Blue Velvet (1986) (R)
As you watch "Blue Velvet", you feel like you're missing a lot. Unless of course, you are a brilliant mind who can understand David Lynch's meaning behind the crawling bugs, the incessant fade-outs, the animalistic sounds that overlap the character's voices, the clear sexual violence, the cuts to candles flickering, and the S&M style of sexual experiences that constitute a "normal" relationship. If that's the case, congratulations!
If that's not the case, "Blue Velvet" is almost an exercise in frustration. What saves it from utter disaster is the fact that the story it tells is quite gripping and the way that it is filmed generates its own world.
"Blue Velvet" is a film about suburbia, fear, curiosity, and human nature—but most of all love. Yes, behind the odd huffing and puffing of Dennis Hopper (what the movie is most famous for), the rape scenes, the physical abuse, and the intertwining bedfellows; "Blue Velvet" is a movie about how good some people can be.
The movie begins observing neighbors in a...uh...neighborhood. They wave to each other, water the plants, and fall to the ground from some invisible malady. We see a man collapse, then we zoom in to the ground. Beneath the grass there are bugs that crawl around and music that plays eerily. Right from the first shot, Lynch is proving something: what is underneath is often more interesting that what is on the surface, it might also be more disturbing.
The people in the town of Lumbertown are a kindly folk. They act like they are right from a 50s sitcom or a commercial for houses. They are so nice and so pleasant...but beneath all that is a stinking, rotting evil.
Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) has come home after his father suffered an attack of some kind. On his way to and from the hospital he discovers something in a field—a human ear. He is immediately struck with disgust and the most insatiable curiosity. He takes the ear to Detective Williams (George Dickerson) because...well, that's what anyone would do with an ear.
Then, he learns nothing more.
Wanting to know about the human part he found, Jeffrey goes to Detective Williams' house to ask him. Obviously, he can't tell Jeffrey anything about it so he sends him along his way.
But Williams has a daughter, Sandy (Laura Dern), and she has overheard many conversations. She tells him that one of the suspects is a night-club singer who lives in an apartment...an apartment that Sandy knows the address for—convenient. Jeffrey and Sandy immediately connect in a cliche romantic sort of way, they laugh at each other, care for each other, and are too immature to admit that to the other one.
They track down the singer, a woman named Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini). This woman has a past that haunts Jeffrey. He is determined to find out where the ear came from—then he starts to become obsessed with this woman Dorothy and the way she sings the song "Blue Velvet"—hence the title.
We meet a man named Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), who is just plain crazy...but enough about the movie.
There is something to "Blue Velvet" that makes it almost hypnotic. It's very easy to watch, and for being so smart, it's really not that demanding.
Lynch seems to be stating that, at the core, human nature is quite monstrous. This theory works well until the ending, which would shatter it to pieces.
The work that I was most reminded of what the more recent film "Drive". In both these cases, I find them illogical but nice to look at.
"Blue Velvet" is a fine movie and I did enjoy it. The teenage romance bit felt contrived, the violence wasn't that surprising, and in the end what did it accomplish? Lynch makes films that study human nature...but to what end?
He made a mystery, but it wasn't a mystery. It was a romance-thriller-oddity flick.
The repeated line "Isn't life strange?" was the tagline for the film; but I think it's better put by Dorothy: "I'm not crazy. I know the difference between right and wrong".
That fits the film much better.
Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4
Posted by Micah Jones