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Sex and Love 1. What’s up with Lost Highway and Vertigo? What is Lost Highway about? What is Vertigo about? How are the two films related? 2. Complete Sex/Love According to Nagel, what constitutes complete sex ? When is sex incomplete , or perverse ?

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sex and love

Sex and Love

1. What’s up with Lost Highway and Vertigo?

What is Lost Highway about?

What is Vertigo about?

How are the two films related?

2. Complete Sex/Love

According to Nagel, what constitutes complete sex? When is sex incomplete, or perverse?

How can we extend Nagel’s discussion and develop a concept of complete love?


Vertigo and Lost Highway

Comparison of Main Characters:

Vertigo Lost Highway

John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson Fred Madison/ Pete Dayton

Judy Barton/ Madeleine Elster Renee Madison/ Alice Wakefield

Gavin Elster Mr. Eddy/ Dick Laurent

Marjorie ‘Midge’ Wood Sheila

Plot Summary: “There’s no such thing as a bad coincidence.”

Part A: Man in ‘relationship’ with woman that is incomplete.

Trial: Man held accountable for woman’s death.

Part B: Man tries to recreate old relationship with ‘new’ woman.

Finale: Fusion of A and B; things turn out the same.


Identity Issues in Vertigo and Lost Highway

One woman becomes two, with distinct names, appearances

brunette = real (LH-love interest); blond = fake (V-love interest)

3rd woman with similar appearance to ‘love’ interest

Dual names/identities:

Vertigo: Madeleine/Judy; John/Scottie; Marjorie/Midge

Highway: Renee/Alice; Fred/Pete; Mr. Eddy/Dick Laurent

Possession, fugue states: Madeleine/Carlotta; Fred/Pete

Memory loss: Madeleine; Pete


Comparison of Women in Vertigo:

Person Jilted Lover of --- Death

Carlotta Valdez Unknown Suicide?

Madeleine Elster Gavin Murder?

Judy Barton Gavin, Scottie Accident?


Psychological Ailments in Vertigo

acrophobia =df. an intense fear of heights

voyeurism =df. deriving (sexual) pleasure from watching rather than doing

Scottie’s undressing of Madeleine is “a form of necrophilia.” (Hitchcock)


Psychological Ailments in Vertigo, cont.

Subconscious drives: obsession/delusion/paranoia

Madeleine’s amnesic fugues (memory loss, possession); “suicidal neurotic”

Scottie’s fantasies: “turning subjective experiences into objective ones”

Scottie’s obsession with Madeleine grows as does her obsession with death

Because of his obsession/love for Madeleine, Scottie has Judy change herself to become Madeleine

Scottie’s “acute melancholia together with a guilt complex”

Melancholia: “a mental condition characterized by extreme depression, bodily complaints, and often hallucinations and delusions; esp: a manic depressive psychosis”


Thomas Nagel, “Sexual Perversion”

reciprocal desire: “a complex psychological interchange constitutes the natural development of sexual attraction” (R: 12)

“. . . some version of this overlapping system of distinct sexual perceptions and interactions is the basic framework of any full-fledged sexual relation and that relations involving only part of the complex are significantly incomplete.” (R: 15)

Complete sex “involves a desire that one’s partner be aroused by the recognition of one’s desire that he or she be aroused.” (R: 15)

Examples of perverse acts (= incomplete acts):

narcissistic practices: masturbation

intercourse with animals or infants

intercourse with inanimate objects: necrophilia

sadism and masochism

voyeurism and exhibitionism


Time and Fate: The Redwoods Scene

Madeleine: “I don’t like . . . that we might have to die.”

Concentric circles of redwood: cyclic vs. linear time

circles, spirals: vertigo, hair bun, redwood, staircase

Fatalism, destiny, eternal recurrence, necessity of the past

Scottie: “There’s a Chinese saying that once you save someone’s life, you’re responsible for it forever.”

Note theater scene from Twelve Monkeys (fatalism, etc.), and allusion to Vertigo (Kathryn changes hair color)

[Note also that the beginning of The Matrix is an allusion to the beginning of Vertigo.]


Questions about Vertigo

How does Scottie get down from the building? Why is he just ‘left hanging’? Is this a metaphor for something?

Why acrophobia? Is this a metaphor for something? (Scottie has a fear of falling . . . in love (a fear of commitment)!)

What is the significance of Madeleine’s loss of memory?

Who does Scottie love: Madeleine, Judy, or Carlotta? Is Scottie really in love? Is Judy? Why doesn’t Scottie love Midge?

What do the various references to circles and spirals mean?

Discuss some explicit examples of allusions to necrophilia and voyeurism in the film. Why are these ailments significant?


Comment on these passages from Vertigo

Scottie: “I didn’t know that you wanted to be taken home that way.”

[. . . so I decided to undress you at my house instead!]

Madeleine: “It’s too late. There’s something I have to do.”

Scottie: “There’s nothing you have to do. You’re not possessed by anyone.”

Judy: “What do you want?”

Scottie: “I just want to know who you are.”

Scottie: “There’s one final thing I have to do and then I’ll be free of the past. . . . I need you to be Madeleine for awhile and then we’ll both be free.”

Scottie: “I loved you so, Madeleine. . . . It’s too late. There’s no bringing her back.”


Questions about Lost Highway

What is the point of the circular theme of the film?

Begins and ends with “Dick Laurent is dead!”

Film as a Moebius strip. (Lynch and Gifford)

What is significant about Pete’s memory loss? the video tapes? Pete’s parents?

Who is the Mystery Man?

What is the significance of the burning cabin in the desert? the Lost Highway Hotel? the picture of Renee (and Alice)?

What is significant about the following real-life actors who play characters in the film: Richard Prior, Gary Busey, Marilyn Manson, Henry Rollins, Robert Blake?


Comment on these passages from Lost Highway

Fred: “I like to remember things my own way.”

Fred: “How did you get inside my house?”

Mystery Man: “You invited me.”

Sheila: “Why don’t you like me?”

Alice: “I was here earlier.”

Pete: “Yeah, I remember.”

Pete: “I killed him.”

Pete: “Are both of them you?”

Alice: “Don’t you trust me, Pete?”

Pete: “I want you! I want you!”

Alice: “You’ll never have me!”

Mystery Man: “Her name is ‘Alice’? What’s your name?”


Vertigo (1958)

James Stewart .... John ‘Scottie’ Ferguson

Kim Novak .... Madeleine Elster/Judy Barton

Barbara Bel Geddes .... Marjorie ‘Midge’ Wood

Tom Helmore .... Gavin Elster

Henry Jones (I) .... Coroner

Raymond Bailey .... Scottie’s Doctor

Ellen Corby .... Manageress of McKittrick Hotel

Konstantin Shayne .... Pop Leibel

Lee Patrick .... Older Mistaken Identification


Lost Highway (1997)

Bill Pullman .... Fred Madison

Patricia Arquette .... Renee Madison/Alice Wakefield

Balthazar Getty .... Pete Dayton

Robert Blake .... Mystery Man

Natasha Gregson Wagner .... Sheila

Richard Pryor .... Arnie

Lucy Butler .... Candace Dayton

Michael Massee .... Andy

Jack Nance .... Phil

Jack Kehler .... Guard Johnny Mack

Henry Rollins .... Guard Henry

Giovanni Ribisi .... Steve ‘V’

Scott Coffey (I) .... Teddy

Gary Busey .... Bill Dayton

Robert Loggia .... Mr. Eddy/Dick Laurent