#282 Blue Velvet

(1986, David Lynch)

“Don’t you fucking look at me!”

David Lynch is well-known for making some very odd movies, but not all of his movies are dreamlike drug trips where character names change and mutant alien babies cry for eternity. Sometimes he’ll make a movie like Blue Velvet, which is actually a pretty standard mystery movie. Mostly.

Returning from college to visit his hospitalised father, Special Agent Dale Cooper eccentric student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) discovers a severed ear and decides to investigate. Using information given to him by a local detective’s daughter, Sandy (Laura Dern), Jeffrey discovers a dark underbelly to his hometown occupied by mysterious nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) and violent sadomasochist criminal Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper).

Blue Velvet may not be as outright insane as the likes of Eraserhead or Mulholland Drive, but the first thing that’s notable about Blue Velvet is just how wrong so much of it feels. As is typical with Lynch movies, every part of this film feels uncomfortable in a way it’s hard to place, particularly amplified with the opening scenes of a suburban paradise where a man suffers a stroke and then suddenly we’re looking at beetles crawling through the undergrowth (it’s symbolic…I think?).

What follows these opening scenes is a pretty standard film noir, with a violent criminal and a femme fatale and a mystery to solve and a plucky hero who aims to save the day. And it’s pretty good for the most part, although it often has a tendency to feel quite distant from the viewer. If I wasn’t aware of Lynch’s typical style, I’d consider this a negative, but I can kind of let it slide.

Unusually for a David Lynch movie, the plot is pretty easy to follow, since it’s a linear structure, set in what is basically the real world and does very little to bring in backwards-talking midgets or mutant alien babies, and yet this doesn’t stop it from feeling incredibly weird. Everything is wrapped in a strange haze and there are plenty of moments, still very much in-context, that can only elicit a “what the fuck” reaction from the viewer.

Like many Lynch movies, I recognise quite a lot of issues that ordinarily would make me hate movies like this, from the largely flat acting to the sometimes awkward dialogue (such as Jeffrey proudly proclaiming how much he loves Heineken, based off exactly nothing) but there’s a weird hypnotic fascination behind Blue Velvet. And then when Dennis Hopper bursts in and starts dry humping Isabella Rossellini while huffing from an oxygen mask and I just knew I had to keep watching in order to understand what I just saw.

There’s an intriguing mystery within Blue Velvet, and it’s paced relatively well, although at times it does feel a little clumsy. We also get far too many scenes that don’t really fit in with anything, such as the whole thing with Jeffrey’s dad suffering a stroke and Frank’s gang standing around miming to 50s pop songs.

Essentially, Blue Velvet is a bizarre little movie and I’m not sure how I feel about it. So basically, it’s typical David Lynch and I’m sure after a good few watches I’ll finally get it and add it to my favourite movies, much like I did with Mulholland Drive. I’ll certainly understand this movie better than Eraserhead, though. That much I do know.

Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Hope Lange, George Dickerson & Dean Stockwell
Written by David Lynch
Produced by Fred Caruso
Music by Angelo Badalamenti
Cinematography by Frederick Elmes
Edited by Duwayne Dunham

Favourite Scene: It’s hard to deny the shock of Frank’s introductory scene.
Scene That Bugged Me: Did we need an extended scene of these violent criminals miming to a Roy Orbison song?

Watch it if: You like weird Lynch movies
Avoid it if: You like more standard film noir

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Posted on May 7, 2014, in 1980s, Film Noir, Mystery, Thriller. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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