Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997)


Bill Pullman (Fred Madison), Patricia Arquette (Renee Madison / Alice Wakefield). Screenplay by Barry Gifford and David Lynch. Directed by David Lynch. Rating; 18. Running time: 134 minutes.

David Lynch seems to be the kind of guy who would make statements like ‘this table is made of wood, and it is also not made of wood,’ to which you would naturally respond ‘that’s a contradiction,’ and his sly reply would be ‘who gives a shit?’ Lost Highway is easily up there as one of the most impenetrable messes of a movie that I’ve ever seen. The human mind may naturally hunt down logical order, but getting a peak into Lynch’s head shows that from his perspective, at least, chaos is the norm, and you better jolly well jump on board or else sit fuming when watching his films.

This caricature exaggerates things slightly. Mulholland Drive, of course, is both confusing and a masterpiece. Blue Velvet, though ultimately leaving me cold, was indisputably intense as well as baffling. Lost Highway, however, whilst retaining the elements of absurdity inherent to those films, lacks their so often accompanying power. It feels like an exercise in madness as an end in itself, and at no point does one consequently care what is going on; probably for the best, given the unfolding events are no doubt intentionally inexplicable anyway.

Films like this piss me off. There are moments of vulgarity, largely centring around excessive, aggressive German music-based porn. There’s obtusely violent imagery, epitomised in a man diving into a coffee table and getting the sharp corner edged into his forehead. There’s plenty of swearing and bloody weird men grinning, plotting and talking in riddles. But what is unbearably lacking is any sincere desire to convey something comprehensible or at least enjoyable to the audience. The jazz saxophonist we start with, after somehow ending up in jail for the murder of his wife, halfway through Lost Highway transforms into an unknown mechanic. He’s not the only thing the film has a changing effect upon: time also seemingly expands, so that 2 hours feels like an agonising eternity. Lost Highway is absolutely atrocious.

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