BLUE VELVET, 1986
After finding a severed human ear in a field, a young man soon discovers a sinister underworld lying just beneath his idyllic suburban home town.
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David Lynch has a monopoly on abstract thrillers that leave little room for absolute understanding, and plenty of room for interpretation. It’s as if he presents only an idea and you are left to fill in the blanks based on your imagination, particularly in the case of Mulholland Drive. Blue Velvet is no different. Lynch examines the idealized small town through the eyes of an all American college boy named Jeffrey Beaumont (MacLachlan) who is thrust into a surreal dark underbelly of suburbia.
Upon walking home, Beaumont comes across a severed ear in a vacant lot. He meets Sandy (Dern), the daughter of a police detective, who tells him more information about the ear and the people involved. The two are then led to a small club where local singer Dorothy Vallens (Rossellini) is performing, being watched closely by the brooding sociopath Frank Booth (Hopper), one of the iconic and frightening characters in cinema history.
Booth is nothing short of psychotic with a penchant for brutality and abnormal sexual behavior involving an inhalant while dry humping Dorothy on the living room floor. His pleasure is rage induced, brutally punching Dorothy if she stares at him. It’s the strangest scene in the film and it occurs earlier on setting the tone for the rest of the story. Hopper is absolutely terrifying and exciting to watch.
Lynch’s askew vision is prevalent in all his films and in many ways it can take away from the story or enrich it. For Blue Velvet it does the latter because part of the mystery comes from the story’s surreal point of view. Everything feels odd, or out of place, as if what you are watching is completely unnatural or the dream of one of the characters. It just doesn’t feel real, only real to the characters that seem to act accordingly. The exceptional cinematography perfectly enhances the oddity.
Jeffery’s obsession for the unknown and his insatiable curiosity comes from his desire to explore the dark underbelly of America. His clean cut image is now only on the surface and his hidden voyeuristic obsession becomes a part of his character using his now corrupted nature to blend into the underworld of crime. Jeffrey transforms into a more competent individual in the world of depravity as he puts aside his morals to feed his curiosity. In keeping with the theme of contrasting images or ideas, Sandy and Dorothy are complete opposites that both represent a certain aspect of Jeffrey’s character. It becomes an inner struggle for Jeffrey, who has to come to accept one side over the other, and the farther he goes into the realm of crime, the more he becomes depraved.
Blue Velvet is the perfect film for Lynch because it does the job in expressing the director’s unique style. His askew vision is best reflected in the bizarre environments he creates and the eccentric dark characters that inhabit it. In addition, he blends the film noir style with the surreal context that is only seen in Twilight Zone episodes, but Lynch is talented enough to make his own trademark appeal that is undoubtedly his. An excellent film by an exceptional director, Blue Velvet is simply put, a great film.