Check out the Latest Articles:
It’s a Strange World, Isn’t It? — Blue Velvet

Take a step back and really look at David Lynch‘s masterpiece

Midnight showing. Blue Velvet. Local theatre. It didn’t really hit me until the day of the screening, but this was my favourite movie from my favourite director. I don’t believe in the single greatest anything, but this is the flick that I name when asked the “What’s your favourite movie” question. This movie was my introduction to truly great cinema. This is not a review… that would be measuring brush-strokes on Guernica. This is a primer of sorts for the best starting point; a sherpa on the path to appreciating all things David Lynch.

The Big Picture

The 80s were the new 50s, and the movie industry was now exclusively playing by the rules of the executives and departments who had ousted the old, rich cinema-loving movie moguls of the past. Theatres were mired in popcorn explosion flicks with destruction the likes of which we’d never seen, followed by Weekend at Bernie’s summer blockbusters of mindless tripe. The Cineplex and the art house, which were few and far between and still catered to its “cult” audiences, were distant cousins who’d never really met at an awkward family reunion picnic. Following the ‘cult’ success of Eraserhead, the meteoric acclaim of Elephant Man, and the crashing and burning of the epic Dune, Lynch created Blue Velvet for half the pay and budget in return for final cut.

David Lynch

David Lynch

“Absurdity is what I like most in life, and there’s humor in struggling in ignorance. If you saw a man repeatedly running into a wall until he was a bloody pulp, after a while it would make you laugh because it becomes absurd.”

It is also no coincidence that I call it Lynch’s masterpiece, because this helps exemplify the very argument between movies as a medium and cinema as an art form. You can watch Blue Velvet with the mentality of “I don’t know much about art [flicks], but I know what I like” and see a mystery/drama that’s a little strange but would look terrible in your living room. Myself, I see Lynch’s roots in Fine Arts expressed through the camera lens instead of the canvas. Subtext, profundity, pathos; the movie is intended to move you and lead your emotions the way Van Gogh would lead the eyes and evoke feelings.


Blue Velvet is often referred to as Lynch’s most personal film, reflecting his own life growing up in idyllic Missoula, Montana. The expression of Lynch’s ideals as we see the world through the eyes of his doppleganger, Jeffrey Beaumont, is vital as we the viewers share this vision and become complicit in the mystery; ensnared in the ethical, moral, and emotional questions arisen. Kyle MacLachlan brilliantly plays Jeffrey, specifically chosen by Lynch for his innate ability to portray both the doe-eyed innocent and the serenity of one with profound knowledge behind his eyes.

This duality also applies to the film itself. What it is on the surface and what lies beneath are two very different things. These are not competing elements, but simply two sides to the story, like Jeffrey and Frank Booth being so fundamentally different and yet (as Frank points out) “the same”. Perhaps that is how an ‘art-house’ film could reach a ‘mainstream’ audience and help define a new genre when the industry needed it most. It’s ironic that it was a harsh reflection of the movie-going experience. On the surface was a relatively simple (yet oddly disturbing) whodunit with a nice fuzzy happy ending. This is directly contrasted with the subtext of the dark, insidious, putrid underbelly of the town and the film, and where the true satire of traditional cinema lies.


In an interview, Dennis Hopper claimed that writer/director David Lynch would never say the word “fuck” during filming, he would simply point to the line in the script and say “that word”. Hopper laughed, saying “He can write it, but he won’t say it. He’s a peculiar man.” Lynch has said this isn’t exactly true, but he didn’t want to charge the atmosphere anymore than it already was.

“Break the code, solve the crime”

The first scene of this movie is the key to unraveling this mystery, especially when bookended with the finale. Arguably any given scene in the movie applies to this formula, but we’ll focus on the introduction. The perfect little town. The vividly colourful mundane of the flowers swaying in front of the cliche white picket fence. The beaming, waving fireman on a bright red firetruck in slow motion, right down to the dalmatian at his side. Bobby Vinton crooning the muzak version of Blue Velvet, on a radio station pouring out antiquated niceties like “at the sound of the falling log it’s 9:30″.

All of this hyper-reality versus the eventual surreality of the unfolded mystery is embellished by our own pathetic curiousity; the kink in the hose as things start to go awry. As an unknown mysterious ailment suddenly strikes down dear ol’ Dad, after a brief, absurdly Norman Rockwell moment with the little dog and the presumably first steps of the toddler, things begin to distort. The camera starts moving in an unnatural sense, begins to zoom in uncomfortably as it begins to examine what is underneath the innocence. An infestation of anger, insects and filth battle just below our usual range of perception. We are immersed in mechanical, industrial noise and lost in the unsettling darkness with no frame of reference. We are Gregor Samsa as the dream twists and deforms into a nightmare. Then, unceremoniously snapped back into reality by a familiar landmark (in this case, the Lumberton sign), we force ourselves to refocus.

“It makes me uncomfortable to talk about meanings and things. It’s better not to know so much about what things mean. Because the meaning, it’s a very personal thing and the meaning for me is different than the meaning for somebody else.” — David Lynch

“That’s a human ear alright.”

Music and the auditory experience plays a vital role in Blue Velvet, the most obvious example being the titular tune. First heard as the original Bobby Vinton version, and later as the soulful Angelo Badalamenti rendition. Dorothy Vallens is monotonous yet passionate as Sandy watches in borderline horror and Jeffrey listens intently, enthralled by the femme fatale who has become the most alluring and enticing character in his universe. The particular has become the everything, as Jeffrey’s basal urges, instinct and intuition transform him into the “sleeper who awakens.” And this is it’s anthem.

Lynch continually preys on traditional visual or audial cues, juxtaposing or removing vital bits of information. Ominous music and insidious pacing leads to a split second of calm relief before we are thrust into the mouth of madness. A symphony of visual clues allows certain sounds to be envisioned as he weaves his story on the screen and toys with our emotions based on conditioned response to traditional film cliches.


“The funniest joke, is that it literally goes in one ear, and out the other. #Subtext” — @FLIMgeeks

“Now It’s Dark” and the limits of Jeffrey’s comprehension.

It is clear we’re intended to view the world entirely through Jeffrey. As the plot unravels and we delve into mysterious waters, or Deep Rivers as it were, we also see the limitations of the vantage point as Jeffrey’s mind simply cannot comprehend what it is beholding. How would we deal with concepts that we’re simply not prepared to handle?

  • The Quest for the ‘Lost Child’
  • Sexual Awakenings
  • Corruption of Innocence
  • Transference of Abuse

How do we cope with this change in perception, as we ourselves change and evolve… do we distort and transform the truth into something more manageable? Do we simply cut to black, blow out the candle, and keep out the truth? Do we just reassure ourselves that we know reality, and this clearly isn’t it, so it must be a dream?


“In Dreams” and the movie-going experience

It was all a dream. In Heaven, Everything is Fine, it was just a dream. How do we deal with things that we cannot comprehend and how does it change our perception of the world around us? Dreams in movies always seem redundant, since the very nature of the medium is ethereal when done correctly. If I told you I was involved in a love affair and violent crime, you’d be shocked and horrified. If I gave the same data, but different metadata of “I had a dream” or “I saw this movie…” it’s compelling and you wonder exactly what’s significant and what it may represent.

  • Shades of Wizard of Oz as Jeffrey wakes up on the lawn chair, returning to his regular life and Jack Nance taking his place in Jeffrey’s everyday banality
  • “In dreams… I walk with you. In dreams… I talk to you. In dreams, you’re mine… all the time. Forever” Frank Booth
  • “I had a dream. In fact, it was on the night I met you. In the dream, there was our world, and the world was dark because there weren’t any robins and the robins represented love. And for the longest time, there was this darkness. And all of a sudden, thousands of robins were set free and they flew down and brought this blinding light of love. And it seemed that love would make any difference, and it did. So, I guess it means that there is trouble until the robins come.” Sandy
  • Significant events don’t happen until night falls, as the everyday life flashes by into irrelevance
  • In Dreams by Roy Orbison, aka Candy-Coloured Clown and the infamous Dean Stockwell

In Dreams

Happy Endings

Apply the theme to an innocent, coming of age story and creating an enthralling mystery out of the mundane as your life changes whether you wish it to or not. With Jeffrey, we leave the ‘innocence’ of childhood to approach enlightenment, peering into that world we know exists behind closed doors but never knew firsthand and could only glimpse between the closet door slats. That’s the fear Lynch evokes–not of the unknown, but of the precipice you’re standing on when you look down upon the void.

“If you look long enough into the void the void begins to look back through you.” — Friedrich Nietzche

With a deeply sarcastic ending, Jeffrey is Winston Smith in the idyllic little town of Lumberton, where the only crime is on TV. The mechanical robin as the most fitting prelude to the introduction to Twin Peaks, and the mystery of “Who Killed Laura Palmer?”

Follow @FLIMgeeks for more discussion and information

Coming Soon: Twin Peaks Fest 2009 – Organized viewing and general Peak-geekery

“Peakers do it with Logs”

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Spread the Word:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • FriendFeed
  • MySpace
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter

Similar Geekitude

  • Terminator: Legacy
    Long after humanity's triumph over the machines, three groups of survivors inhabit the post-apocalyptic wasteland, The Johns (Connor's rigid...
  • Dune
    The Fremen have a saying, "God created Arrakis to train the faithful." I say :"Frank Herbert created Dune to cause me to procrastinate ince...
  • What’s Wrong with the Watchmen?
    Why are the numbers "so disappointing" and why has Warner Bros sworn off R-rated comic flicks entirely because of The Watchmen? Anyone who ...

blog comments powered by Disqus