Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Essentials- Blue Velvet (1986)

The Essentials- #34

Blue Velvet
To call "Blue Velvet" an unforgettable experience would be a grave understatement. 

David Lynch is a incredibly bizarre filmmaker, he is one of the very few directors who not only dips into the darker spots of life, but he takes his audience and throws them in it. He has produce some of the biggest cringes, biggest scares, and overall piercing imagery in all of my movie-watching career. I know a lot of people that downright hate what he creates, while others are drawn to it. I am in the latter group and I wear that as a badge of honor. I understand that some people don't like the darker trips through cinema, and I don't think less of them. But as fearless as I am, I find a lot to like about David Lynch's filmography, even though I have liked every single thing he's done.

"Blue Velvet" is a classic of his filmography. An old-school, mystery that slowly and furiously spirals out of control. The film's opening is one of its best shots. The song "Blue Velvet" plays in the background as we get a glimpse of small town America, a fictional town called Lumberton. Everything is played up broadly for a reason; a firetruck drives by with a smiling firefighter waving, kids cross the street, everything seems so innocent and happy. Then as a seemingly random man has a heart attack, the camera zooms into the grass. The takes its time focusing on the insects in the grass, and we already know that things are going to get very dark soon.

The film focuses on Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle Maclachlan) an eccentric college student who returns to his hometown of Lumberton to check on his father. (The man who had the heart attack.) On his way home from the hospital he finds a human ear in a field...yes a human ear in a field. He takes it to the police but he can't help but be drawn to this mysterious event. With the help of a police detectives daughter Sandy (Laura Dern), Jeffrey finds the apartment of a woman who could be linked to the ear. So one night he sneaks into her apartment and hides in her closet...

The rest of the film is crazy nightmare as Kyle discovers the truth about the woman in the apartment and the men who are constantly coming to her apartment. I dare not spoil anything for you but I will say that things get very bad for Kyle and when I mean bad, I truly mean bad. Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) is a original creation, brought to splendid life by the actor. This was Hopper's once-in-a-lifetime roll that he nailed on every level. After you see "Blue Velvet" I'd be surprised if Hopper didn't climb to the top of your best movie villains list.

Kyle Maclachlan and Laura Dern are both very good in their roles. There is an innocent charm in their chemistry that addicting to watch. Their journey through this disturbing mystery is well-established and both actors throw themselves at the material. However, the most praise should fall to Isabella Rossellini. Rossellini plays Dorothy, the woman Jeffrey visits in her apartment. The things she is asked to do in this film upset quite a few people in its initial release. I have no reservation whatsoever that her portrayal still haunts and offends. Her bravery is the glue to the entire movie though, and she deserves mad credit for making this character come to life with the integrity and maturity the character needed to flourish.

Lynch's surreal style is on full display here. The opening sequences while innocent, feels very dreamlike. So does a crucial moment in the film when Jeffrey is kidnapped by Frank. He is taken to the home of man named Dean, one of Frank's partners. For unknown reasons, Dean sets up a mic, flashlight and lip-sinks the first few minutes of Roy Orbison's "In Dreams." Its a very bizarre scene, but at the same time, its quite beautiful. Like all Lynch films, "Blue Velvet" will spark discussion afterwards. You'll be up all night with friends talking about what certain scenes meant, what themes were used and how everything fit together. All apart of the reason why "Blue Velvet" is so great.

Instantly iconic, an American original, "Blue Velvet" soars as one of the best films of 1980's. Check it out.

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