I don’t remember what sparked my desire to see this movie–it might’ve been that it was Richard Pryor’s final appear in a film though he’s only in it for about 30 seconds.
I do remember that it was really hard to find because of Robert Blake and his murder trial. At least that’s what I had heard was delaying the DVD release.
The first time I saw it, it was on a bootleg dvd from Europe (don’t worry, I bought the DVD once it came out, and destroyed that copy. Or sold it in Santee Alley. You’ll never know.)
This was also the first true mindfuck movie I’d ever seen. So it absolutely blew my mind as the movie turned in on itself at about the halfway point, then turned around at the end of it and started all over.
The main part of the film that fucks with everyone’s mind is when the perverse world of Bill Pullman the avant garde saxophonist who’s married to Patricia Arquette gets arrested then becomes Balthazar Getty in prison, gets released, and then becomes intertwined with another version of Patricia Arquette. Then turns back into Bill Pullman, naked in the desert. Then back to the Hollywood Hills.
I don’t know if there’s such a thing as a spoiler with this film because there’s no true beginning or ending to it. The snake eats its tail.
Let’s try an interpretation, though, for fun.
What I’m figuring is that all of this is taking place in the mind of Bill Pullman while he sits in prison. The tapes are his memories he’s trying to erase. The murder he chooses not to remember. But, eventually, it all boils down to reminding himself that Dick Laurent is dead. Ah shit.
The Balthazar Getty half is basically Pullman going back in time to remember when he first met Patricia Arquette. The problem here is that everyone wants to know what happened to him in prison—assuming they’re talking about when he got released in this timeline. It could also be that Getty, dressed and acting like a badass, was already in prison and, let’s say, gets sodomized. That’s something else you wouldn’t want to talk about.
But it’s played as if they’re talking about this release from prison. So it makes everything real fucking weird. Especially when blonde Arquette is seen pictured next to redheaded Arquette. Maybe they were twin sisters or something. Who knows.
The biggest clue/key to this is that, when Pullman is asked by police whether or not he has a video camera, he states, “I like to remember things my own way.” The cop is confused, so he claries, “How I remembered. Not necessarily how they happened.”
So, then, the picture of the dual Arquettes could represent his mental interpretation of her going from being an innocent blonde with a batshit/powerful father to the being the adulterous, lecherous, redhead that fucks around while he’s playing gigs.
Look, this movie is real fuckin’ weird and there’s basically no one way to interpret it, or make sense of it. Unless you’re David Lynch, and he never gives anything away overtly. His movies are some that run the risk of being overanalyzed because every line of dialog, every shot, or every prop could be that clue. The ashtray; zooming towards the flowing red curtain and the ringing phone; quotes like this one from Robert Blake: “In the East, the Far East, when a person is sentenced to death, they’re sent to a place where they can’t escape, never knowing when an executioner may step up behind them, and fire a bullet into the back of their head.” It all might mean something and be that final piece to the puzzle that makes you go “Aha!” and then show it to your friends just to watch their reactions when the President during an alien invasion turns into Balthazar Getty, otherwise known for being kind of familiar because he was on some show you watched once.
I accept the Mobius Strip concept—that this is a movie that turns and folds into itself and then restarts at the exact same spot, with all important parts of a life covered along the journey without touching the end.
I think the biggest problem I have with Lynch films like this is that once you’ve settled on an explanation, or that you’ve figured it out like Mulholland Drive, the film itself becomes a lot less exciting.
This isn’t to say that I absolutely won’t ever watch it again. Quite the contrary. Not only is the movie really weird, it’s also an incredibly terrifying experience. A lot of this is thanks to Lynch’s signature low bass rumble as well as some beautifully done acting that makes even the sex scene not very sexy. Watch the pain in Pullman’s face while he’s copulating and tell me he’s a happy man. You can’t.
No one in this movie is happy. No one ever will be. Because they’re in an inescapable place, never knowing when that bullet is going to tear apart their cerebellum.
 The snake that ate itself:
 It’s interesting what an actor is able to pull off. In this film, he plays a murderer with some serious mental issues. The year prior, he played the fucking president in Independence Day.