Thursday, April 24, 2014

Blue Velvet

Written and directed by David Lynch

     David Lynch is one of the most infamous directors out there for the simple fact that a majority of his movies are incomprehensible. Not in an “Oh yeah the themes can be hard to understand” sense, but in a “Nobody knows what they're about and he's not talking” sense. Blue Velvet is one of the few films he's made that has a fairly straightforward plot, and there's STILL pieces that can just confound.
     Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) comes home from college after his father has a heart attack, forcing him to work at his store for a while. Walking in a field on the way back from the hospital, he finds a severed ear. He brings it to the police, but decides he doesn't want to be left out of the investigation, and the chief's daughter Sandy Williams (Laura Dern) helps him out by pointing him towards a nightclub singer, Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), who has something to do with the case.
     And from there, it's clear that Jeffrey ends up over his head. The movie starts out with bright, idyllic imagery of suburbia, contrasted by that severed ear. And Jeffrey's early attempts to play amateur detective are nice enough. But by the time Dorothy enters the picture, things change. She's a broken person that Jeffrey seems to believe he can be a white knight for. He is horribly, horribly wrong. Their relationship is uncomfortable more than anything, with sex scenes that are touched by darkness. And the person he thinks he can save her from is Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper). Frank Booth's role in the movie is minimal, even as the villain. It makes him more effective. Frank is odd, off in the world, saying phrases and doing things that pinball between bizarre and outright disturbing. It's never made entirely clear what he does as a crime lord (besides drugs and practically enslaving Dorothy), but it is very clear that he is pure evil.
     And as Jeffrey realizes this, he becomes more and more distanced from the investigation. In a way, he's like a normal person dropped into a David Lynch movie. You think you can figure everything out, and then you realize you're not even close, and then you're too engrossed to get out. And Jeffrey makes an attempt to just stop, but he realizes he can't, as the dark world he's found is threatening to take over. But he still tries. His smartest moment is when he finds several dead bodies towards the end, and rather than thinking “I need to tell the police” simply says “I'll let them find this.” The mistakes from the beginning are learned the hard way, and the happy suburbia at the end is clearly not the same as the one at the start.

     Blue Velvet is a great place to start for people who haven't seen David Lynch before. From here, it's easy to see both how he can do linear storytelling if he wants to, and how he can still include plenty of disturbing elements. An unsettling experience, which is just what he wants.

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