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Choice Cuts : Blue Velvet

Apparently, it took me two plus weeks to stop reeling from viewing The Baby Of Mâcon. Apologies for the delay on the next Halloween choice cuts article. Anyway, onto the film, this week David Lynch’s cult classic, Blue Velvet. I am unsure why I keep doing this to myself.

Blue Velvet is a 1986 American neo-noir mystery thriller, written and directed by David Lynch. Blending psychological horror with film noir, the film stars Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, and Laura Dern. Blue Velvet is named after the 1951 song of the same name. The film concerns a young college student who, returning home to visit his ill father, discovers a severed human ear in a field. The ear then leads him to uncover a vast & brutal criminal conspiracy and enter a romantic relationship with a troubled lounge singer.

The lighting and camera work throughout this film is incredible, not surprisingly the lighting is often coloured blue, cleverly tying the themes of the film, mood, visuals & audio together. Strange & unique camera angles and the relaxed but unsettling score by Angelo Badalamenti really add to the tension throughout. Badalamenti has created a very cool film noir soundscape.

Blue Velvet is incredibly cinematic, the film opens with a filming style similar to 1950’s cinema, a period Lynch is reported to be fascinated by. The music throughout the film is mostly from the 1950’s or has a certain 1950’s charm to it. Lynch has been quoted to say the ’50’s were a time of truly meaningful joy that heralded the end of WW2 and a return to normality. David Lynch states it was a time we were content with a simple life & did not want for too much excitement. Lynch has also been quoted to say; as the human race becomes used to or complacent with a simple & quiet existence, we start to crave darker means of excitement, violence and debauchery. Lynch argues this is why cinema & TV has grown more & more violent as time has progressed. Blue Velvet & The TV series Twin Peaks (season 3 in particular) certainly shadow this idea.  The 1950’s style cinematography is soon replaced by Lynchian artistic shots & film noir stylised horror. The film quickly descends from absolute reality to an out-and-out nightmare.

Blue Velvet could be described as a commentary on the worm-in-the-bud of “ordinary” American society, if this is Lynch’s true intention than he has achieved an astonishing capacity to hit the viewer below the belt & find a joy in doing so. However, I think the real significance lies not in any general comment but in a series of observations, mainly concerning our fears about what we might become if our familiar constraints were to be blown away.

It has to be said David Lynch has done a great job casting this film Kyle MacLachlan  is fantastic as, Jeffery a naive college student and Isabella Rossellini absolutely nails the traits of someone that has been horribly broken & tormented. Dennis Hopper’s character, Frank really dominates this film, Lynch has managed to create a thoroughly depraved but believable character and Denis Hopper fits the role perfectly. I think Frank will remain one of the most unpleasant and terrifying characters committed to film for years to come.

From the nostalgic beginning, to the dark & twisting middle, to the “happy ending” the viewer is made to feel very uncomfortable throughout. Lynch controls the film with the kind of icy expertise it needs, the cinematic vortex swirls this way and that, from innocent naivete to supreme decadence, involving those who watch Blue Velvet in the experience as much as the characters within the film. The happy ending is also thoroughly unconvincing, and I think it is meant to be. The flowers in the garden where Kyle MacLachlan’s character wakes are just too pretty/artificial to be true. The fact the end mirrors the start; may mean more horror is yet to come and the final image of a clearly artificial robin with a live bug in its beak adds to the unease.

Blue Velvet is a very stylised film, a commentary on rites of passage and a psychotic thriller that’s deliberately out to shock.

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