Blue Velvet

Movie Review by Kris Griffiths

Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern
Director: David Lynch

BLUE VELVET was first released in 1986 – the year where ridiculous eighties haircuts reached their height of stupidity. Here we see Laura Dern sporting one of those huge quiffed mullets that girls in those days thought looked pretty. Guffaws aside, the movie is another strange sample from the dark recesses of its writer’s brain. Sandwiched neatly between DUNE and TWIN PEAKS, BLUE VELVET is a typically bizarre Lynchian formula. A good formula though.

Kyle Maclachlan pops up again in the second of his trilogy of films for David Lynch (excluding television’s TWIN PEAKS), this time as naïve college kid Jeffrey Beaumont. Strolling around his sleepy little village one day, a bored Jeffrey stumbles upon a human ear lying on the ground and brings it to the local detective’s house. The detective’s daughter (Dern) takes a shine to him and secretly tells him about a mysterious cabaret singer, Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), who is probably linked to the severed ear. Feeling all adventurous, Jeffrey decides to sneak into Dorothy’s flat for a quick snoop but, of course, she comes home unexpectedly and he has to jump into the cupboard. Then in walks probably the most humorously psychotic character in movie history named Frank Booth and played by an over-the-top Dennis Hopper. Jeffrey gets a front row seat for an impromptu sex show, but rather than a harmless quickie Frank rapes Dorothy whilst punching her in the face, babbling dementedly and inhaling some kind of drug through an oxygen mask. Strangely enough she seems to get off on it. Stranger still, after discovering Jeffrey in her cupboard following Frank’s swift departure, she decides that she fancies him and orders him to make love to her, and punch her a couple of times too. Thus Jeffrey is slowly drawn into a fucked-up world where he inevitably gets way, way, out of his depth. Frank is none too pleased when he discovers him paying a romantic visit to his missus. Silly Jeffrey.

As David Lynch films go, BLUE VELVET is actually not as bizarre as it appears – it contains a relatively simple linear plot and no dwarves. As he does in his following project, Lynch explores the madness imbued in the darker side to small-town America, where a veneer of tranquillity is undercut by a hidden evil. In doing so he creates characteristic scenes of contrasting beauty and depravity such as the tragi-comic scene where Frank brings Jeffrey to meet his crazy chums at a little get-together. We see that as well as brutal sadomasochism Frank likes a bit of Roy Orbison as well when he orders one of his mates to perform a ballad whilst Jeffrey is slapped around.

There is, as always, the usual array of symbolic images that pop up at dramatic moments such as candles blowing out and extreme close-ups of insects. In the end it all comes together to form the rich visual tapestry that makes Lynch’s work so brilliantly weird and so weirdly brilliant. BLUE VELVET was excellent in 1986 and still is today. If it has managed to bypass you after all these years then do yourself a favour and go and watch it. Immediately.

5 out of 6 stars

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