Learn Lynch: Lost Highway

“Learn Lynch” is a new series here on 25YL where one of our writers watches a David Lynch film for the first time and reviews it. Do you remember what it was like to watch these films for the first time? All of the thoughts and feelings? Or if this is your first time watching Lynch films, allow us to be your companion through this wonderful and strange journey. Hope you enjoy this new feature and look for the latest installment each Thursday evening!

 

I decided to write this introduction before I watch. As a die-hard Twin Peaks fan, I’ve never considered myself a Lynch fan without watching his films.

Not that I’ve never watched any. I watched Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart twenty years ago. I was indifferent to them at the time. I didn’t dislike them, but I didn’t rush to watch them again. I fully intend to revisit them soon, though, with a new, mature approach. It does mean, however, I’ll be watching them through a Twin Peaks fan’s eyes and, I’m sure, finding parallels there.

Lost Highway is an interesting one for me to be allocated because I know literally nothing about it. I’m going in completely blind. I’ve heard nothing and read nothing, and have no preconceptions whatsoever. That is a good thing, although I’m concerned I’ll watch it and be just as clueless the other end, and have nothing to write about, so I decided to review as I go and let you know my thoughts along the way.

Okay, going in….

The first thing I noticed about Fred and Renee is that there is a little awkwardness in their relationship, and not a lot of trust. There is a definite distance between them, and a noticeable physical distance when they perch on the couch. Saying that, he’s making a lot more effort than she is. She’s definitely more worried about the videos than he is, though. I expect she’s having an affair.

I also need to mention that Patricia Arquette is probably the most beautiful woman in the world. And no-one wears a silky robe and high heels like that outside of an old MGM musical.

I do really like the retro feel to it all. It’s very 1950s Hollywood, which is always a good thing.

The white-faced man doesn’t seem real at all, mainly because the party noise stops as he approaches and resumes as he leaves. I think Fred might be imagining him. He thinks his wife is cheating, but he wants to protect her still. The white-faced man says he was invited in, like a vampire. I think Fred has decided in that moment to change something in his life. This figure is a weird coping mechanism. He reminds me of the non-existent barman in The Shining, just some kind of enabler.

When he dreams that he can’t find Renee, we see Black Lodge-style red curtains. I’m going to assume there may be a dream theme here, and I’ll look out for the curtains again. He hears her calling, but can’t find her. And she’s in the same place calling, but he isn’t there. This could be a comment on the state of their marriage. They are in the same room, but in different places.

So, he sees himself killing his wife on video, but doesn’t remember doing it. I’m thinking at this stage he probably did do it. He’s watching clips from the movie of his life. He’s detaching from his reality maybe by seeing his memories on a screen.

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Okay, so he’s arrested and beaten and has a head injury in prison. The light and electricity theme I know so well from Peaks is here. That is comforting, and makes me feel much less out of my depth. So, he’s seeing things and has gone all glitchy, and now he’s Balthazar Getty.

This next section has started off slow for me, but I’m warming to it. The sax music is an implication that this is Fred in another kind of reality. (And isn’t it always lovely to see Jack Nance?) Pete’s immediate connection with Alice makes me think she’s a version of Renee. This is one of my favourite themes in Twin Peaks, souls refinding each other endlessly, so I’m happy to see it here as well.

 

The music has been a bit blah so far, and the awful car chase music really bothered me. I felt like I was watching Starsky and Hutch for a minute. (I like Mr Eddy, though. He gets his point across.) The Lou Reed song over Alice’s first scene is perfect, though. That is a beautiful moment.

So, Fred is a failure with his beautiful and alluring wife, but Pete is attractive and virile. I’m inclined to believe that Fred has created this reality in order to prove to himself that he is worthy of Renee. It is also more exciting than his real life, with gangsters, car chases, and sex round every corner. Is this his mental escapism from death row?

Well, Pete and Alice are very sweet, but her personality is changing. She is becoming more manipulative and assertive as time goes on. She has the Andy thing way too planned out. Maybe Fred needed that in his life too, someone to take responsibility and control. Pete is hyper sensitive to light and sound just like Fred was.  His weakness is seeping through.

I think Pete’s phone conversation with Mr Eddy and the white-faced man may be the crux of it all.

Physically, he can’t escape death row, but more tellingly, he may be trapped in his own mind. Even his fantasy life is going downhill. He’s running out of options. Pete’s girlfriend and parents have gone. He is on his own. He only has Alice and one road to take.

A little note on the film’s title at this stage. I’m taking ‘lost highway’ to mean a road or a journey with an unknown destination.

The soundtrack has definitely improved as the film has gone on. And it’s always a bonus to hear my favourite Marilyn Manson song. I find that song less relevant to the actual scene we are watching, and more relevant to Alice telling that story to Pete and finally manipulating him to trying to rescue her from what may not even be a true situation.

The film of Alice that is enraging him so much is an old one, as her hair is much longer. Is it cynical of me to think she put that on that huge screen on purpose? It’s like wives who pretend to be abused in order to get their young lover’s to kill their husbands. I think Alice has things all planned out.

The sex scene in the field is very beautiful. again, Patricia Arquette is a goddess. She’s the perfect choice for this role of the unattainable woman. For a moment, it was like they had reconnected and maybe Fred had fixed his relationship with Renee. But obviously he can never have her, because deep down, he knows that Renee is dead. So, he probably did kill her.

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I’m not sure of the point of the cabin, but seeing as we first saw it in Fred’s jail cell, it somehow sucked in reverse fire, and Alice disappeared in there, I think it is a part of Fred’s mind. Now Fred’s little white-faced imaginary friend is filming him again and chasing him. Yes Fred, what the fuck is your name? Back to reality now?

I’m not sure if any of the rest is actually real. Renee is having an affair with Mr Eddy/ Jack Laurent, not at all the forced situation that Alice described. Alice isn’t in the photograph when the police are there, implying that Alice was never there.

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Fred killing the man his wife is having an affair with reasserts his strength, and also his potency. The fact that he puts the big gun down the front of his pants is very telling.

Also, everyone is very angry about porn in this film.

Being a lover of all things circular and repetitive, it makes me very happy to have the ‘Jack Laurent is dead line’ from the beginning repeated at the end.  In this particular part of the story, Fred watched Renee leave the motel. I think it’s her he is speaking to through the intercom, believing she is alive.

The final electrical glitching in the car may well be Fred crashing back to his death row reality. Or, if he is actually out and the police now think he is innocent, which I don’t believe he is, he may be letting in a whole new identity to deal with his current situation all over again.

Having just watched, the thing that stands out for me is the acting. Every one wonderful. It seems perfectly cast. And the story I quite like. Plus, it’s beautifully filmed.

My only downside is that it didn’t make me feel anything at all. I don’t feel like I’ve gained anything from it, and I doubt I’ll be inclined to watch it again anytime soon. There is some lovely imagery that will probably stay with me, but it isn’t a story I need in my life. Maybe that will change in time.

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