Sunday, June 10, 2012

Lost Highway (1997)

The Movie: Fred Madison (Bill Pullman, of Spaceballs and Independence Day), a saxophone player at a jazz club, is having insecurity issues with his wife, Renee (Patricia Arquette in a brunette wig). Making issues more complicate are the unmarked envelopes starting to regularly appear on their doorstep. In the envelopes are videotapes, which seem to have been taken from inside their house while they sleep.

Then one night, at a party held by one of Renee’s friends, Fred has a bizarre encounter with a rather creepy man (Robert Blake). Among other things, the man claims to be in Fred’s house; and loans him his portable phone to have him call to confirm it. The next morning, Fred receives another videotape; this one showing him brutally murdering his wife. He is charged for the crime and sentenced to death row.

But a weird thing happens to Fred one night in his cell. He starts having peculiar visions, and then suddenly he isn’t Fred Madison anymore. Instead, the cell now holds Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty); a young auto mechanic with a head wound and no idea how he wound up in the cell. Pete is released to his family, and starts trying to go back to his old life.

But Pete’s problems are only beginning. Local gangster Mr. Eddy (Robert Loggia of Innocent Blood) has a lovely young mistress named Alice (Patricia Arquette without a wig), who immediately initiates an affair with Pete. That’s when it all starts to go to Hell…

The Review:

I like to remember things my own way. How I remembered them. Not necessarily the way they happened."
-Fred Madison

My second offering for my “Demented Davids” double feature comes from David Lynch. Lynch is a director who has pretty much made his name on movies that you walk out of thinking “what the hell did I just watch? And why am I so disturbed?” Lynch is every bit as disturbing and transgressive as Cronenberg, but in his own unique way. Whereas Cronenberg combines several different approaches to horror into one gooey, visceral nightmare; Lynch operates by playing with your head. In the worlds David Lynch presents us with the dividing lines between the realms of the subconscious and the waking world are very blurry indeed, if they even exist at all. Lynch has a real knack for wringing fear out of inanimate objects, meaning out of the most inconsequential events, and of combining a sense of cosmic helplessness with one of very personal horror.

Play along with me for a few minutes, because I’m going to offer my own personal analysis of this movie. I think that all of Lost Highway takes place in Fred Madison’s mind. I think that the quote I begin this review with, a throwaway line where Madison is explaining to the police why he doesn’t like video cameras, is our biggest clue for what’s going on. Due to jealousy, obsession, and sexual frustration; Madison did something so horrible that he is unable to face up to it. That’s why he turns into Pete halfway through; if he’s Pete Dayton, then he can’t have committed Fred Madison’s crimes, now can he? However, Madison’s unwillingness and inability to face up to his past just leaves him repeating the same mistakes over and over again; no matter who he thinks he is at the time.

Now, believe it or not that wasn’t the spoiler it might seem like at first. As I said; that was just my personal interpretation of the movie, and Lost Highway is a movie that you can interpret any number of ways. It’s my understanding that the cast members each had a very different idea of what movie they were making. Lynch drops all sorts of clues throughout; but he’s always been very big on his audiences figuring it all out for themselves.

Secondly, Lost Highway, like most of Lynch’s films, is not so much a movie to be watched as it is an experience to get through. It’s less about structured story than it is about the raw emotional experience. It’s easy to get confused and lost. However, if you pay attention you will feel something. I, personally, think that the scene where Fred meets the Mystery Man at the party is one of the downright creepiest scenes I have ever seen in a movie. Likewise; you will definitely be empathizing with the feelings of lust, desire, obsession, jealousy, and frustration that these characters project, even if you don’t quite get the context.

So in conclusion, Lost Highway is a trangressive little movie that takes you far beyond your comfortable life and makes even the most innocuous things seem terrifying. A true, living nightmare up on the screen; and a mind-fuck par excellence.

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