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3 reviews, 90 user ratings

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Blue Velvet
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Still nothing like it."
5 stars

David Lynch’s masterpiece "Blue Velvet," which is getting a limited 30th-anniversary re-release in theaters this year, has lost very little of its juice or shock in three decades.

Since it wears the sheep’s clothing of fifties retro, other than the Aqua-Netted hair on some briefly seen high-school girls, not much ties the film to the mid-‘80s, either. It’s just this angelic/satanic hybrid reality, full of dichotomies and abstracted imagery and behavior. Like Lynch’s Twin Peaks, the film has a mystery at its center, but Lynch just uses it as an excuse to swim around inside his own obsessions, which become — and this is his artistry — our obsessions, at least for two hours.

The mystery here activates when college student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan), walking home through a field, finds a severed human ear. At one point, Lynch’s camera travels into the earhole, and the rest of the movie could be said to be a walkabout inside Lynch’s head. The ear leads to a drug ring, a kidnapped father and child, and the ultimate sadist and masochist — Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), who seems to be made out of profanity, and Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), who seems to be his not-quite-unwilling sex slave. I really have zero interest in summing up the plot, though, because if there’s one movie that is resolutely not about its plot, Blue Velvet is that movie.

Soaked in Freud and Jungian dream logic, the film proposes a split between darkness and light in which both sides are absurdly, almost cartoonishly heightened. It’s either picket fences or industrial rust, colors that pop in the sunshine or shadows that hide secrets and kinks. Even the dialogue echoes with oppositions: “I don’t know whether you’re a detective or a pervert”; “I don’t want to hurt you, I want to help you.” (With both these examples, the movie proves that there’s no reason both can’t be true.) Frank, enacting his ritualistic tryst with Dorothy (in which conventional coitus, including penetration, seems off the table), flips between being “Daddy” and “Baby” — infantilized by his own thirst for macho domination. Hopper is certainly ferocious as this rough beast, but then he goes beyond that into a weird sensitivity. Face to face with Jeffrey, his opposite number, Frank taunts him by whispering “You’re like me” and then plants some lipsticky kisses on him. The movie is, in part, about how Jeffrey recognizes this kinship to Frank but then rejects it. The question is whether such kinship, once recognized, can be rejected.

Frank’s violently sexual/sexless relationship with Dorothy and his tweaking of Jeffrey seem to proceed from the same impulse that brings him to Ben (Dean Stockwell), a “suave” and fey criminal of some sort. Frank takes Jeffrey, Dorothy, and his amusingly bedraggled posse of ne’er-do-wells to Ben’s for a brief business meeting, and also so that Dorothy can see her little boy, who apparently rejects her. (Is it because he can sense that Jeffrey has “put his disease” in her?) Ben’s pad is full of matronly women with cat’s-eye glasses and bouffants; whatever else it is, it’s the least likely place of criminal business anyone has ever seen. Frank, who abuses and yells at everyone else, seems to respect the effeminate Ben, and stands mesmerized and agonized as Ben lip-syncs Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams.” Frank seems to need this song as much as he needs whatever he huffs from his gas mask. He’s a bastard and a maniac but also infernally human.

Lynch and his invaluable sound designer Alan Splet turn Blue Velvet into an apocalyptic, chthonic noise-scape, wedded to Angelo Badalamenti’s lush, minacious score, whose main melody seems an extension of Bernard Herrmann’s looping music for Vertigo. The movie is perhaps the most conventionally plotted of Lynch’s weirder work — it has clues, narrative beats, a resolution — and that might be why it ranks as many people’s favorite Lynch film, but I think its undeniable technical sophistication also helps put it over for those who would have little patience for Lynch’s later puzzles (Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive). It walks and talks like a classically structured movie, and yet it doesn’t; it’s decayed and curled at the edges in so many ways. The movie’s eroticism — the dangerously intimate bits between Jeffrey and Dorothy that pass over into rage and release — is probably still unsurpassed, except perhaps by Buñuel’s Belle de Jour. Rossellini possibly isn’t quite acting; she gives physically of herself totally, and her spiky emotions derive from her literal nakedness.

One of Blue Velvet’s last images, famously, is of a (fake-looking) robin with an insect in its beak, calling back to the vision of Sandy Williams (Laura Dern), the local detective’s daughter and Jeffrey’s sometime helper on this “case,” of the arrival of robins to dispel the darkness. The equally famous opening of the movie, with its hyper-bright flowers and fire truck giving way to Jeffrey’s dad’s stroke (I always think the kinked-up garden hose somehow causes the stroke — does anyone else?) and the subterranean black bugs, seems to be the entire movie in miniature, all its themes laid out in pictures — even the TV playing in Jeffrey’s house foreshadows things to come.

The fake robin may or may not triumph over or devour the insect it’s carrying. Entire books could be (and probably have been) devoted to that one bothersome image. But the very final image is of Dorothy, still wearing her fetishistic performer’s wig, in what you’d think is a moment of reunion and rapture, except that something seems to remind her of her bombed-out rendition of the movie’s theme song, and for a moment her expression becomes troubled. Even if the insect is vanquished by the robin, there are many more like it hiding in the grass, in the shadows under the white picket fence. I think Lynch sincerely wants to believe in Sandy and her vision, but Blue Velvet’s position during the “morning in America” Reagan era is neither an accident nor a coincidence; Lynch wants us to look under the shiny surface, as he did at greater length in Twin Peaks.

Days are not always sunny, but nights are always dark.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=925&reviewer=416
originally posted: 04/20/16 18:05:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 CineVegas Film Festival For more in the 2007 CineVegas Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/09/17 morris campbell overrated IMO 1 stars
8/08/17 Louise Badly-acted, unscary, pretentious tripe. Lynch IS overrated. 2 stars
11/17/11 Mike Groesbeck made my family VERY uncomfortable 5 stars
10/05/11 David Hollingsworth Perverse, messed up, but brilliant film 5 stars
7/17/11 Bob Dog Lynch's Ultimate Masterpiece. 5 stars
6/10/11 Jack Lantern Lynch has done a lot better, but it's still good. 3 stars
7/03/10 matt suave. goddamn you're one suave fucker 5 stars
12/23/09 Jeff Wilder One of the best films of the 80s. Lynch's masterpiece. It gets under your skin. 5 stars
10/18/09 Chad Dillon Cooper A very twisted film noir. Cudos to Dennis Hopper. 5 stars
7/25/09 Bluemagoo Inspired insanity, a landmark film! 5 stars
4/15/09 K. Sear I've never been much of a Lynch fan so I'm surprised to say that I really liked this movie! 5 stars
10/04/08 Dr.Lao Disturbing, unsettling even a bit replusive...I liked it! 4 stars
10/31/07 Jenny Overrated. All style, no substance. I can't believe people call this a classic 2 stars
9/03/07 MP Bartley Crawls under your skin like a bad sweaty dream. 4 stars
6/13/07 Bitchflaps I don't really dig David Lynch, but this and Mulholland Dr. are perhaps his best films. 4 stars
6/09/07 Bob Twin Peaks on nitrous. Wanna go for a ride, Neighbor? 5 stars
5/02/07 john One of a kind in my opinion. In my top ten films of all time. 5 stars
4/01/07 matthew intentionally naive, deceptively simple and ultimately great. dennis hopper is outstanding 5 stars
12/30/06 mr.mike i agree with the comments of indrid. 3 stars
11/13/06 cheezwzl You become Jeffrey Beaumont while watching this. Eerie. By the way, it was NitrousOxide. 5 stars
9/13/06 Josh Racine This and "The Elephant Man" are the highlights of Lynch's career. 5 stars
9/11/05 Total Crap Didn't know I had this movie- I watched it and it freaked me out. 4 stars
7/11/05 Tom Benton Dark, bizarre and beautiful; a Lynch masterpiece. 5 stars
6/20/05 R his most popular because it wrapped up all pretty for people, excellent, nonetheless. 5 stars
6/12/05 Agent Sands "Pleasantville" meets "Deliverance." 5 stars
6/09/05 Indrid Cold I love Lynch, but this movie just doesn't do much for me, unlike the similar Mulholland Dr. 3 stars
5/29/05 Jake Not the masterpiece people have been claiming but still good 4 stars
5/11/05 Mike Lynch's best film by far 5 stars
8/11/04 DM At times too weird for its own good, but not bad overall 4 stars
7/31/04 Chris Amazing, but highly disturbing. Not my favorite Lynch film, though. 5 stars
7/20/04 Steve Adams Creepy 5 stars
7/20/04 Jamesiegod Man oh man oh man! -- It's Only The Bug Man. 5 stars
7/19/04 Jack Sommersby Lynch's masterpiece and one of the 10-best films of all time. 5 stars
6/04/04 Daveman Surrealism that doesn't make the viewer feel a million miles away, Lynch's best film. 2 stars
6/04/04 MyGreenBed Hopper's absolutely amazing here. Lynch is very assured directing (for once). 80's classic. 5 stars
3/24/04 Lord Haw Haw Twisted and fascinating. Frank Booth is one scary SOB. 5 stars
1/31/04 EdRosengaard Not his best, but still damn good 5 stars
12/30/03 LIAM JACKSON frank booth:a man with too much testosterone and too short a temper.twisted stuff.***** 5 stars
12/05/03 john truly intense and scary at times - Lynch reaches perfection with this film 5 stars
9/18/03 Me You're all brainwashed Lynch minions. Grow a backbone and learn to think for yourselves 1 stars
9/08/03 tim great 5 stars
9/04/03 eddie LET'S FUUUUUCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!! 5 stars
8/20/03 Jack Bourbon Loveable freakshow. 5 stars
8/16/03 Jon Lyrik Hopper is hoppin' mad, so is Lynch. Classic stuff. 5 stars
7/20/03 I Would No other 80's film comes close. 5 stars
7/09/03 paul fernandez you can love it or hate it at the same time. very brilliant film making style 4 stars
7/05/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back MoFos!!!) Further down the page, you'll see Matthew Smith's got the idea. 4 stars
5/25/03 John40 masterpiece 5 stars
4/15/03 Jack Bourbon Gotta love how the DVD mocks Roger Ebert simply by showing his review. :D 5 stars
3/08/03 LIAM JACKSON this film is awesome! i loved it! it's so fucking bizarre and weird! great!**************** 5 stars
12/28/02 Jack Sommersby The second-best American film ever made. 5 stars
12/06/02 Kyle Stinky. Only worth seeing because of the controversy. 3 stars
11/22/02 Charles Tatum Unmemorable raunch 3 stars
7/27/02 marcamus this film sucked! not worth a look. 1 stars
7/12/02 Edfink Lombardo The best film of the 80s. Hopper's best performance, and Dean Stockwell is hilarious. 5 stars
6/10/02 Matthew Smith it's up there as David Lynch's best film, along with Mulholland Drive, a classic 5 stars
5/16/02 Nila Mitchell Painful. Would have potential if it wasn't filmed in the 80's. 1 stars
3/20/02 The Man The great sick masterpiece. To watch it unfold is truly a pleasure. Many shocking moments 5 stars
3/04/02 Scottish Kilt One of the wierdest movie i have ever seen, Hopper's great though, his greatest performance 4 stars
2/19/02 R.W. Welch A little schizo but manages to keep your attention. 4 stars
2/18/02 Edwin Wanna sweet, suck yer feet 5 stars
12/01/01 Monster W. Kung I'm sorry, but this was righdown badly-acted mediocrity. 2 stars
11/27/01 Ian Barr The best film of the 80's? 5 stars
11/04/01 E-Funk To explain this film would be to ruin it. Lynch's best film to date. Hopper is amazing. 5 stars
10/24/01 Joe R. Now its dark. 5 stars
9/15/01 Trevor Not good on any level 1 stars
7/15/01 Basil Dennis Hopper made me have flashbacks of working at the phone sex line. 4 stars
6/05/01 Just like a Wop . . . Fuck Heineken!! Pabst Blue-Ribbon!! 5 stars
5/22/01 Bada Bing Crosby What can anyone say, this is the GrandDad of an entire genre 5 stars
4/13/01 The Bomb 69 wild, wacky shit, Hopper is amazing 5 stars
3/07/01 Mike It's a strange world, It's a strangle hold! 5 stars
3/03/01 Frank Booth II Heinekin?!?!?! Fuck that shit.......PABST BLUE-RIBBON!!!!! 5 stars
2/20/01 Rocket Boy Gorgeous, horrifying, and unsettling. 5 stars
12/27/00 Viking a thinking man's horror movie !!! 5 stars
11/10/00 karl kukta bits and pieces 5 stars
8/19/00 Robin a lot like Twin Peaks, only better 5 stars
7/11/00 Jami Nothing short of brilliant. A sardonic, frightening, and grotesque look at suburbia 5 stars
5/02/00 cort major Great movie-Lynch is a master filmmaker 5 stars
5/01/00 Alanna S Insane, gothic, grotesque. Turns the filmic body inside out. 5 stars
3/02/00 Josh Really entertaining, suspencfull 4 stars
12/16/99 Frank Booth What are you looking at?!?! 5 stars
10/26/99 Karahde Khan Best movie ever? Probably. One of the Top 5 in my book? Sure. 5 stars
10/07/99 sophia962 I'd watch worse for Isabella. Self-conscious but watchable. 4 stars
9/23/99 Dr. Fardook Ah, Kyle MacLachlan: the only man who can break into an appartment and still get laid 5 stars
2/17/99 Bishop Great film, very weird, but great. This is the kind of stuff Lynch excels at. 5 stars
1/07/99 Jo Mama fuck that shit! Papst Blue Ribbon! 4 stars
1/02/99 Dasha Overrated and not scary at all. 2 stars
11/22/98 little jerry The last REAL Lynch film to date before he derailed with ANYTHING GOES juvenilia. 4 stars
11/06/98 Lord Of The Dunce Weird, good, strange, good, Lynch, good, gross, good. 4 stars
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  19-Sep-1986 (R)
  DVD: 25-Apr-2000



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