BLUE VELVET directed by David Lynch (USA, 1986)
Call me a pervert but I never tire of this movie which I rate as David Lynch’s masterpiece and one of the greatest films ever made.
At the same time, I can see why many, women especially, hate it.
Aspects of the film look a little dated now but the portrayal of sexuality remains both controversial and disturbing.
Not only does Lynch revel in depicting men’s capacity for voyeurism and violence but he also shows a woman who is turned on by abuse.
Plenty of films hint at sadomasochistic relationships but in this one we are left with no room for doubt.
We see the sexy nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) begging the faint-hearted Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) to hit her and when he finally does the camera zooms in on her smiling red lips and jump cuts to a shot of candlelight blazing bright before being extinguished. Flames are a familiar motif in Lynch’s work to symbolise desire and debauchery – it’s no coincidence that in Twin Peaks the killer’s taunting message to the FBI was ‘Fire walk with me’.
Roger Ebert hated the movie but praised Rossellini’s convincing and courageous performance. This esteemed US critic felt that Lynch failed to treat the material with appropriate seriousness. I disagree.
What Blue Velvet does is expose is how the fake pleasantries of small town values survive only by deliberately turning a blind eye to more corrupt and depraved elements of society. The ‘innocent’ Sandy’s dream is that robins will fly in to deliver radiant light and love to show that all is well with the world. Don’t hold your breath!
Frank Booth (brilliantly played by Dennis Hopper) relishes blackness – “Now it’s dark” he says on three separate occasions to remind us that he is a nocturnal monster.
Lynch uses heavy irony and the kitschy use of Roy Orbison’s ‘In Dreams’ might confuse some in to thinking he wanted to make a black comedy. However, I don’t think he really wants his audience to laugh at these surreal scenes. They are bizarre and weird, but not fun or funny. If anything they make the casual violence of Frank’s hoodlums even more shocking. In cinema you don’t need realism to make something look and feel real.