A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Blue Velvet

July 9, 2010

Blue Velvet

It’s been many years since I last saw this movie. Probably in the neighbourhood of about twenty years. And yet there are stark images in this film that have stuck with me all these years. The crazy ending. The ear. The sunny opening montage and its culmination in the grotesque underside of the picturesque town of Lumberton, USA.

I tried to describe the movie to Amanda this afternoon before we watched it. I chose to describe it as “Lynch Noir.” A twisted kind of murder mystery with a kind of Lynchian feel to it. As I watch it again this afternoon I think that it’s a lot closer to being a “Lynch Hitchcock” film. It’s got clear Hitchcock inspirations. The orchestral swelling when Laura Dern’s character, Sandy, first appears, emerging slowly from shadow, is pure classic Hollywood.

The theme, of the perversions that lie hidden under the surface of idyllic little towns, is something Lynch likes to explore. (Particularly of course with Twin Peaks.) This movie is full of twisted broken crazy people.

Young Jeffrey, played with a kind of naive charm by Kyle MacLachlan, discovers a lone human ear in a field. Jeffrey is simple all-American kid, but that ear intrigues him. He gets a little obsessive (a character flaw that does him no good in the rest of the movie) and goes to talk to the police chief about it. When the police chief tells him that he shouldn’t get involved Jeffrey ends up trying to investigate the mystery of the ear with the chief’s daughter. She doesn’t know much, but she thinks maybe that a woman named Dorothy has something to do with it (based on her eavesdropping on her father.)

From there it starts out as a sort of Hitchcockian suspense film as the two kids plan to break into Dorothy’s apartment and search for clues. But when Jeffrey gets caught by Dorothy in her closet things begin to get weird. And slowly, over the course of the rest of the movie, things get weirder. The mystery at the heart of the movie isn’t really the point of the film, we discover.

There might be a kidnapping involved. And something about a corrupt cop and a drug deal. But mostly the movie is about the strange creepy seedy world that Jeffrey finds himself falling into. A world full of some of the oddest characters ever committed to film. There’s the severely broken Dorothy (played with absolutely brutal frailty by Isabella Rossellini.) There’s the savage, unpredictable and utterly batshit Frank (Dennis Hopper at his most psychotic.) There’s a very surreal drug den party at the home of the unflappably suave Ben. Dean Stockwell, as Ben, is probably my favorite part of the whole movie. His den of iniquity is something directly out of Ed Wood’s The Sinister Urge. It’s the evil abode of a drug peddler as seen through the eyes of cautionary tales of the fifties. More Reefer Madness than Scarface.

It’s strange. My memories of this movie from back in eighty-eight or eighty-nine when I first saw it are of a much darker and bleaker movie. The more perfect than perfect ending of the movie reminds me in equal parts of the first Nightmare on Elm Street and Brazil. Maybe I’m supposed to take away that the perfect suburban world that Jeffrey returns to at the end of the film is a dreamworld, and that Frank’s crazy land of lawbreaking hoodlums is more real? I’m not sure.

Then again, I think part of what David Lynch likes doing more than anything else is leaving the viewer unsettled and unsatisfied. It’s how he gets his kicks. (Someday I’ll have to try watching Mulholland Drive, which is famous for being an inscrutable piece of weirdness that explains nothing.)

This movie really makes me want to watch Twin Peaks. So very much. Sadly, although I have the first season special edition box set of Twin Peaks that set doesn’t include the pilot. How can I watch the show without watching the pilot? Lynch, you bastard.

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July 9, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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