Sunday, May 15, 2016

Lost Highway

Year 8, Day 136 - 5/15/16 - Movie #2,336

BEFORE: I'm presented with a dilemma tonight, because after getting burned by "Eraserhead" and "Mulholland Dr.", I swore off of David Lynch's films vowing to not watch another one of his films until after the new "Twin Peaks" series starts airing - but that's next year, and I've still got a chance of finishing this project this year.  And after my last re-organization of the list, I realized that "The Equalizer" would be a dead-end, and wouldn't link to anything else on the list.  My next chain, and it's a big one, about three months long at last count, would naturally begin with the film "Boyhood", which only linked to one other film on the list, so it was just sitting there on the other side of a break.  

If only there were a film that linked an actor from "The Equalizer" to an actor from "Boyhood" - and after going up and down a few credit lists on IMDB, I found it - "Lost Highway", with Bill Pullman carrying over, and the lead actress from "Boyhood".  Perfect, only watching it would mean canceling my fatwa on David Lynch.  This was the tentative plan made about two months ago, and I figured that by mid-May, I'd probably have come up with some other plan, or scrapped the planned chain and rebuilt it again.  Or maybe I could go see the new "Independence Day" film with Bill Pullman in it, but it's not due to be released for another month.  So now I'm committed to "Lost Highway".  

(Oh, sure, I could just say "Bill Pullman links to Patricia Arquette" and watch this later, but I'd rather not circle back if I don't have to.  And I could back up to "The Great Raid" and follow another actor's thread, but that should be a last resort.)  

And I admit I'm curious about "Lost Highway", so I resigned myself to watching it.  I guess I figured some cable channel would have run it, given several months' time, but that didn't happen.  So I figured I'd watch it on Amazon Prime, only it's not available there.  OK, no problem, I'm sure it's on iTunes, right?  Nope, not there either.  There it is on Veoh, but it's in Russian or something.  (Hey, that might improve it, you never know...)  I eventually found it online for free, in English, but I won't say on what site, because it's probably an illegal posting.  

I want to start watching more films online, because that may be the only way I get to see everything I want, but I'm generally not in favor of illegal downloads or violating copyright.  But maybe this is the best of both worlds - I would have paid up to $3.99, let's say, to watch this film on Amazon or iTunes, but now I can have some small measure of revenge against David Lynch for making the mess that is "Mulholland Dr.", or trying to pass of "Eraserhead" as an artistic, meaningful film - which it is not.

THE PLOT:  After a bizarre encounter at a party, a jazz saxophonist is framed for the murder of his wife and sent to prison, where he inexplicably morphs into a young mechanic and begins leading a new life.

AFTER: Curse you, David Lynch, you got me again!  You put a film together that makes little or no sense, and everyone and his brother calls it a masterpiece, simply because they don't understand it, and that fools people like me into thinking that the film has some merit, when really, it's just a mess.  Honestly, this feels like two half-stories that got stitched together, with the transformation of one character into another being a really cheap way to connect them.  Sure, let's just subvert the narrative form, nobody really cares for it anyway, right?  And it's FINE if an actor or actress plays two roles in the same film, and you never explain how that's possible, or if one's supposed to be real and the other isn't, or what's really going on if that's not the case. 

This is the same trick he pulled in "Mulholland Dr.", just about.  If the story doesn't want to move toward a logical conclusion, just force it toward an illogical one, open up a mystery box or have some character move into a dark corner and then they become someone else, or they get disconnected from reality, cause and effect get subverted, and then time somehow loops back upon itself, eats itself, and then craps itself out.  Err, I think.  Nobody can really say for sure what happened here, but that shouldn't automatically qualify a film as something akin to brilliance - it's possible that there's nothing complex there that we aren't understanding, and random events are just that, random. 

Based on what I remember from "Twin Peaks", I know that Lynch thinks normal people can be murderers, or they can be possessed by demons or spirits and be made to kill without their conscious knowledge - so perhaps Fred Madison wasn't framed for murder at all, perhaps he did kill his wife, and he just doesn't remember it.  And maybe the pale-faced man isn't real, since he does some fairly impossible things and is VERY creepy, maybe he represents a part of Fred's personality, or he takes over when Fred goes away for a little while.  But these are just pieces of the puzzle, they can't explain everything that's seen here.

Maybe part of the film is a dream, or an imagined reality as a method of escape (same thing, right?) - but then where does the reality end, and where does the dream begin?  Gad, but you know when the Wikipedia description of a movie's plot uses the words "inexplicably" and "somehow" a lot, then we're somehow in the realm of the impossible or the unreal, no?  There's also no guarantee that the order of scenes we're shown in the film is chronological, although it may seem that way, there's a bit of a time loop that calls the whole thing into question - so maybe there's more shown out of order than we first believe. 

What about Renee and Alice, two characters (err, I think) played by the same actress?  Is one real and the other a fantasy?  Is part of the film with the unreal one therefore a dream?  What about the photo with the two characters together, does that mean that there's something else going on, other than what appears?  This is another of Lynch's trademarks, like how Sheryl Lee played two characters on "Twin Peaks", only they were "identical cousins".  

And, as stated in the plotline, the main character, Fred, changes his appearance while in jail - and the guards can't explain where Fred went, or how "Pete" took his place.  Yeah, neither can I - what, exactly, was Lynch going for here, what was he trying to say, or is the story as much of a jumbled puzzle as it first appears?  Lynch later said that he was subconsciously inspired by the O.J. Simpson trial, so that's another vote for the possibility that Fred DID kill his wife, and what we're seeing is his brain's way of coming to term with that reality.  Err, I think.  

Maybe the whole film is a dream, from start to finish, that's another possibility.  They say that in your dreams you play all the parts, this is a simple enough explanation for why one character would turn into another.  And it would explain time looping back on itself, because events could repeat themselves in a dream.  And then, of course, one wouldn't expect a dream to make complete sense, so it would cover all the bases, but it would also be a complete cop-out.  

Another possible explanation would be that Fred had a bad reaction to the drugs that were given to him by the prison doctor, and they caused him to hallucinate the entire rest of the film, and eventually he is (unseen by the audience) executed in the electric chair, although his mind is still in the hallucination, so he's not aware of it until the last minute.  I guess each viewer has to choose the interpretation of this film that they prefer - but that's another cop-out.

Also starring Patricia Arquette, Robert Blake (last seen in "This Property Is Condemned"), Balthazar Getty (last seen in "The Judge"), Gary Busey (last seen in "Thunderbolt and Lightfoot"), Giovanni Ribisi (last seen in "Masked and Anonymous"), Natasha Gregson Wagner (last seen in "Two Girls and a Guy"), Robert Loggia (last seen in "Return to Me"), Henry Rollins (last seen in "Johnny Mnemonic"), Michael Shamus Wiles, Jack Kehler, Lucy Butler, Scott Coffey (last seen in "The Big Picture"), Michael Massee (last seen in "CBGB"), with cameos from Richard Pryor (last seen in "California Suite"), Jack Nance (last seen in "Eraserhead"), Marilyn Manson (last seen in "Bowling for Columbine") and the voice of Mink Stole. 

RATING: 3 out of 10 headaches

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