R rated for BIZARRE, VIOLENT and SEXUAL CONTENT and for Strong Language, a blue screen MPAA film rating at the beginning of David Lynch's Lost Highway, pretty much enticingly sums up one of the best of the 1990s Neo Noirs.
Directed by David Lynch (Blue Velvet (1986), Twin Peaks (1990–1991 TV series), Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), Wild at Heart (1990), The Straight Story (1999), Mulholland Drive (2001), written by David Lynch and novelist Barry Gifford (Wild at Heart (1990)). The captivating cinematography is from Peter Deming (My Cousin Vinny (1992), Mulholland Drive (2001), Twin Peaks (TV Series, (2017)) and the unsettling mood Music is from the great Angelo Badalamenti (who has collaborated with David Lynch on many projects since Blue Velvet).
The film stars Bill Pullman (The Last Seduction (1994), Zero Effect (1998), The Killer Inside Me (2010)) as Fred Madison, Patricia Arquette (True Romance (1993)) as Renee Madison/Alice Wakefield, Balthazar Getty (Natural Born Killers (1994)) as Pete Dayton, Robert Loggia (Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Naked City TV Series (1958–1963), Scarface (1983)) as Mr. Eddy/Dick Laurent, Robert Blake (Black Hand (1950), In Cold Blood (1967), Electra Glide in Blue (1973)) as The Mystery Man, Gary Busey as Bill Dayton, Pete's father, Lucy Butler as Candace Dayton, Pete's mother, Michael Massee as Andy, Richard Pryor as Arnie, Natasha Gregson Wagner as Sheila, John Roselius as Al, Louis Eppolito as Ed, and Jack Nance (Hammett (1982), Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990), The Hot Spot (1990)) as Phil.
“I like to remember things my own way. How I remember them; not necessarily the way they happened.”
Fred Madison (Pullman) jazz saxophonist. Club Luna. Married to a red haired Bettie Page channeling ex-porn star Renee (Arquette). Hollywood Hills minimalist homestead. Fred jealous. Fred stressed. Fred bummed out. Fred can't get it up. Renee restless. Renee straying off the reservation.
Arquette in Bettie Page Mode
|Renee (Arquette) in Bettie Page bangs|
|Read? Read what?|
Fred: What are you going to do?
Renee: oh stay home and read.
Fred: Read? Read what? [he chuckles bitterly, as if they don't have a book in the house]
Fred calls home to check on Renee, no one is there to pick up the phone. While Fred blows sax, round heels Renee is too, probably doing her own virtuoso playing the skin flute. Sleazeball lounge lizard Andy (Massee) and Mr. Eddy aka Dick Laurent (Loggia) are the suspects.
A videotape shows up with the mail. It's a tape that would be physically impossible to shoot, but it shows Renee and Fred in bed in their womb colored bedroom.
More mysterious videotapes arrive compounding Fred's anxiety.
Fred already at the edge goes off the deep end when at a party at Andy's house he "meets" the "Mystery Man" (Blake) dressed in black. It's not quite what it seems, the music dies out and Fred has a conversation with him, it's probably all in his head and the Mystery Man is possibly the personification of evil sparked by jealousy. The Mystery Man tells Fred that "We met at your house. As a matter of fact, I'm there right now. Call me", Fred doesn't believe him the man gives him a cell phone....
|Mystery Man (Blake)|
Mystery Man: Call Me. Dial your number. Go ahead.
[Fred dials the number and the Mystery Man answers]
Mystery Man: [over the phone] I told you I was here.
Fred Madison: [amused] How'd you do that?
Mystery Man: Ask me.
[Fred's facial expression turns from amused to serious as he's clearly remembering the anonymous video tapes]
Fred Madison: [angrily into the phone] How did you get inside my house?
Mystery Man: [voice] You invited me. It is not my custom to go where I am not wanted.
Fred Madison: [into the phone] Who are you?
[Both Mystery Men the one with Fred and the one at Fred's house laugh mechanically]
Mystery Man: [voice] Give me back my phone.
[Fred gives the cell phone back to the man in front of him]
Mystery Man: It's been a pleasure talking to you.
There is a lot of speculation as to the nature of the Mystery Man, one interpretation is that Fred's uncontrollable jealousy invites EVIL into his "house" i.e., his head. He could also be the personification of Fred's insanity.
|Renee (Arquette) in a Bettie Page pose|
Soon Fred finds himself just like in the last video tape in his bedroom next to the bloody, dismembered corpse of Renee and then sitting in solitary on Death Row watching the lights flicker as another fellow inmate is electrocuted.
|Murder scene on video tape|
|Murder scene reality flashback|
The second half of the film is either a dream or a hallucination. Fred imagines another scenario, another life. He becomes Pete Dayton (Getty), the jail guards find Dayton in the cell that held Fred Madison, who has apparently vanished into thin air. The guards let Dayton go. Dayton works as a mechanic in Arnie's (Pryor) garage, he has a girl Sheila (Wagner), and lives with his folks (Busey & Butler). A gangster Mr. Eddy (Loggia) is a regular patron at the shop. He like's Pete for his expertise in taking care of his cars, a Mercedes and a Caddy.
|Pete Dayton (Getty)|
|Mr. Eddy/Dick Laurent (Loggia)|
Arquette In Bombshell Mode
|First look Alice (Arquette) "This Magic Moment"|
|The blonder they are on the outside the nastier they are on the inside|
It's not surprisingly left to the imagination, in a perverted sort of updated Classic Noir Hayes code homage, but she apparently serviced the group, and when Pete asks her how come she didn't leave or call the police, Alice doesn't deny to Pete that it was because she liked it. Even these revelations don't deter Pete who is apparently been as they say "fucked stupid" by Alice, and when she greedily proposes a heist of Andy's house so that she can escape Mr. Eddy he's down with it.
The details of recurring characters saying the same lines, the fact that both Renee and Alice are in the same photographs and porn films, constantly reinforces the derangement of Fred Madison in his alternate realities, nothing is ever spelled out. You just don't quite know what's what and this results in endless interpretations of the film.
Lost Highway is filled with Neo Noir stylistics, flashbacks, Dutch angles, low key lighting, extreme closeups, shadows, and monochrome, muted, and contrasting colors.
|porn film Renee|
|"There's no such thing as a bad coincidence."|
|"You killed him."|
|"You'll never have me."|
Lost Highway is Lynch at his most audacious. It's lovingly been referred to as a “psychogenic fugue," an elaborate ellipse, or a ride on a Moebius Strip rollercoaster. The score by Badalamenti, the various soundtracks, and the sound design all complement and greatly enhance the films eerie, nightmarish, disturbing atmosphere. A prime time Twilight Zone for adults. 10/10
Video bonus I'm Deranged - David Bowie