Lost Highway

It’s been a long time since I reviewed a film that wasn’t recently released – Blade is the last one, and actually, the only one, to my knowledge. But the experience of watching Lost Highway was so singular that I find I must write something on it, even if it’s not a proper review.

This is my first David Lynch film. I watched it last night with a group of friends. Only one of them – not myself – was not only inclined to view the film with an open mind, but was experienced enough with such artistic films that he actually predicted a major plot twist that I, suffering from the utter pain the film was inflicting upon me, would probably never have seen coming.

I think that perhaps my lengthy experience with Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the cinematic fare it showcased caused me to immediately see in Lost Highway all the hallmarks of a film that Tom, Mike and Crow would weep bitterly after being exposed to. There is no linear plot, or even linear subplots, with a few exceptions; the actors are rather second-rate (with all due respect, Mr. Bill Pullman, you will always be Lone Star, unless you find another facial expression or two); and the sex scenes are, quite frankly, out of control. I think Patricia Arquette spends at least half her screen time in this film naked and having sex.

But enough about the story, or lack thereof. I want to comment on the style a moment. Mr. Lynch, why the glacially slow dialogue and protracted silences in the beginning of the film? Why the bizarre (but funny) tailgating incident? Why the constant, gratuitous sex? Are there answers to these questions? Do they all have the same answer?

One commentator, found on the Internet Movie Database, noted that the entire film was like a dream. That is one way I can look at this film – someone’s dream caught on celluloid. But the “Pete” section is too cogent for a dream. However, the random, slow, and often jerky imagery of the half-hour “prologue” is extremely dream-like, and even the switch between the Renee character to the Alison character (or is it vice versa?), both played by Arquette, can be seen with some swevenic logic.

I think the primary reason I felt I should memorialize the occasion of watching Lost Highway with this commentary is that I actually went to th Internet afterwards and read reviews and interviews in an effort to make sense of the film. I failed, miserably. Lynch will reveal nothing, leaving this miasma of random images and microscopic plots to the personal interpretation of the viewer. I have come away with a sense that I have either a.) missed the point entirely due to my inability (from a lack of either intelligence or savvy) to “get” the film; or b.) been severely cheated by watching the cinematic equivalent of a Modernist novel without the heart or soul buried within. Lynch expressly called the film a “story,” but to appreciate a story, humans need characters that they care about (in some way, good or bad) and some kind of strong emotional or logical thread throughout the work (and if it is fear of intimacy, as some have suggested, then it is nearly immolated by imagery and randomness). Everything else is just throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what happens to stick.

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