Lost Highway comes out restored 4K: why it’s the ultimate 90s movie

This amazing trip signed David Lynch, could well be the absolute totem of the nineties.

Update December 6, 2022 : Lost Highway celebrated its 25th anniversary this year, and it is about to arrive in theaters, in a restored 4K version, this Wednesday, December 7. A release managed by the publisher Potemkine, which suggests a great Blu-Ray edition to come for David Lynch’s feature film, even if nothing has been announced for the moment. In 2020, for its addition to the Netflix catalog, we explained to you why it was undoubtedly the film that best symbolized the 1990s. And it’s still true:

Article of May 8, 2020:

A film that would sum up all by itself the aesthetics of the 90s? Let’s see… There would be Matrixof course, this vast regurgitation of all the undercurrents of fin de siècle pop culture. pulp Fiction, obviously, its burger-talking and foot-massage-talking gangsters and propelled cinema into its meta era. And then fight club, undoubtedly, the last death rattle of Generation X, ending with the prophetic image of the collapse of the Twin Towers. Beside these three generational behemoths, lurking in the shadows, hides Lost Highway – less applauded, of course, but brilliantly compiling all the motifs, tics and fads of the cinema of this decade. The David Lynch movie “ticked all the boxes” (as we didn’t say in the 90s). This indelible retinal shock from the 1997 vintage nevertheless suffered, a few years later, from the comparison with Mulholland Drive (2001), which pushed its stylistic innovations (narrative cut in two, monstrous reinterpretation of Hollywood film noir, etc.) to a degree of absolute perfection, making its predecessor appear in retrospect as a simple draft of the masterpiece to come. Today, however, it imposes itself as a sum, the only Lynch to combine the two sides of its author’s inspiration: the poisonous glamor on one side (the vein blue-velvetMulholland Drive), the post-industrial brutality of the other (the axis EraserheadInland Empire). A total Lynchian film, therefore, but not autarkic for all that. Because if Lost Highway condensed the obsessions of its author, it was also the work of an era.

The schizo hero

Schizophrenic? Barry Gifford, author of the novel Sailor and Lula (adapted by David Lynch in 1990) and co-writer of Lost Highway, didn’t like the term being used to refer to the film’s hero, Fred Madison (Bill Pullman). This free-jazz saxophonist murders his wife Renée (Patricia Arquette) out of jealousy before setting off on a “dissociative fugue” which will make him take on the face and identity of a young mechanic named Pete Dayton (Balthazar Getty). “It’s about a guy who is literally, physically, torn apart by a personality change.“, specified the writer in Release in March 1996. The idea had germinated in the mind of David Lynch when, circa 1993-94, he spent hours in front of the TV, stuck, like the rest of the world, by the retransmission of the trial of OJ Simpson. “I heard that after he was released he went to play golfLynch explained. And I thought, “Here’s someone who knows how to compartmentalize. He brutally murders two people and he goes golfing smiling“. This is dissociative fugue: when you mentally distance yourself from yourself so as not to go crazy.“From Patrick Bateman toAmerican Psycho (Bret Easton Ellis, 1991) to the Narrator of fight club (David Fincher, 1999), the 90s was crossed by a cohort of divided, “split”, torn apart heroes. “Split like a log,” said Lynch. And all overlooked, therefore, by the shadow of OJ Simpson, a fallen idol who has become the embodiment of the dark side of homo americanus.

The film cut in half

51 minutes after the start, Lost Highway breaks in two, one actor replaces another, the brunette becomes blonde, and the film begins to wrap around itself like a Möbius ribbon. Lynch plays again Vertigo in a strident and nightmarish way. To tell the truth, even before he got hold of it, the idea of ​​a break in the story was already in the air. Lost Highway is still filming when released in US theaters Chungking Express by Wong Kar-wai, also split in the middle. And in 1997 comes out Tea Blackout by Abel Ferrara, another film shattered in two. But it is the Lynchian version that turns the brain around the most, and will impose itself as a major aesthetic matrix. The person concerned will push the logic towards total incandescence in Mulholland Drivebefore rushing into the breach Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Tropical Disease), Quentin Tarantino (Boulevard of Death), Miguel Gomes (Taboo) or, still very recently, Trey Edward Schults (waves). The theoretical most congested highway of the 21st century was therefore opened in 1997.

From Lost Highway to Escape at Dannemora, Patricia Arquette tells her story

The neo-black

In cinema, each decade has its dominant genres. His color. The one from the 90s is black. From Silence of the Lambs by Jonathan Demme at Memento by Christopher Nolan, the detective film (and its derivatives) is then reinvented from top to bottom. David Fincher fixes the modern grammar of the serial-killer film (Seven), Curtis Hanson revives Hollywood classicism by adapting Ellroy (LA Confidential), the young Tarantino paints the walls blood red (Reservoir Dogs), Michael Mann takes out the heavy artillery (Heat)…Not to mention John Dahl, Kathryn Bigelow, the Coen brothers, to stay in America. David Lynch wonders how far he can push the genre. At the forefront of this new wave since 1987 (blue-velvet), he goes even further with Lost Highway. The clichés are there – cigarettes, femme fatale, Cadillac, colorful mafia grossium (the Mr Eddy played by Robert Loggia) – but lit in a new, more frightening light. With his cinematographer Peter Deming, Lynch literally works to reinvent the color black – “we had developed a whole gradation in the dark“, will explain the cinematographer. The corridor in which Fred Madison plunges before emerging determined to kill Renée is undoubtedly one of the most impenetrable blacks ever filmed. At what point does film noir become a horror film? S. Craig Zahler, director of traumatic Bone Tomahawk and Dragged on the asphaltdon’t talk about Lost Highway like a thriller, but like one of the five greatest horror movies of all time. It defends itself.

Evil VHS

“What is that ?“, Fred asks Renée as she inspects the contents of the brown envelope that a stranger left on the steps of their house. “A video tape“, answers the beautiful brunette in a satin bathrobe. For millennials who are discovering today Lost Highwayaccuracy matters: yes, those big black things were called cassette tapes (or VHS) and, yes, that’s how we watched movies at home in the 90s. Lost Highway shows its age, it is in the exhibition of these antediluvian things. Or, worse, of the enormous camcorder which the Riddler (the spectral clown played by Robert Blake) seizes to terrify Bill Pullman in the climax of the film. All Lost Highway is signposted by electronic gadgets (intimidating intercoms, threatening telephones, etc.) filmed as vectors of Evil, agents of fear and chaos. Following Cronenberg in Videodrome, Lynch pursues a reflection on the video image as a symbol of perversion, decadence and corruption. After Lost Highwayevil VHS will be the stars of the Ring by Hideo Nakata. Then from Hidden by Michael Haneke, in 2005, where a bourgeois couple is also terrorized by K7s delivered anonymously to their home. Even if, in the meantime, everyone had switched to DVD.

Ten songs by David Bowie at the movies

mutant rock

Like all David Lynch films, Lost Highway listen to as much as watch. Crackling light bulbs, endless silence between two lines, well, let’s listen to this spider walking on the ceiling… Beyond the amazing sound design of the film, the soundtrack is a dazzling snapshot of the way the 90s sounded. all that rock of that time had that was most mutant, nasty, vicious and terminal, in a playlist at the crossroads of metal, post-punk and industrial. Trent Reznor (who was not yet the official composer of David Fincher’s films), Marilyn Manson, the Smashing Pumpkins, the terrifying Germans of Rammstein, the electro-lounge layers of Barry Adamson… All under the patronage of David Bowie, avant-garde leader whose “I’m disturbed” electrifies the mythical credits – broken yellow line jumping in our face, bitumen swallowed at full speed in Death Valley. Even the retro refrain, This Magic Momentis chosen in its most recent version, the one recorded by Lou Reed in 1995. Only songs that have just been released, as if to better capture the energy of an era.

Freaks gone chic

David Lynch comes out Lost Highway early 1997, six months after Crash, by David Cronenberg: this is an essential “critical” moment for these two ex-freaks of the 80s. Coming from the bis, the fantastic, the underground, the two Davids metamorphosed during the nineties into authors adored by the intelligentsia and the Cannes Film Festival, figureheads of a new cinephilia which now makes it possible to quote Resnais and Carpenter, Bergman and Argento in the same sentence. With Lost Highway, Lynch creates his definitive mythology, that of the chic and weird artist with an exuberant mane, catching the ideas that swirl around him like the wisps of his cigarette. We have forgotten it today, but, at that time, the filmmaker-visual artist has come a long way. After starting the decade off with a bang, with a Palme d’or (for Sailor and Lula) and a revolutionary TV show (Twin Peaks), he sent two sets into the background (On the Air and Hotel Room) and was slammed by critics for Twin Peaks, Fire walk with me, the prequel film of the series. With Lost Highway, he finally finds his way home. The design interiors of the Madisons are also shot at home, in his Hollywood residence. A villa from the heights from which he never came down again.

Lost Highwayby David Lynch, with Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette…

We would love to thank the writer of this post for this outstanding content

Lost Highway comes out restored 4K: why it’s the ultimate 90s movie