Lost Highway: Desire, Music, and the Unattinable

In class we discussed how desire is linked to absence. In Lost Highway, the scene in which Pete first meets Alice introduces this very concept. The scene previous to their meeting in the auto body shop is critical to both desire and its complexity.  It is here we see Pete go to Sheila’s and the two have sex in his car. When Sheila gets in the car, she  answers “i don’t know” when he asks if she wants to go for a ride, as if to appear unattinable. But the facade is quickly shattered when she asks him “why don’t you like me”. This scene transitions into the next with a black out coupled with a jazz score.

This jazz track that plays in the auto shop is the same one that we hear Fred playing at the beginning of the film. It is no accident that this music gives Pete a headache and he appears out of sorts. The music links the two men and jogs a certain memory of ‘that night’.  The strange connection between them is inextricably linked to the music. Pete’s need to change the track and the other man’s insistence that ‘he liked it’ emphasizes that there is an urgency on Pete’s part to stop it. There is a transition shot in which Pete is still under the car and a tire is the only image in focus. Simultaneously, we hear a car approaching. Then the rest of the shot comes into focus and we see a car with a blonde woman in it. The tire remains in the foreground of the shot, a positionality assumed to be Pete’s. As Pete gets up, we see different shots of Alice, each one progressively getting closer to her. As Mr. Eddy approaches Pete, Alice immediately goes out of focus. From this introduction there is a barrier introduced between Alice and Pete. She belongs to him and cannot be truly Pete’s. The two men begin to talk and once again the rest of the auto shop remains out of focus. They discuss the car but reference it as “her”. The dialogue is  about the car, yet the blonde woman is also implicated in the conversation with phrases such as “give her the once over”, and ” if you’ll be down with her by then”.  A new music track begins as we simultanously see black. This appears to be Mr. Eddy’s body passing in front of the camera. When he moves out of the way, Alice is in full view. The camera uses a slow motion shot to show her getting out of the car. As she rises, the words “this magic moment” play and her eyes flicker up to us, the viewer and Pete. We see Pete watching her, and she walks away and slowly turns around to face him.  The camera continues to pan between shots of Alice turning around and Pete watching her. The shots of Alice getting into the car are breathtaking as they continue in slow motion, She continues to stare right at the camera, at Pete, and us the viewers.

This sequence between Pete and Alice is not only beautifully shot and scored, but introduces desire in a public and untouchable way. The visual images and soundtrack insist that Pete desire’s for Alice is something that is ‘unreal’. The slow motion is a subjective camera in which Pete is imagining her to be something more than she is, something more than an actress in a low grade porn film. It is the idea of her, rather than Alice in her true form that Pete desires.

 

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