From the archives!
Here is my interview with writer/director David Lynch, first published in March, 1997.
LOST HIGHWAY, David Lynch’s first film since the disappointing TWIN PEAKS – FIRE WALK WITH ME (1992), a prequel to the acclaimed TV series, is a splendidly nightmarish trip. This unnerving film is a sliding maneuver away from hope and heaven. It takes us on a dizzying descent into the niggling and ultimately all-consuming insanity that plagues tortured souls who doubt their own identity. This is one of those films whose ideas and imagery buzz away in your head for days after you’ve seen it.
LOST HIGHWAY stars Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty and Bill Pullman, who – surprisingly – turned down both of the mega-budget, big studio ‘Volcano’ movies to work on this one; keen to work with the guru of weird, David Lynch.
Working with a script that was deliberately enigmatic, each of the lead actors had their own way of making sense of the film they were putting together, piece by piece. No one’s theories were explicitly endorsed by David Lynch. You can forget about getting a definite statement of any kind from this director. The more interpretations, the better.
Bill Pullman certainly doesn’t subscribe to co-star Patricia Arquette’s privately voiced (that is, privately expressed to me and not to Pullman) misogyny theory. Says Pullman, “I didn’t have a lot of questions about what it was about. There was even weirder stuff that he cut out. There was a little visual vocabulary that he had repeating all through my journey. At various times I would become aware of something watching me from a high corner of the room. That high tracking shot.”
We get a bit of that.
“You get a bit of that, yeah. You get me looking a little bit but there were whole sections where that was repeated and repeated. He cut out a simple scene where I get condemned. When the sentence is pronounced, the camera comes to me from high, all during that the camera on high is twisting me and I’m like a corkscrew looking at it and twisting and twisting. Didn’t use it. Must have been weird!” he laughs.
Pullman maintains his first was to lobby to play co-star Balthazar Getty’s part.” Let’s boil it down to more for me, he laughs. “I knew that that is me, so why can’t I play it? Clearly I was projecting myself into a situation, like you would in a dream. You are totally about be killed, and in a dream you know that as scary as that is, you know that in the last minute you can transform and be on the other side of a door and the world there is totally free of that peril you were just in. I’m condemned to death, in this jail cell and my head is hurting so I’ll just morph into a guy who is younger who lives in a blue-collar place and has a whole set of parents that are different and isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that beatific?
Indeed the way that Lynch shot these unusual transformation sequences – all in camera with old-fashioned special effects rather than computer graphics – makes for astounding cinema. Pullman says he found it really interesting also. “He’s got that choral music and at one point I’m disintegrating and going in and out of focus. It’s like an epiphany or a religious transformation. I think I’ve avoided my fate, but it starts to slap up in front of me to the point that I have to confront something. To me the movie always had that way of saying I’m in a raw, intimate situation with a woman and everything that happens around her is evidence of her betrayal. I’m so involved with that projection onto her that I realize where it has taken me.”
There are even flashes of Lynch’s famous oblique sense of humor. His movies typically feature a villain fueled by some unfathomable inner rage. LOST HIGHWAY has a sensational sequence where a supporting character to the second act, crime boss Mr Eddy (Robert Loggia) is taking a pleasant drive along scenic Mulholland Drive with his henchmen and one of the film’s key characters Pete, played by Balthazar Getty. Mr Eddy becomes incensed when the driver of a T-Bird tailgates him then gives him the finger when Mr Eddy graciously permits him to overtake him. The terrifying menace that follows is also fairly funny and the scene provides a much needed opportunity for tension relief after the measured pace of the movie’s nightmarish and metaphor-laden first hour.
Don’t be mislead, however; LOST HIGHWAY is a seriously spooky film. See it with a friend.