Monday, February 21, 2011

Blue Velvet (Lynch. 1986)

“I'm seeing something that was always hidden. I'm in the middle of a mystery and its all secret”


I had a funny feeling going into Blue Velvet that I would remember the film for a very long time. I recently became a fan of David Lynch after being introduced to his short-lived television show, Twin Peaks. Because of how much I enjoyed his television work, I assumed I would be swept away by the work in his preferred field, film. That is why I picked Blue Velvet as my second film to watch in the 1077 Films to See Before You Die.

Watching Blue Velvet was like being torn in between two worlds, the comfortable and the freaky. The film takes place in a typical Small-town, USA and follows the story of a college student named Jeffery Beaumont. Jeffery is back in town to visit his injured father, but he accidentally stumbles into the violent and sexually perverse underworld that his city so purposely hides.

The plot of the film is thin and the ending is predictable, but Lynch would never claim to be a poetic storyteller. Blue Velvet is a film that slaps you in the face with symbolism and raw performances from the incredible cast. These are the aspects of the film that I would like to focus on.

Though symbolism is pertinent in any film by David Lynch, Blue Velvet seems to thrive on a higher level of intellectual design. Every single set piece in the film serves as an important component to the frantic story. Lynch uses colors like red, dark blue and purple to create an atmosphere that not only looks eerie, but simply seems off. The costuming of the film greatly resembles the boutique of your local thrift shop, which may represent the less fortunate and their greater likelihood to mentally break down. This also makes it nearly impossible to recognize the time period – which is never stated in the film.

The greatest symbolism in the film would easily be the bugs that represent evil. In the opening credits we are introduced to a town of picket fences and beautifully displayed red roses. But when the camera dives more deeply into the grass and dirt of Pleasantville, we see the bugs that are constantly at war to stay alive. This directly points to society and our ability to hide the bad, the gross and the needy underneath our disguised grass and dirt.

Jeffery, played by the under-appreciated Kyle MacLauchlan, manages to dive underneath the green grass of his upper-class life style only to become a reluctant member on the gritty under dwellings. MacLauchlan’s sincere and submissive performance makes the events in film even more difficult to watch. You see him, an innocent youth, getting dragged into a world that is completely past his understanding of sexuality, violence and masculinity. You sympathize for his character and you realize why Lynch refers to him as an actor who "plays innocents who are interested in the mysteries of life. He's the person you trust enough to go into a strange world with."

His primary love interest, Sandy, is played by Laura Dern. Dern uses the role as an outlet to display the innocent sexuality that plagued high school students in the “Brat Pack” generations. The antithesis of her performance can be seen in the brilliantly unrefined performance of Isabella Rossellini.

Rossellini plays a part that very few actresses would be willing to tackle. Her character, Dorothy, is an abused and often humiliated masochist who is submitting to sexual slavery in order to save her young child. She is beaten and stripped on camera in such manners that I actually had to turn my head from shame. Lynch managed to reward her disgustingly rich performance with an overall film that was worthy of her stoke-of-genius work.

But, of course, the scene stealer in Blue Velvet is the legendary and often demented Dennis Hopper. Hopper plays the antagonist, Frank Booth. Booth is a character that Lynch and Hopper crafted to the point of perfect evil. He is a low life, drug addicted scumbag whose sick sexual perversions manage to far outweigh his redeeming qualities (if any could even be found). Hopper gives one of the most memorable and terrifying performances in history, which proves that when two demented personalities get together the outcome can simply be ingenious morbidity.

It seems appropriate that, in the middle years of the Ronald Reagan administration, Lynch would write and direct a film about the secrets that haunt your typical picket fence charade. His critique of American small-town-conventionalism is not lost in the eyes of any modern day small town resident, for we all truly fear the blue velvet that may sit beyond our tears. This film is a must see. 2 films down, 1075 to go.

Blue Velvet: B+

Next Film….The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Sharman. 1975)

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