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Blue Velvet (1986)

June 28, 2010


Strikes a nice balance between the intriguingly familiar and the unbelievably strange. Can’t say that for a whole lot of David Lynch movies.

Blue Velvet is about a true blue American teen who stumbles upon a severed human ear on his walk home from work and takes it upon himself to start playing detective while staying one step ahead of the authorities who don’t seem to know their asses from their elbows. Lo and behold, the said ear winds up getting him caught in the affairs of a horribly troubled woman whose son and husband have been kidnapped by the most psychotic sonofabitch you could ever get your family members kidnapped by. But since the kid is so damn curious, he gets far more involved than anyone in their right mind should be, quickly finds himself high up on this kidnapping lunatic’s shit list and tries to make things right before he’s the one with an ear in the bushes.

Now, this here is one interesting little monster. For anyone who’s seen a David Lynch movie outside of The Elephant Man and The Straight Story, that last sentence should be no surprise whatsoever, for those of you who haven’t, God speed. Nevertheless, the last time I used the phrase “You are not ready for this” in a review was for my write-up of Antichrist, and even after watching this for a second time, knowing full well everything that was waiting around the corner, I still don’t think I’m ready for this and I don’t know if I ever will be.

But that’s kinda what makes Blue Velvet special, and it’s definitely a big factor to what makes David Lynch special.

Lynch definitely has his own unique visual style that I’m still just rolling with rather than questioning for fear of triggering a brain aneurysm, but the way he mixes the world of white picket fence American suburbia that makes Pleasantville look like the projects with the dark, upsetting and horribly warped underworld of the town that no one ever talks about is very, very cool. It’s starts out like an adaptation of The Hardy Boys where I was half expecting the characters to start saying “Aw, gee whiz, Ma” or whip out “Well I think you’re just swell” to land that first peck on the cheek, and then before you know it, it’s like you walked into the Manson family living room and Uncle Charlie just locked the door behind ya’.

On the one hand, it works really well as a kind of behind-closed-doors insight into the goings on of a side of life that the Cleavers and Bradys never knew existed but has been there all along, and on the other, well, I guess it has to do with how flat-out bonkers it all is. It’s also makes for a very neat blend of modern and retro that I don’t see very often, like American Graffiti mixed with Pulp Fiction or something. Probably sounds a bit strange from the outside, but it absolutely works.

But who am I kidding, you can shake your head in horror and confusion at every last thing that happens in this movie and you will still walk away with two words on your mind: Frank. Booth. Maybe I just need to expand my knowledge of Dennis Hopper’s acting career, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more crazed and dementedly memorable performance from the guy as one of the most straight-up evil individuals in movie history. Right from the moment he walks on the screen and starts huffing on helium, gagging himself on gaudy fabric and making sure everyone in the room knows how much he likes the F-word, you will know that shit has gotten serious. Christ, I really can’t write a whole lot more because you gotta see Frank Booth to get Frank Booth, but trust me, Frank Booth is no fucking joke.

Strangely enough, he’s actually pretty funny, too.

And even though he looks the part, I wasn’t a huge fan of Kyle MacLachlan as our junior private eye, Jeffrey Beaumont. Can’t shake the image of him as Paul Atreides from Dune, but even if that movie didn’t blow to high heavens, he’s still a pretty stiff actor to begin with.

But big props to Isabella Rossellini for being the biggest trooper of ’86 in her role here is Dorothy Vallens. Things don’t exactly go too well for the gal, but she is totally on board the entire time and is all about getting as weird as her then-husband Lynch wanted her to be. Also features some solid performances by Laura Dern and Dean Stockwell, so that’s good.

I know there are some folks out there who consider this the best movie of the ’80s and tout it as a monumental treatise of sorts in regards to dissecting suburban America, and while it is good, I ain’t on that bandwagon. Blue Velvet is a terribly strange and uncomfortable movie, definitely one to check out by yourself or with an extremely open-minded individual who won’t write you off as a serial murderer waiting to happen after all is said and done, but it’s also one of the most unforgettable movies you’re ever likely to come across. Not the most accessible movie out there, but then again, this is David Lynch we’re talking about.

20 Comments leave one →
  1. June 28, 2010 12:32 am

    I reviewed this awhile back right here: Its a nutty film, no doubt about that, but somehow Lynch seems to make it work with adding one type of realism to it. Which makes it all seem believable. Good Review!

  2. Darren permalink
    June 28, 2010 4:36 am

    That freaked the hell out of me when I was younger. I had just read Dune, discovered David Lynch directed the film, and discovered a midnight showing of the film on television. My twelve-year-old self have trouble getting to sleep that night.

    Damn you, Dennis Hopper!

    • June 28, 2010 8:30 am

      Jesus CHRIST! I would have turned into an insomniac seeing this at twelve. Did you ever see Dune?

  3. June 28, 2010 5:18 am

    I know what you mean – it’s one of those difficult films to like because it is so weird. But I’d place it in that weird but wonderful bracket. I think it’s the very power of the film – how it makes you feel long after the credits have rolled shows it to be a great film. I wouldn’t put it as my number one of the 80s but I think it would still be quite high on the list.

    • June 28, 2010 8:33 am

      Yeah, this one’s hard to shake on a lot of fronts. Lynch sure knows how to work shock value with making it feel cheap. Frank Booth, man. Frank-effing-Booth.

  4. June 28, 2010 8:50 am

    Ha I used the Pabst Blue Ribbon video in my Dennis Hopper Tribute awhile back. This is def. a strange watch. Booth is one of the craziest characters I’ve seen on screen. He’s not a montser, evil genius, or Hannibal Lector type of way. He’s freaky in a way that makes you think “As wierd as this guy is…there’s probably someone in real life out there in some grungy hotel room sniffing cloth and whispering “mommy, mommy”. Another movie that preaches my favorite lesson you can learn from a film; stay the fuck away from small towns.

    • June 28, 2010 8:53 am

      hahahaha, well said, man. You’re probably right about Frank, but, man, that first line of his where he walks in and goes “SHUT UP! It’s “Daddy”, you shithead!” was NUTS. Don’t see too many guys calling women shitheads nowadays, what a total maniac though. Still, funny guy, especially that scene where they’re all leaving Ben’s place and he goes “Anyone else wanna come, too? How about you?” and points to one of the silent, overweight women in the corner. Good stuff.

  5. June 28, 2010 2:04 pm

    First Lynch film I ever watched and it definitely made an impression.

    • June 28, 2010 2:06 pm

      Some place to start. At least it wasn’t Mulholland Dr.

      • June 28, 2010 3:06 pm

        That was actually the third one after Lost Highway.

      • June 28, 2010 3:11 pm

        Man, Lost Highway was a whole new world of strange. What the hell was that even about?

  6. June 28, 2010 4:29 pm

    I also saw this one when I was way too young. I couldn’t bring myself to see another Lynch film till about a year ago, when I felt obligated to see Mulholland Dr.

    • June 28, 2010 9:06 pm

      I really need to see that one again, that might have been my first Lynch movie.

  7. June 28, 2010 5:01 pm

    Doesn’t get any better than the crazy messed up broad dancing on the car.

    Excuse the self-promo, but here’s a link to my Frank Booth trib post

    • June 28, 2010 9:05 pm

      Jesus, man, why can’t I stop thinking about that part? SO strange. Will check out the Frank Booth tribute in a sec.

  8. Max permalink
    June 29, 2010 3:28 pm

    Aiden, this review is really well written. Great work.

  9. July 10, 2010 5:04 pm

    This is definitely Lynch’s most accessible film that’s actually good. Dennis Hopper was amazing, as you said. Definitely up there on the Best Movie Psychos list, at least in my book.

    • July 11, 2010 1:44 pm

      Think I might give Most Accessible to Elephant Man or Straight Story, but as far as real “Lynchian” films go, yeah, this is probably your best bet. And I’m right there with ya’ on Frank Booth as one of your all-time psychos.


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