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Review: _Blue Velvet_ (1986, David Lynch)



One cannot know her or his reader. There is much that I could tell about Blue Velvet. But there's something in David Lynch's work that is incommunicable. The film challenged all my notions of "knowing" about the movies. I recoiled, became attracted, was shocked, and sat with my reactions. Two days after finishing the DVD, I'm beginning to understand the swoon caused by this film.

David Lynch's reputation precedes him, and for now I'll note that I love how Blue Velvet destroys our sentimental notion of realism -- that a film should necessarily have something to do with "life as it is" -- and replaces it with all that we really have: visceral, ugly subjectivity, and excessive psychological states most avoid, but which stay with us like ancestry.

Initially, I didn't like the pseudo-B-movie visuals and style of the film. The visuals seem to go like, "Here's an artsy visual," "here's some acting where it's evident the director didn't talk to the actors," and "here's some technicolor stuff." The elements should not work together; of course, in the end they do.

David Lynch is still with us, so it's promising that some people will hear out an artist's vision on her or his own terms. Blue Velvet may be the most challenging holistic film I've seen (a film that demands our attention to every audiovisual detail). Of course, a director like Kurosawa has every frame and sound accounted for, but David Lynch does this while attempting to make his films psychotropic drugs for the soul.

Some description: a naive young man gets himself involved in an evil underworld in an idyllic, 1950s-era American city called "Lumberton." He finds sadism and depravity so heavy that it justifies itself through its weirdness. Suspenseful scenes with sex, gore, and fear.

The characters are indelible, especially Dean Stockwell's "Suave Ben," Dennis Hopper's "Frank Booth," and Isabella Rossellini's "Dorothy Vallens." And the visuals: red roses, fire engine trucks, blue/purple velvet, bugs, fake robin bird, and sets from a parallel universe.

Blue Velvet
helps me understand the mind of the visual artist (for whom words have less importance than images) better than I thought I could. I have seen innumerable audiovisual art displays at museums, and I can't remember a single one. David Lynch's Blue Velvet is what those people were trying to do but failed: to have an image that creates an emotional state -- awe -- directly.
 
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