Lost Highway (1997)

We’ve met before, haven’t we?”

Until this year, my only real experience of the work of David Lynch was Twin Peaks. For one reason or another, probably my fragile mental state, or my fear of the real, I just never felt ready to give it a go. 

Lost Highway is not what you’d call an easy watch. Dark, sexy, surreal and purposefully obtuse, this noir tinged trip poses some difficult questions and doesn’t necessarily give you the answers. Written by Lynch and Barry Gifford, this is a film to lose your self in, if you fully buy what Lynch is selling, you’re in for a hell of a ride.

Bill Pullman stars as jazz saxophonist Fred, seemingly losing touch with his sanity and becoming suspicious of his wife Renee, played by a mesmerising Patricia Arquette. Fred and Renee begin receiving video tapes of their apartment and themselves, Fred meets The Mystery Man (Robert Blake) at a party and things descend into utter chaos. 

I don’t really want to delve any further into the story, as I feel that it would take away a lot of the enjoyment. This is a film to be experienced, enveloped in. The progression of Pullman’s Fred, from losing his grip on his life into a literal loss of self is breathtaking. Where as other filmmakers would use subtext or symbolism, Lynch has the guts to just go there. His bravery and bold choices here do chime back to Fire Walk With Me in its unrelenting nature. 

The back half of the movie, is almost a totally different tone and ushers in a new cast, amazing, quirky characters played Robert Loggia, Gary Busey and Balthazar Getty all show up, with Patricia Arquette playing a different character. Like I said earlier, if you’ve bought into Lost Highway at the beginning, this sea-change just feels completely natural. We also get the last film appearances from comedy legend Richard Pryor and Lynch favourite Jack Nance, both giving great performances in their small roles. 
This latter part of the film also comes across as clearly being hugely inspirational for Nicolas Winding Refn‘s 2011 pulpy noir, Drive.

The music in Lost Highway is brooding, imposing and very fitting. The score tracks by regular collaborator Angelo Badalamenti fit like a glove, while the mid 90’s industrial rock songs from Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails and Rammstein bring a weight and groove to some visual heaviness. David Bowie’s “I’m Deranged” accompanies both opening and closing credits, bringing yet another level of symmetry to this rorschach test of a motion picture. 

Reading up on the making of the movie, Lynch mentions being inspired by the OJ Simpson murder case. Bizarrely, the Mystery Man himself, Robert Blake, was arrested for murdering his wife around the release of Lost Highway and this remains his last film role. 

I unreservedly enjoyed Lost Highway. I can sort of understand why a 1997 audience didn’t connect with it, being darker and heavier than most would expect. A horror tinged noir, darkly funny and fully immersive, go and lose yourself for two hours.
We’ve met before, haven’t we?”

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