"Dick Laurent is dead!"
Describe Lost Highway
Bill Pullman plays Fred Madison, a jazz saxophonist married to Renee Madison played by Patricia Arquette. Fred wakes up one morning to answer the door intercom, where a mysterious voice gives him the message: "Dick Laurent is dead." After this, Fred and Renee begin to receive a series of videotapes on their doorstep, showing the interior of their house and even images of them asleep. Fred also begins to suspect that Renee may be cheating on him, and begins experiencing nightmares in which he wakes up next to his wife, only to discover she is somebody completely different.
After a terrifying encounter with a Mysterious Man at a party, Fred receives a final video which shows him killing Renee. Fred is arrested for her murder. After being found guilty and sentenced to death, Fred is locked away in his cell...
Wait... let's try that again...
Describe Lost Highway
Balthazar Getty plays Pete Dayton, a young mechanic who wakes up in a death row prison cell despite having committed no crime. Pete is released into his parents care, while being trailed by two detectives who want to know how he came to end up in Fred Madison's cell. On returning to work at his garage, Pete crosses paths with the volatile gangster Mr Eddy, and his beautiful mistress Alice Wakefied played by Patricia Arquette. Pete embarks on an affair with Alice, who fears being discovered by Mr Eddy who isn't actually Mr Eddy at all but a porn producer called Dick Laurent who—Oh dear.
Made in 1997, Lost Highway remains not only a key David Lynch
work, but a surprisingly influential film, despite its rather outre qualities and mixed critical reception. The twisting, neo-noir plot revolving around identity is echoed by films such as Fight Club
, Donnie Darko
, and Memento
. Lynch would further develop the theme in Mulholland Dr.
, this film's Spiritual Successor
The best way to watch this film is with an open mind preferably in a well lit room with the phone unplugged.
Not to be confused
with Bon Jovi
's country album
of the same name.
This film contains examples of:
- All Just a Dream: One interpretation is that it's the fantasy of a Death Row prisoner who's about to be executed.
- Arc Words: "Dick Laurent is dead." and "We've met before, haven't we?"
- Berserk Button: Tailgating for Mr. Eddy. Seriously, don't even think about it, or you WILL be sorry.
- That's nothing compared to what he'll do when some other man gets too close to Alice...
- The Cameo: Richard Pryor. In one of his last acting roles, he plays Pete Dayton's boss, a Honest John's Dealership mechanic.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Mr. Eddy drops an epic one on a tailgater after driving him off the road while simultaneously whacking him with his gun for his reckless driving. A very satisfying moment for anyone who doesn't like tailgaters. For more about why that scene was put in there, see Expy below.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Mr Eddy and possibly Fred Madison.
- Cult Soundtrack: The Trent Reznor-compiled soundtrack includes music by David Bowie, The Smashing Pumpkins, Lou Reed and Marilyn Manson. Lynch himself chose the Rammstein tracks because he's a fan of the band.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Mr. Eddy's slight overreaction to a tailgater.
- Enigmatic Minion: The "Mystery Man" has no clear goals or motivation, looks somewhat strange, and only shows obvious threatening behavior towards the end of the movie. His role in the movie is, along with everything else in it, open to interpretation... It is a David Lynch film, after all.
- Evil Laugh: The Mystery Man gives Fred a considerably sinister laugh during the phone call at the party.
- Expy: Mr. Eddy is remarkably similar to Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. There's even a fairly similar "joy ride" scene. The character was written for actor Robert Loggia after he waited several hours to audition for Frank, only to be told that the role had already gone to Dennis Hopper. Loggia dropped a serious Cluster F-Bomb that impressed Lynch so much he gave Loggia his own version of Frank to play.
- Fan Disservice: Only David Lynch could make sharing a bed with Patricia Arquette the stuff of nightmares, when she has that face. The porn flick seen near the end of the movie also certainly qualifies.
- Fanservice: You see a lot of Patricia Arquette in this movie. Balthazar Getty too, but not as much.
- Femme Fatale: Renee/Alice.
- Film Noir
- Gainax Ending
- Gorn: You'll never look at coffee tables the same way again...
- Gothic Punk: Sort of.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Robert Loggia's performance as Mr Eddy/Dick Laurent has two modes: Charming ebullience and terrifying, psychotic rage.
- Hand Cannon: Mr. Eddy's Desert Eagle.
- Halfway Plot Switch
- I Can See You: Lynch manages to give this trope a genuinely unsettling new spin.
- I'm a Humanitarian: If the tapes are to be trusted. Fred.
- Louis Cypher: The Mystery Man, obviously. Robert Blake himself stated that he played him as this.
- Lotus-Eater Machine: Arguably the second half of the movie, as wife killer Fred re-imagines himself as the more innocent, down to earth Pete while at the same type villainizing both Dick Laurent as a dangerous gangster and his wife as a lying tramp.
- Mind Screw: Similarly, the viewer will vacillate between terror and confusion throughout the movie.
- The point at which it goes off any possible rails is hard to tell, but a good guess is when the Mystery Man tells Fred, "I'm at your house... Call me," Fred calls his house, and the same man answers him.
- Foreshadowing: As Fred tells himself via intercom that Dick Laurent is dead.
- Murder the Hypotenuse: Dick Laurent threatens to kill any other man who would get too close to Alice about half-way in the movie. Shortly before the end of the movie, Laurent is himself killed by Fred for his affair with Renee.
- No Brows: The Mystery Man doesn't have eyebrows. It makes his face look all the more skull-like.
- Schrödinger's Butterfly
- Split Personality: One possible interpretation. Maybe?
- Stable Time Loop: Although technically no time travel is involved...possibly...
- The Starscream: The mystery man appears as the dragon to Dick Laurent / Mr. Eddy but ends up 'helping' Fred / Pete kill him.
- Surreal Horror
- Tomato in the Mirror: Three. Pete to Fred, Alice to Renee and Mr. Eddy to Dick Laurent.
- Uncanny Valley Makeup: The Mystery Man.
- Unreliable Narrator: Fred has a very interesting concept of truth and reality: "I like to remember things my own way. (...) How I remembered them. Not necessarily the way they happened."
- The Unreveal: We never find out what really happened to Pete during the night, when he was "transferred" to the prison, but there is one scene, where Pete's father is almost decided to tell us.
- The Verse: If Word of God is any indication, that may just be Agent Jeffries singing "I'm Deranged" from inside the Black Lodge, and Phil the mechanic is probably Pete Martell's twin or something.
- Villain Protagonist: Fred, under many interpretations of the film, murdered his wife and is telling us a very unreliable account of the incident. Not that we have any way of knowing for sure.