Director: David Lynch
Cast: Kyle Maclachlan, Laura Dern, Dennis Hopper, Isabella Rossellini
David Lynch is the king of filmmaking!
It seems like Blue Velvet has had the same effect Eraserhead on me. I didn’t have the same strong physiological reaction to Blue Velvet, but I sort of have the same psychological effect, in the sense that I can’t stop thinking about it. I finished watching Blue Velvet last night but it feels as if I haven’t gone to sleep. When I was lying in bed all I could think about was Blue Velvet and I even had a dream about Blue Velvet. Waking up now, all I can still think about is Blue Velvet! I was painfully excited to see it. David Lynch happens to be my favourite director of all time, and Blue Velvet always seems to get rave reviews even from people who aren’t fans of Lynch.
I was pumping myself up for Blue Velvet so much. I planned exactly when I was going to watch it and prepared my own mental countdown to the day. Watching a new film by David Lynch is a massive event for me, because you can only see his films once. I can never watch Mulholland Dr. (my favourite Lynch film, and one of my favourite ever films period) the same bemused way I watched it the first time. I can’t put my excitement into words when I actually popped the disc in and was getting ready to press ‘Play Movie’. What followed was 2 hours of me looking awe-struck.
Blue Velvet is a masterpiece and quite possibly the best thriller I’ve ever seen. If any other director was given a story like this in the 80’s then they would’ve made it exceedingly bland and conventional. However, in the hands of our God (David Lynch) he has created a thoroughly absorbing and seductive piece of work which can proudly sit with his other insane masterpieces. Blue Velvet is definitely one of his more linear works. It’s easy to understand (though not as shockingly normal as The Elephant Man or The Straight Story) yet it still evokes a sense of power and magic you can’t put into words.
Much has been said about the brilliant opening which lifts a beautiful blue curtain to reveal a bright and beautiful American town (not dissimilar to Twin Peaks) only to then change its tone rapidly by depicting a man having a stroke. The camera then mesmerizingly pushes through the green grass to reveal a dark and revolting world where bugs crawl. This is of course the basis of the film. Not everything is as it seems, and what goes on behind closed doors can be more disturbing than anything you can imagine. As Jeffrey and Sandy say throughout the film, “it’s a strange world.”
The film begins as a chirpy mystery. It evokes the atmosphere of a 50’s noir with the fantastic dramatic music and simple mystery plot. It also has the innocent love interest, Laura Dern, who is brilliant here as she is in Wild at Heart and Inland Empire, although Inland Empire features undoubtedly her greatest performance. The mystery begins when Jeffrey (Kyle Maclachlan, playing almost the same character as detective Dale Cooper) finds a human ear on his walk home. There’s a fantastic wholesome quality about Jeffrey. He seems like the innocent young lad who’s after a bit of adventure. This makes it all the more interesting when the mystery becomes so intense that it starts showing a darker side to Jeffrey’s character.
Blue Velvet is a gripping yarn, but it becomes all the more gripping when Jeffrey starts hiding in the apartment of the mysterious singer, Dorothy (wonderfully played by Isabella Rossellini). I don’t want to spoil what happens because it’s one of the greatest moments in the film. It’s when the atmosphere turns from being innocent and lively to unbelievably dark and disturbing. It’s a classic Lynch scene which feels very nightmarish and dreamlike as it’s very long and drawn-out, which in turn sucks you in. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen, even though what was happening was not pleasant to watch.
You might’ve guessed that the scene in question features Dennis Hopper as the legendary Frank Booth. Here Dennis is a deranged mass of energy, not too dissimilar to Day Lewis’ immortal Daniel Plainview, only Booth is less calculating. He’s a frightening sado-masochist who reacts purely on instinct and bizarrely inhales some sort of gas when he gets himself worked up. Obviously this performance was far too daring and memorable for the academy as Hopper wasn’t even up for a gong!
Lynch brilliantly puts the audience in the shoes of Jeffrey. We feel ourselves becoming more and more sucked in to the mystery and succumbing to the seductive and hypnotic dreamlike atmosphere. The film probably reaches its disturbing peak when Booth takes Jeffrey for a joyride and we’re introduced to his strange and psychotic friends. The lip-synch to ‘In Dreams’ is just classic Lynch and so beautifully haunting.
Whilst Blue Velvet isn’t quite as wonderfully layered or as surreal as Mulholland Drive or Inland Empire, it’s still an incredibly piece of work. This is the work of a true magician who has a passion for Hollywood’s golden age and is desperate to revive it, whilst still adding his own distinctive brush strokes. David Lynch is one of the few directors who realises that film is an art and when done correctly, it can take you on a mesmerising journey and evoke feelings and emotions you didn’t know you had. Blue Velvet is a beautiful film with incredible music and a moving ending. It’s one of the greatest films I’ve seen.