hope, or light in the traditional sense, is distant, yet seduces us to pay close attention and inevitably succumb to the unsavoury acts and tone which can become almost unbearable. If you want a thoroughly challenging and original film, then Lost Highway is a must.
Let us know in the comments what you thought of Lost Highway!