Blue Velvet Movie Review

Credits slowly emerge from undulating blue velvet as Angelo Badalamenti's arousing score fills the soundtrack. Dissolve to clear, blue skies, clean white picket fences, budding red roses, and yellow tulips. A man riding on a passing fire truck waves. A uniformed crossing guard holds a stop sign allowing children to safely cross the street.

We pass by an elderly fellow who fluidly waters his lawn. He suddenly clutches his neck in pain and falls to the ground. A dog, intrigued by the hose still erect in his hand, playfully jumps on him and drinks from the stream of water. A toddler, unaware of the emergency, strolls down the driveway. The camera then penetrates deep into the ground, where a swarm of hungry, vicious black bugs lurks beneath the idyllic surface of this picture-perfect neighborhood.

And so begins Blue Velvet, an abrasive, original look at violent and perverted behavior that could have only come from the mind of David Lynch -- the man behind material from Eraserhead to Twin Peaks to Mulholland Drive. His movies always contain recurring themes about identity and subconscious worlds, and this film is no different.

We next see the man at the hospital. His son, Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan), visits him. On his way out, he finds an ear in a field. Yes, a severed human ear. He takes it to a local police detective, who explains information about the investigation will remain unsaid. Luckily, the detective's daughter (Laura Dern), hears something about the case. She takes Jeffrey to a house down the street that belongs to a strange and mysterious nightclub singer (Isabella Rossellini).

Believe it or not, David Lynch puts a lot of symbolism in that ear. Hear this: the dirty, bug infested ear is shown throughout the movie. At one point, the camera travels inside the earlobe. This is when Jeffrey decides to follow his internal impulses and investigate the situation deeper. See the metaphor?

Jeffrey makes investigative plans. When the singer leaves her home, he sneaks inside and hides. She returns, catches him, and threatens him with a kitchen knife. A sick, demented freak named Frank (Dennis Hopper) enters, but not before she tells Jeffrey to hide in the closet. Frank inhales drugs, screams obscenities at the woman, and performs a disturbing act of sexual intercourse. Obviously, Frank is an all-around nice guy.

The events that follow resemble the bugs crawling around the ear. Jeffery meets a variety of corrupt characters (the bugs), and makes the choice to continue to investigate, or exterminate. (Yes, all of that meaning from one little ear, but this is David Lynch we're talking about.) References are also made to The Wizard of Oz. I can only try to figure out where that fits, but you bet Lynch had his reasons.

Blue Velvet stirred with controversy and acclaim during its release in 1986. The film is rather interesting, filled with immense talent and attention to detail. However, it's never actually gripping. The mystery is not very involving, the relationships feel clichéd, and the subplots and side characters often overpower our interest level. But the brutally honest performances, articulate style, and the movie's sexual and violent shock value save the story from becoming too stale or uninspiring.

The film delivers very disturbing, unpleasant material. How disturbing? Val Kilmer, who was originally offered the role of Jeffrey, referred to the script as "pornography." The MPAA also had concern about the film's violence towards women, therefore a scene where Dennis Hopper hits Rossellini was edited so that his hand connects with her face offscreen. In other words, this is not a movie to rent on a date.

For a "Special Edition" DVD, Blue Velvet is awfully light (alas, the movie is so good it's a real must-own). Aside from a few deleted scenes (recreated in a freaky, unwatchable montage of publicity stills) and a very long making-of documentary (actually quite interesting if you're really into Lynch), the disc offers little else aside from Siskel and Ebert's review of the film. Who asked for this is an extra!?

Comments

Blue Velvet Rating

" Excellent "

Rating: R, 1986

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