on July 18, 2004
I've had a weird experience with this movie. The first time I saw it, I couldn't help being disappointed having already seen some of Lynch's other films. While Dennis Hopper's performance was impressive and many of his quotes from Blue Velvet stuck in my memory, somehow things just didn't click and I more or less thought of 'Blue Velvet' as a somewhat interesting, but ultimately forgettable experience. The seemingly good vs. evil theme of the film (the robins and Sandy's dream) in particular annoyed me and the whole thing added a definite 'cheese' factor.
One night I decided to give Blue Velvet another chance and surprisingly the experience was a much richer one; in fact, I would now say that this is an excellent movie.
[Incidentally, Lynch's Lost Highway had a somewhat similar, but completely opposite effect - I went from thinking that it was a great flick to thinking it was an alright one].
I would say that it is wrong to say that this film is about 'good vs. evil' or that Lynch is trying to make any sort of a moral statement in it; the nuances of Blue Velvet are much more subtle than that and the characters more complicated. As most of Lynch's work, Blue Velvet is about obsession and obsession luring people into dark corners of the world. The film pulls the viewer (as a voyeur) into its dangerous and strange universe and relies much (as a lot of other Lynch movies) on the pure flow of images, the atmospheric experience. The sound element adds much to enriching this powerful experience and Blue Velvet as a whole invites multiple viewings.
In my opinion this is one of Lynch's fairly straight forward films in terms of the linear-time progression (along with The Elephant Man and The Straight Story) and as such might serve as a good introductory movie to those who want to become more familiar with his work. (Mulholland Drive is, I believe, so far the consummation of Lynch's previous efforts into one crowning achievement).
Also, there are many interesting bonus materials in this little DVD package.
David Lynch's "Blue Velvet" (1986) is a surreal tale that takes place in a small lumber town which has the big city problems of murders, and gangs. Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) discovers the dark side of the town as he investigates the mystery behind a human ear he finds in a field.
This blu-ray appears to be the same master as the Special Edition dvd that came out in 2002, but now seen in 1080p. Though what this blu-ray has over past releases is 50 minutes of newly discovered footage, whereas the 2002 dvd Special Edition only had about 9 minutes of still photographs that approximated the lost footage. Lynch had shot about four hours of film, which he then trimmed down to two hours for the final cut of the film. Two other things the blu-ray has over the Special Edition dvd are a few outtakes, and four vignettes, including the story behind the robin at the end of the film, which isn't what I thought it was. As in the 2002 Special Edition dvd set there is the review by Siskel and Ebert, and a documentary which is over one hour long called "Mysteries of Love".
on January 21, 2004
To make a long story short-this movie is not a masterpiece, calling it that would be laughable.This is a mediocre film at best.There is nothing shocking or controversial or boundary breaking about it, as has been said.Truth to be told the film starts out intriguingly and you're actually thinking this is going to be a great movie, it is a little strange, but nevertheless convincing and even fascinating.This keeps up for about ten minutes, and then the film becomes a typical mystery with nothing new to offer.IN fact,only thanks to Dennis Hopper's convincing role as drug-addicted maniac Frank Booth, did I keep watching this.None of the other performances were convincing,and Isabella Rossellini was just pathetically laughable,her portrayl was completely overblown, and overacted.I know I'm going to get about 30 negative votes for this, but I could care less.One of the most unjustly overrated films of all time.Not to mention the ending was like something out of a Lifetime movie,yes that predictable and unnafecting.And I guess,if you're really bored one Saturday night you could rent this movie for mild distraction.That's all I got from it.See Mulholland DR. instead
on January 22, 2008
This is a very beautiful film; it captures so much about life itself. There is certainly a dark side explored here, and you cannot look away once you start watching it. David Lynch has created a piece of artwork here only he could master. The more often I watch this, the more I appreciate it. Dennis Hopper is amazing here; if you are open to more than the mundane in film, you must see this film.
Unfortunately, it is not available from Amazon.ca; get it at Amazon.com.
on March 24, 2004
BLUE VELVET, at its core, states a simple case: all things that appear good are only good in appearance; all things evil are evil through and through. You start with the over-Kodachromed shots of Anytown, USA, with its wildflowers, fire engines, and spotless sidewalks. You conclude with a chirping robin which is a puppet, and David Lynch makes no attempt to make it seem like it's anything but a puppet. In between these elements is evil: a severed ear, shootings, bloodied and battered people, and Frank Booth. This dark world seems much more real than the sunlit Anytown, and this is David Lynch's starting point.
BLUE VELVET is going to be unwatchable for many people: it's violent, it's graphic, it's "weird", etc. But if you get beyond some of the stylization, you will find this film to be a powerful indictment of American society gone mad. And as far as movie-making goes, this movie is a magnet for the eyes. This is a visual dans-macabre: stark settings and brash lighting amid the darkness; the contrasting colors; the sweeping camera movements just keep your eyes glued to the screen. Combine this with the brilliant performances of Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, and, of course, Dennis Hopper, and you'll find out why this film endures, even as it nears its third decade.
If you don't get this film, you will get a love letter from me. And you don't want a love letter from me. Do you know what a love letter from me is?
on March 21, 2004
In many respects - well, almost every respect - this is a brilliant film. The contrast between the violence and seaminess of Frank's world and the laughable banality of Jeffery's world comes across perfectly. Dennis Hopper's performance as Frank really cannot be praised enough. Sure, he's impressive when he's huffing nitrous oxide and hitting Jeffrey across the face, but his expression while listening to the old lounge songs - melancholy, regretful - is equally convincing, and he's almost sympathetic. Also classic is the moment when another character proposes to toast his health, and he mutters: 'Aw, let's drink to something else.' Jeffrey's Reeve-like blankness is a good foil for him.
That said, there's just something - something about the random imagery inserted, like subliminal shots but held for longer, images of a snuffed candle and insects - something about the pacing, the long silences and occasional anticlimax - and something about the surprising semi-happy ending - that doesn't work. I feel like I'm missing something, and maybe I just am, but I don't feel like Lynch accomplished everything he set out to do. Just when it could be frightening, it lapses into comedy. This vagueness may be part of the message - life isn't black-and-white, or clean - but still. The movie is effective, but it doesn't resonate.
on February 29, 2004
How many movies are you going to see that use a bird eating a bug as an illustration that a young man should be afraid of acting on sexual feelings, because those desires are seen as disdainful and shameful to a good-minded society? The bird appears to be a robin. The very type of bird used to analogize goodness and pure love in the movie. Classic. "Sometimes a wind blows and the mysteries of love come clear". Tweet, tweet.
For this movie we live inside a strange world. For Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me we live inside a dream. For Mulholland Dr. we live inside one person's dream. I doubt that Lynch will be making any action/adventure or romantic comedies anytime soon.
A good boy's bad-boy libido fantasy compared against idealistic pure love, with 1950's America mentality. The movie deals mostly with a young man moralizing sexual desires. Contrasting, and in the end somewhat reconciling, moral extremes is a staple in Lynch movies. The evil side has some legitimate allurement, the viewer always gets a very generous taste of it. Also pervasive, always there lurking behind the doors. But ultimately however that side should be dismissed out of fear, fear of physical and emotional repercussions. And also dismissed out of love, respect of the morally acceptable. The larger point is probably that human beings are a mix of good and evil, or that human beings are indelibly flawed. Accentuating the good side more strongly might have made for more emotional buildup in Blue Velvet, as in Mulholland Dr. and Fire Walk With Me [the two grandiose behemoths]. Though those two have tragic endings that work better in contrasting dramatically against the good. Also in those two there is more focus on the female characters, characters easily perceived as more vulnerable, needing protection, especially after you have seen them naked numerous times [I know, sexist white male propaganda to keep the white female down]. In Blue Velvet, the "Why are there people like Frank..." and the "robins...love", "Mommy loves you", the caring family, the loving slow dance [creative audio, have to like the original music and the sound of a candle flame being blown out for example] are somewhat muted examples of moral conscientiousness. Somewhat muted, given you have people dancing on car tops, singing into shop lights, lewd mommy/daddy/baby Oedipal references, and toasts made to f...... [All very entertaining]. A "goodness" point will be made. And after you mull that for two seconds, there is a heap of weirdness, and that is followed by some more disorderedness. Always some consternation caused by seeing the evil in the world. Also troubling when one sees some of that evil in one's own thoughts. This recognition and repulsion however may qualify you as somewhat moral, having some goodness. This is seemingly the key moral point, as well as, implicitly, the message that morality has importance on a personal, individual basis. But that isn't quite it. Yes, the moral person, say a moral hormone-filled young man trying to reconcile his biology, has some significant awareness that there is some wrongness about himself (has at the least a keen knowledge that one's sexuality is socially problematic) and is cognizant that there is wrongness in the world around him. But to some degree that is done out of pragmatism, to save one's self in a larger society. Not really all that noble, perhaps only marginally moral. So the conclusion is more that people are perverts, including one's self. It's a strange world, isn't it?
on January 21, 2004
I hated it. I really did. I was deeply offended by this film when I first saw it. It disturbed the hell out of me, in all the wrong ways.
Then I saw Lost Highway - a film that, it seems, everyone hated BUT me. I thought it was a masterpiece of psychological horror; a real mind-bender with an extroardinary interior perspective on homicidal madness.
So I got to thinking: maybe I should give Blue Velvet another shot. Maybe I just wasn't ready for it 17 years ago. This time I would be prepared for Dennis Hopper's demented Frank Booth. I would be ready for the ear in the field. I would be ready for the unbelievably creepy and kinky scenes in Dorothy's apartment.
What I saw was a different film - not because the film had changed, but because I had changed. A lot can happen in 17 years. A guy can grow up. A guy can sense for himself the underbelly of perversion beneath the white-picket facade of middle America. A guy can come to appreciate a wickedly funny and disturbing film about the hypocrisy of genteel exteriors. A film like Blue Velvet, in other words.
David Lynch's great skill as a director is his ability to aim right for the hind-brain - the unreasoning, alligator brain where the primal self lives. His work tends to hit there first, and then ricochet to the reasoning self. That's why his work is so evocative. Critics and audiences alike struggled to "explain" Mulholland Drive, and while a sensible explanation for it is possible, it sort of misses the point. These films are waking dreams - or nightmares - that, like paintings or pieces of music, try to touch something deeper than the intellect. You can't read a Beethoven symphony like a novel, you can't play Edvard Munch's "The Scream" on a musical instrument, and you can't understand Blue Velvet in terms of ordinary realism. To do so is to run screaming from it in terror or disgust, as I initially did.
But taken for what it is - a kind meditation on the darkness inside - you start to see the outragousness of this film in a different light. You start to see that the characters are not so much two-dimensional freaks as they are embodiments of primal forces we all have inside of us. In Frued's moth-eaten old psychoanylitic terms (really a poor way of approximating, but it's the best I can do), Frank Booth is the hedonistic Id. Sandy Williams (Laura Dern) is the pure and virtuous Superego, and Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle McLaughlin) is the ego - the waking part of us torn between the two.
Of course, this is a Reductionist view, and it really does disservice to the artistic acheivement of Blue Velvet. To really appreciate it, one needs to set aside preconceptions and let the experience of it percolate through that gray matter.
The DVD itself is well produced, with some nice extras (rare on Lynch DVDs), and a beautiful film transfer that really showcases Frederick Elmes' cinematography.
If you're a David Lynch fan, you don't need convincing. If you're where I was 17 years ago, give it another shot. You might just like it. A lot.
on January 12, 2004
Although I was once inclined to agree with Roger Ebert's dismissal of "Blue Velvet" as a shocking albeit skillful montage of pointless images and effects, I've had to do a 360 turnaround after seeing it on DVD and reconsidering it in relation to some similar texts. The film certainly makes sense in comparison with a quest narrative such as Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" and in light of Freud's ideas about love as well as Nietzsche's thoughts on the Dionysian self. It's also a film that pays constant homage to Hitchcock's best work, notably "Rear Window" and "Psycho," in its preoccupation with spectator psychology.
The most important lines occur early in the film when the protagonist, Kyle MacLachlan, tells Laura Dern that he needs to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding Isabella Rosselli because "knowledge requires risk" but with the possible reward that "you might learn something." By the end of the narrative, MacLachlan's character should have learned a lot, but here's where Lynch flinches, much like Robert Altman in the conclusion to "The Player." MacLachlan emerges neither a sadder nor wiser man from his rite of passage and his descent into the dark corners of the psyche. Instead, Lynch cynically reprises the film's innocent opening with its hopelessly artificial, Pollyannish, pastoral idyl that is most likely the preferred reality of the American mainstream movie consumer. At the same time, he preserves the tenuousness of such a naive vision with the shot of an insect impaled on a robin's beak and with a soundtrack that subjects the theme song to a disturbing treatment out of some internal, subterranean sound studio.
The film's meanings are inexhaustible, though a few important details should not be missed. Jeff confronts, first, mortality (his father stricken by a life-threatening stroke), then a severed, decaying human ear. The ear, the organ of hearing, is also the sense that fully awakens only in the dark, granting access to the Dionysian, deep intuitive wellsprings of the self. But the ear we see on screen has become a diseased, useless instrument in a "sunny" culture whose idea of music is Bobby Vinton's version of "Blue Velvet." Rossellini's alternative version of the song, with all of its sensuous, alluring darkness, will draw MacLachlan in to the same degree that it repells girl friend Dern (contrast this relationship with that of Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly in "Rear Window," where Kelly becomes increasingly drawn to the voyeuristic and "ghoulish" activity initiated by Stewart). Soon MacLaclan will discover the love substitutes embodied by both Rossellini and Hopper--the sadism and masochism, fetishism and scopophilia that, like it or not, are present in every son and daughter who has inherited from birth and learned from upbringing the pleasure/pain principle that underlies even the most well-intentioned, "selfless" love (the absence of any shown feelings between MacLaclan and either parent is another tip-off to the basis of his attraction to the dominitrix/sex slave character played by Rossellini).
As for the "villain," the foul-mouthed Dennis Hopper did not seem so frightening or repelling to me on this viewing. If anything, he's less the personification of evil than another version of insecure, overcompensating macho desire, perhaps better seen as a projection of the searching MacLachlan than as anybody's nemesis.
Lynch must know the risk, and even believe in the necessity, of coming to terms with the feelings of a darker but far from inauthentic self. MacLaclan tells the naive, shielded and conventional Dern from the beginning that it's extremely dangerous business. But the alternative is a Salem where everybody is "good," a Lumberton where people get sick but never die, a Disney fantasy that can exist only in artificial movies. I still think that "Blue Velvet" (in fact, most any other film since 1980) is eclipsed by his own "Elephant Man," where the camera takes us into the eye-hole and interior world of John Merrick, whose world we discover is also ours. But "Blue Velvet" is a more personal film, revealing not simply the mind of its creator but capturing a distinctively American experience.
on December 7, 2003
I adore the way in which Lynch leads you into his own microcosm, each screen is more intriguing than the previous and you become involved with the characters. Blue Velvet is no exception: a simple town boy is intrigued by a woman, and following his curiosity gets drawn into her web, only to inadvertently uncover dark mysteries. We take this genuinely and often weirdly funny walk with him, a walk that'll cling to your thoughts long after the credits have rolled.
I don't idolize Lynch as many reviewers do (although I admired his work in The Straight Story) and I believe he has too often pursued weirdness for the sake of weirdness. But at his best he has produced marvels of film making. Blue Velvet is one of the latter as it doozily exposes the hidden dark underbelly of small towns, and of people that are seldom what they seem on the surface.
More than one viewing of this film is probably necessary if you really want to get it. The first time round, I ended up thinking that this was simply a noir-ish attempt at vulgar violence. The second viewing actually made me see some of the things Lynch wanted us to see without the shock factor.
Even so, this one may not be for everyone, but a must for Lynch fans.