The Big Dream: Our Review of ‘Lost Highway’

Posted in Movies, Retrospective, Theatrical by - July 15, 2019
The Big Dream: Our Review of ‘Lost Highway’

This is a shameless reminder to watch David Lynch’s movies, if you can, on the big screen. And in doing so, watch them in a theatre with very competent curators and projectionists. Luckily Toronto still has its own film festival that plays retrospectives like the one they’re having on Lynch.

I was lucky to watch Lynch’s Lost Highway and drown in its colors. This is the first time I can write that the big screen helps show the director’s references. The experience shows how one of the characters, Renee Madison (Patricia Arquette), is Barbara Stanwyck in 90s technicolor.

Renee has a presence on the big screen, a new generation’s version of a femme fatale. Rewatching Lost Highway at home is a different story altogether. Digital formats mute the otherwise vibrant colors, and Renee becomes just a regular person who wears bangs.

Lost Highway has Renee and her husband Fred (Bill Pullman) receive invasive videotapes. This is where Lynch plays with genre conventions and our assumptions. Most of us would think she knows more, but Arquette incorporates Lynch’s deadpan style to make Renee more mysterious.

Besides, these videotapes stump Renee as it does with Fred. Nonetheless, these new deliveries somehow destroy their relationship, making Fred kill her, which he doesn’t remember doing. The movie then takes a turn when he disappears and another takes his place.

This other person is a young mechanic, Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty), who meets a woman. This woman is Alice Wakefield (Arquette also plays this character), a consenting adult except that she’s a gangster’s girlfriend. Nobody sees the resemblances between these four characters except for some cops investigating Renee’s murder.

This film has both visuals and a premise as its assets, but I’m on the fence during the halfway mark. This is the stage of Lynch’s career after Blue Velvet‘s divisive critical reception. His cinematography was great but he was fine tuning his storytelling during this time.

The divisiveness towards his work also comes from the way these films toes certain lines. Is he being exploitative towards his female characters in telling enigmatic stories or maybe obtuse ones. The cameos in here, like the ones of Gary Busey and Richard Pryor, are worrisome.

There’s also something disappointing about how Alice being an obvious femme fatale cancels out how mysterious Renee was. But it’s still admirable in how Arquette attacks both roles and teases something out of them. If anything, she saves the movie from the bigger mess it could have been.

There are still more screenings of Lost Highway as a part of the David Lynch: The Big Dream Retrospective which is on now at TIFF Bell Lightbox, for more details you can visit them right here.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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