Saturday, January 15, 2005

Blue Velvet Review

Blue Velvet comes from my collection of Chinese bootlegs. My sister Bethany and her husband Brian are teaching English in China. Apparently you can purchase a wide assortment of DVD's there very cheaply. So I supply them with big lists of movies I'd like and when they come home they bring me a big stack. There are never any special features on the DVD's, but the picture is usually good and for $1 a piece, that's all I need.

Blue Velvet is dark, scary, freaky, and really good. Which is how you cold describe most of David Lynch's films. His films are often filled with symbolism and it is easy to finish one of his films and have no real idea of what actually happened. They usually take two or three viewings, and a little research to get a good idea what the movie is actually trying to convey. Blue Velvet has a simpler plot that can generally be understood at a basic level upon first viewing, but there is plenty of symbolism and deeper meaning to make it "enjoyable" for further viewings. I put enjoyable in quotation marks because to many watching it is not an enjoyable experience. It is a movie deep seated in horror, with scenes that make you crawl under the covers and lock the doors. For the cinephile it is a type of pleasure to watch a lurid piece of cinema with enough depth to require multiple viewings. For the weekend movie watcher it is probably too much to stomach.

The film starts with an idyllic, picturesque small town. It's a town where every day has blue skies, manicured lawns, pretty flowers, and quiet simple people. Lynch fills the screen with gorgeous pictures straight out of fifties television shows. But this is a David Lynch movie and the pretty pictures don't last long. Quickly a nice old man who is watering his lawn falls down near death. The camera pans down past the convulsing man and deep into the grass. Digging into the earth until the camera is dark with freshly wet dirt and grotesque bugs. The idyllic town is only pretty on the surface. Underneath the top layer of goodness lies a darker, seedier town hidden from the eyes of most of its citizens.

The plot of the film revolves around Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern delving deeper and deeper into the darker side of the small town. MacLachlan finds a dismembered ear on his walk home from the hospital one afternoon. Finding such a macabre in his hometown sparks a quest to discover who's head the ear could belong to and why it was removed. He involves the good girl Laura Dern in his quest and they sink into darker waters. To tell more of the plot is to give away too much. I'll just say that it is not for the weak of heart.

Dennis Hopper plays one of cinemas creepiest villains to date. His psychosis is even more terrifying in that it is so real. Here is no Freddy Krueger, or even a Hannibal Lector. This is not some crazed psychopath lurking in the corner. Sure he is psychotic, and maniacal, but versions of him can be found almost nightly in any major city newspaper. He is not a homicidal maniac, but a violent, evil man made even more so by his addiction to unnamed drugs.

Isabella Rossellini plays Dorothy Valens with such beauty and sadness it breaks your heart as it squirms your stomach. Her character has taken such horrible abuse over her life she has come to like and enjoy it. Mixed with heavy amounts masochism her performance is remarkable.

There were several times while watching this with my wife, Amy that she said she couldn't keep watching it. After the credits rolled she said she would never watch it again. I suspect this is the sentiments of many viewers after watching Blue Velvet. But if you can stomach the violence, masochism and overall creepiness there is a lot of pure cinema to study.

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