Blue Velvet Reviews
I must admit that this film did not thrill me upon first viewing. In fact, it was as pleasant as being hit in the head with a shovel. However, upon a second viewing I found out oddly enough that Lynch made me like and even admire the shovel that seemed hellbent on doing me harm. And for me that is quite an impressive feat, and one I soon won't forget.
Strange, intense, well acted and directed, Blue Velvet delivers a surreal look at crime.
Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) is an impressionable young man who return's back to his home town to care for his ill father. After a visit at the hospital he takes a short cut through an abandoned field and finds a severed human ear. He takes it to the police before embarking on his own investigation. This leads him to nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) and a criminal underworld that he had no idea existed.
The opening of the film has such a striking beauty to it with crisp and colourful cinematography by Frederick Elmes while Lynch doesn't mince his words on his message. White picket fences with vibrant red roses, a fire truck strolls by with a waving fireman while a man hoses down his manicured garden. It's quaint and calming imagery. Suddenly, the hose gets stuck on a branch, the water splutters and the infuriated gardener suffers a stroke. He falls to the ground while a toddler looks on and a dog's only interest is in catching the water from the hose which is still in the grasp of the fallen gardener. It's here that Lynch turns his camera to the grass and the dark underbelly of this picture-perfect, suburban lifestyle is exposed in a colony of insects. We then cut to a billboard saying "Welcome to Lumberton" - where it is later described as "a town where the people really know how much wood a woodchuck chucks". There's a playfulness on show and Lynch imbues the whole affair with satire and a deep cynicism.
From here, Lynch takes his time with his narrative - which, when you look at it now, is deceptively simple. He uses a very linear approach throughout the beginning of the film. Lumberton is a middle class suburbia where seemingly everyone is pleasant and there's a feeling of safety. It has an air of mystery to it, though, after the discovery of the severed ear.
It's from the investigations and uncovering the truth that the film gets more bizarre by the minute and the Lynchian weirdness begins to creep in. This is predominantly with the arrival of Dennis Hopper's Frank Booth. From the plethora of Lynch's obscure and unhinged characters, Frank is the one that seems to get the most attention. It's not hard to see why, though, as this deranged, amyl-nitrate huffing psychopath is a character that lingers long in the memory. It's an Oscar worthy performance from Hopper but, strangely, the academy choose to nominate him in the supporting category for Hoosiers. As good as he was in that film, Frank Booth has become one of, if not, the most iconic performance of his career.
For all it's strangeness, though, effectively Blue Velvet is a film-noir. It has all the hallmarks of the sub-genre but, as is usually the case, Lynch puts his own spin on the proceedings. It's dark, gloomy and hugely atmospheric. It's also not without its disturbing elements as it delves into the darkest recesses of the psyche and explores the psychosexual motivations of its characters - which is hinted at with a quote from Laura Dern's angelic Sandy - "I can't figure out if you're a detective or a pervert".
This line perfectly sums up the juxtaposition that courses throughout the film. Lynch is interested in capturing the different extremes; in society, human relationships and Freudian and Oedipal subconscious desires. All the while, he keeps us reminded that dreams can so easily lead to nightmares.
If there's one moment that showcases Lynch's ability to project mood and capture the extremes it's with a cameo from Dean Stockwell as the suave, glad-handling dandy, Ben. His miming rendition of Roy Orbison's In Dreams using a worklight is simply one of the best scenes Lynch has ever put onscreen. It's at once hilariously comical yet also surreal and deeply fuckin' creepy.
A startlingly beautiful yet genuinely horrific tale and proof that Lynch is probably the most subversive of filmmakers working today. This erotic and perversely self indulgent piece of work remains one his best films. To think that this came out in the mid 80's is proof of Lynch's untamed brilliance and majesty.