Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lost Highway (1997)

The more David Lynch films I watch, the better I am at understanding what he's after - although that doesn't mean I actually understand him or his films. And the more Lynchian discussions I view, the better I know his fanbase, who, as much as I hate to be critical, do seem to lean toward the pretentious side. I like art for art's sake as much as anyone, but a lot of these Lynch fans are of a mind that Lynch films are puzzles that people have to figure out for themselves, and that only through a lot of brainwork can one come to a relative level of understanding (although nobody ever truly understands Lynch's intentions - probably, in my opinion, because even Lynch doesn't know what they are - fans explain away his dodgy explanations for his films as not wanting to explain himself, but I don't know, maybe it's because he really can't). I mean, really, it reaches a level at times, that it feels like the Lynch fanbase is some gnostic sect, guarding the 'secret knowledge' that would unlock the true meaning of his films.

But it's not as if I don't think David Lynch is a genius - he is. Even if just because he has the guts to tell a different kind of story than we usually hear, and the vision to pull it off. But what I like about him is the art of his craft, not so much the storytelling, which is confusing and disjointed. I think the reason Lynch films frustrate me as much as they fascinate me, is because they don't adhere to the regular rules of the world. Lynch's films are more like dreams than anything else, and therefore they adhere to dream logic - which isn't really logic at all, and that's why it frustrates your logical waking mind.

Like, one element that came up in discussions of both Mulholland Dr. and Lost Highway, was the motif of a character dreaming, or fantasizing, and the idea that there are triggers in your mind that are trying to wake you up. And those triggers manifest as entities in your dream. Particular characters, sometimes. Or situations that remind you that what you're dreaming is not real, and threaten to pull you back to the uncomfortable reality your mind is trying to escape from. I think that's a fascinating motif. I love it. It's just, when you watch a Lynch film, you don't get an explanation beforehand - like, "this is a dream and here is the dream logic", it just sort of happens and plays out, and maybe you can make a little sense of it afterward by discussing it with other people. Which, incidentally, is very much like what dreams are.

So, yeah, Lynch is a genius when it comes to creating films that feel like dreams, and more so than his storytelling ability, I love him for his ability to create an eerie atmosphere of dread and mystery. Lost Highway is a confusing (surprise!) story about some guy who becomes some other guy. The first part of the story is absolutely compelling, and would make for the first act of a really fantastic horror film. A couple is haunted by some kind of unseen intruder who videotapes himself walking through their house at night, and then leaves the tape on their doorstep for them to find and watch and freak out about in the morning. And then, later, this one guy meets this weirdo at a party, who looks like some kind of vampire or something, and he does this creepy trick where he tells the guy he's inside his house right then, even as he's standing there at the party talking to him, and tells him to call himself up at home, so he can talk to the guy he's standing in front of at the party who's also somehow simultaneously at the phone in his house. Real trippy shit.

But then, the story takes a left turn, and the one guy somehow magically turns into another guy, and it descends more and more into dream logic. There's plenty of great scenes - and good music, too, and even, oddly, a cameo by Marilyn Manson - but as far as the overarching story goes it's like, "I want to find out more about that other guy", and, "what the hell's going on now?" But there's this mob boss type character, and there's this fantastic scene where he scares the shit out of some road rage driver for tailgating him. It's great. And there's this subplot about a mafia-run porno ring, which may or may not be in the business of creating snuff films, but it doesn't really delve into that subplot enough to satisfy my curiosity.

It's worth watching if you're already a Lynch fan, but for everyone else, I think Mulholland Dr. is a better place to introduce yourself to the unsettling mind of David Lynch.

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