Continuing to wend my way through the Sight and Sound Top 250 Greatest Movies of All Time. This week, it’s #072 on the list, here. And if you want a heads-up on what I’ll be watching for next week in case you want to watch along, just head on over to the Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (both of those links are also in the sidebar) where I’ll generally be posting that info later in the day.. For a longer introduction to this series and a look at the full list, just click
My initial reaction to watching David Lynch’s Blue Velvet for the first time was surprise at how mainstream it seemed – at least, mainstream for a David Lynch movie. Of course, the addition of that phrase “for a David Lynch movie” changes the tenor of any discussion right at the start.
Especially coming pretty directly off of a first-time viewing of Eraserhead (which you can read my reaction to here), in which it seemed as though Lynch was trying to throw every bit of outre and shocking imagery he could in any way tie into the narrative, Blue Velvet seems, despite some truly shocking moments, almost restrained.
First of all, there’s the plot, which may by itself seem a departure from Lynch’s previous (and some of his later) movie(s). Not the nature of the plot, but the fact that one even exists and that he actually carries it through to the end of the film. As opposed to Eraserhead, where Lynch eschewed plot for tone, or Mulholland Drive, where it seems as though he may have started with a plot, but abandoned it somewhere along the way to replace it with multiple “what is real and what isn’t?” twists and images, Blue Velvet has a true beginning middle and end, and while some of the scenes along the way may be very disturbing, they all lead to that end instead of being digressions without purpose or inserted with only the purpose of shock.
Lynch also seems to have a much better control of his characters here than in many of his other films, and though by their very nature it is easy to see them as cruel and crude, disturbed and disturbing – even our supposed heroine in distress, Dorothy Vallens shows a side that makes one wonder just how much distress she is truly in and how much of that she has invited upon herself – it is that very nature that drives the film towards its conclusion. These are not characters that are simply there to be strange – though strange they may be – but to help Lynch tell the story he wants to tell.
The performances, from stars Dennis Hopper, Isabella Rosellini, and a very young Kyle MacLachlan, down to smaller roles by performers such as Dean Stockwell, Laura Dern, and Jack Nance (almost unrecognizable from his turn as Henry Spenser in Eraserhead), also seem to be well under Lynch’s control, and never quite go so far over the top that they completely collapse the structure of the film, as might be the case with a lesser film maker. Though I also hasten to add that I can’t see a lesser film maker even attempting a movie like this in the first place. As I noted above, Blue Velvet may be mainstream for Lynch, but that still puts it pretty far outside of the real mainstream.
In the end, I’m simply going to say this: if you’re a fan of Lynch, then you’re probably going to like this movie. If you’ve seen some of Lynch’s more outrageous work but not this film, then you might want to check this one out. I’m not going to promise that it will change your mind about him, but there’s a chance that it might. If, on the other hand, you haven’t seen any movies by Lynch because you’ve been put off by what you have heard about him and by his reputation for outrageousness, then Blue Velvet really might not be a bad place to start if you want to see just what he is all about.
Here’s the trailer:
- Documentary: I Don’t Know Jack (neatorama.com)
- Patti Smith and David Lynch Interview Each Other About Pussy Riot, “Twin Peaks” on BBC TV Show (pitchfork.com)
- Isabella Rossellini Looks Back On Her Nude Scene In ‘Blue Velvet’ (huffingtonpost.com)