Sunday, August 06, 2006

Blue Velvet

1986
DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group
Director: David Lynch
Length: 121 min.
Country: USA
Format: DVD

Like any American small town or suburb, Lumberton seems perfect. Everybody is super-friendly with big smiles to prove it, high school girls have blonde hair, wear dresses and date football players, the red roses are bright, the white picket fences even brighter.

But, also like any American small town or suburb, something dark and chaotic exists under the brightness and order. Lynch reveals this thesis in the bravura prologue to his Blue Velvet. From there on, the film never lets up, moving systematically through Lynch's story like it were an expertly-written treatise on the disturbing underbelly of small town/suburban life.

Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlin playing a character remarkably similar to Lynch himself) returns home from college to visit his ailing father and by pure chance happens upon a severed ear that leads him and the viewer on an odyssey through voyeurism, domestic violence, ritualistic rape, kidnapping, drugs, corruption and murder. Unlike conventional wisdom (when people even admit there are dark sides to their towns), however, this filth happens immediately under the surface and often right on it. It's no coincidence that Jeffrey's literal descent into the pitch-black "underworld" goes down only one flight of stairs and ends on the ground floor (subtly digging at your typical townie/suburbanite's naive belief that they live above indecency - generally only by virtue of not living in a major city).

This odyssey doesn't just show us what we (should already) know about towns like Lumberton, it also functions as Jeffrey's coming-of-age and as a romance (between Jeffrey and Laura Dern's Sandy - the force of good and light in Lynch's vision) that begins as innocent as the "chicken walk" that sparks it and becomes an adult relationship that came out of Jeffrey's need for an emotional anchor amidst the storm, and out of Sandy's need to be dragged through the darkness without dirtying her off-white dresses.

We watch Jeffrey become a man as the film unspools, but we can't help but wonder how much of sick fuck antagonist Frank (a perfect and particularly terrifying Dennis Hopper) rubbed off on him, and for how long - will he hit Sandy, desperate for filth, like he hit Isabella Rosselini's Dorothy during sex? That seed is clearly inside him, but will it take root? We can only hope that Jeffrey, once such a nice boy, has risen above the darkness and become a nice man, aware of the "disease" inside him but rejecting it wholeheartedly.

This is one of Lynch's best films, and aside from his "Hollywood" films, one of his most straightforward. It serves as a fantastic antidote to pap like the similarly themed American Beauty, and if you can handle the violence and intensity, is highly recommended.

2 Comments:

Blogger Christopher Dean said...

Pabst Blue Ribbon!!

11 September, 2006 23:55  
Anonymous Marco Milone said...

This is one of my favourite film!

21 July, 2008 12:27  

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