In my time it was Peyton Place that lay lurking behind the peaceful exterior of small town Americana. For Gwadsake, this is 1986. Welcome to Lumberton!
It’s a sunny, woodsy day in Lumberton, so get those chain saws out. This is the mighty W-O-O-D. At the sound of the falling tree, it’s 9:30. There’s a whole lot of wood out there, so let’s get goin’.
While the radio jingle refers to felling woods there are those who are rarin’ to go with their freaky sexual fantasies. One such is the loathsome, nitrous-oxide sniffing kidnapper (Dennis Hopper). Frank holds a man Don, and Donny his son hostage, and makes the mother of Donny his sexual slave.
On the receiving end is the nightclub singer Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini) the abused/brutalized mother.
Dorothy: Hello baby.
Frank: (reprimanding) Shut up. It’s Daddy you s–t-head. Where’s my bourbon?
(She goes into the kitchen and gets Frank his drink, handing it to him.)
Can’t you f–kin’ remember anything? (Dorothy turns out the main light in the living room and lights one small candle.) Now it’s dark. (Wearing her blue velvet robe, Dorothy sits on a chair in the middle of the living room. Frank sits down on the sofa.) Spread your legs. Wider. Show it to me. (She slowly opens her legs wider and adjusts her robe, while Frank stares at her crotch and drinks his bourbon.) Don’t you f–kin’ look at me!
Into such unstable equation who stumbles in but a college student Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan). The kid Galahad discovers a severed ear, and then finds himself embroiled on the goings on the dark side of town. (It is a fact of life that a picket fence however well painted white when casts shadow is less than what appears.)
He witnesses, first as a voyeur and then must be goaded by what he has seen so in a way no longer he is that same old innocent knight in shining armor. The disease of the villain has passed on to him as well the helpless woman. She has been brutalized so thoroughly she is not above asking the student to abuse her. While she is onto a masochistic bend the one who breaks and enters into her apartment is not spared either. He steals duplicate spare apartment key hanging in the kitchen in order to spy on her. Their kinks are so disgusting let me say the viewer need to carry an extra cast-iron lining to stomach what goes on there.
Jeffrey and Frank represent the two dichotomous sides of life (e.g., light/dark, normalcy/aberration, attraction/repulsion, innocence/experience, perversion/love, virtue/base desires, etc.) These represent also two side of the coin. In whichever way they fight for dominance the fact remains evil is still out there. Female leads Dorothy and Sandy are also two opposites.
Sandy who has a regular boyfriend also sees and acts as a decoy for Jeffrey.
Sandy: I don’t know if you’re a detective or a pervert.
Jeffrey: Well, that’s for me to know and you to find out.
Out of a slender plot line the essay in violence, aberrant sexual behavior David Lynch created a cult film. Although highly ridiculed and disdained when released as an extreme, dark, vulgar and disgusting film, it also won critical praise – Best Film of 1986, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (Dennis Hopper) and Best Achievement in Cinematography (Frederick Elmes) by the National Society of Film Critics. It also received a sole nomination for Best Director from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
The film’s credits (viewed with fluid, scripted type-lettering) play above a slow undulating blue velvet, fabric backdrop as Angelo Badalamenti’s sensual string score floridly plays. The film dissolves into an unnaturally brilliant, visually lush, boldly colorful opening with patriotic hues (bright red, white, and blue) and a nostalgic, dream-like view of a clean, conforming, pastoral America a la Norman Rockwell. Don’t you believe it.
At the outset we see a man falling down with a heart seizure. He is the proud owner of a house with a garden enclosed by white picket fence. And it is what often lurks behind the American dream (represented by spanking white picket fence) is interesting. Mr. Beaumont the father like a typical American would wish to keep the garden as green as you ever saw. But must account for the heart that is congested as well. Don’t you believe what you see is all there is.
But here we also see a deft directorial insight to move the camera for a closer view of a terrifying, diseased underworld: it is teeming with a swarm of hungry, ugly black bugs – a metaphor for the perverse, horrible evil that lurks beneath the idyllic surface of picture-perfect life.
Sandy: I don’t know. I had a dream. In fact, it was 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 just 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 like that love would be the only thing that would make any difference. And it did. So I guess it means there is trouble ’til the robins come.
Jeffrey: You’re a neat girl.
Sandy: So are you. (laughs)
Directed by David Lynch
Produced by Fred C. Caruso
Written by David Lynch
Starring Kyle MacLachlan
Music by Angelo Badalamenti
Cinematography Frederick Elmes
‘After the commercial and critical failure of Lynch’s Dune (1984), he made attempts at developing a more “personal story”, somewhat characteristic of his surreal style he displayed in his debut Eraserhead (1977). The screenplay of Blue Velvet had been passed around multiple times in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with many major studios declining it because of its strong sexual and violent content. The independent studio De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, which was owned at the time by Italian film producer Dino De Laurentiis, agreed to finance and produce the film. Since its initial theatrical release, Blue Velvet has achieved cult status, significant academic attention and is widely regarded as one of Lynch’s finest works, alongside Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive (2001)’.
Motifs: The bug motif is recurrent throughout the film. Nitrous oxide mask that Frank wears and Jeffrey’s excuse as an insect exterminator. One of Frank’s sinister accomplice
(Fred Pickler) is identified by his yellow jacket, possibly reminiscent of the name of a type of wasp.
Finally, a robin eating a bug on a fence in the last scene of the film refers to Sandy’s dream and represents love conquering evil.
The severed ear that Jeffrey discovers is also a key symbolic element.
There are a number of allusions to the Wizard of Oz for instance name of the woman degraded by Frank is Dorothy and her ruby studded shoes etc.,
Run time:120 min
(ack: wikipedia, filmsite.org-Tim Dirks)