Many films can generate a significant portion of controversy but it takes a truly special film to sustain passionate debate a quarter of a century after its release. The movie considered here is an example of such a cinematic treasure; ‘Blue Velvet’. This was one of several exceptionally bizarre works from one of the art form’s most talented and eccentric auteurs, David Lynch. Many people view his work, both in movies and television, as odd psychedelic excursions into the mind of an extremely unique mind. There is little debate that Lynch is one of his generation’s most gifted filmmakers albeit he can be considered an acquired taste. If you prefer your stories with a strictly linear and clearly constructed narrative then perhaps you should look elsewhere for you cinematic entertainment. Lynch is an amazingly visual director whose style reflects as world view that many would need the enhancement of some psychotropic substances to achieve. People pay a lot of money to obtain pharmaceutical agents to roughly approximate the typical state that persists in the mind of Mr. Lynch. He has continued to generate controversy dividing critics and audiences over whether he is truly following an artistic vision beyond the ken of most cinephiles or if he is just a strange man that has become a media icon. Considering how much of his oeuvre has been successively hailed as innovative the preponderance of evidence supports the premise of Lynch as a genius.
Even among his fans, a group I count myself among, it is rare that you can fully appreciate the nuances of his films in a single viewing. I have seen ‘Blue Velvet’ many times over the years and watching this new high definition release has provide insight not garnered in prior exposures to this experience. I’ve noted many times before that Blu-ray editions of previously released films give the sense of seeing the movie for the first time no matter how frequently it has been viewed. When the film in questioned is a dependent on the visual elements of style as this movie the impact is magnified several fold. It is also worth mentioning that Lynch’s films are best when viewed straight through in a single sitting. I know that there are chapter stops available on discs and the ever popular pause button but with any David Lynch movie you have to approach it as a solid, uninterrupted work in order to best get into the experience Lynch has crafted. This was so important a point to this filmmaker that the DVD for ‘Mulholland Dr. ‘was released with chapter stops disabled.
Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) had thought he had escaped the quirky small town he grew up in but as the film opens he finds himself unwillingly drawn back. He has left his studies at college returning to Lumberton instigated by the sudden death of his father (Jack Harvey). A sudden stroke took his life and now the prodigal son has come back to the logging community. Jeffrey is pulled into a mystery when he cuts through a vacant lot on his way out of the hospital and comes across a severed human eye. He does the responsible thing and brings the appendage to the authorities in the personage of Police Detective John Williams (George Dickerson). The film noir aspect of the film boasts twice the usual femme fatale with the detective’s daughter, Sandy (Laura Dern) and night club chanteuse, Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), who has a sinister interest in the case. From this point the story is furthered by a series of sexual innuendo, fetishism and an odd assortment of bizarrely nefarious characters. One of the prominent members of this troupe is Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), who is one of the darkest characters depicted in movies. Frank is a sociopath with extreme sexual proclivities and perchance for socially unacceptable language. In the Parthenon of Lynch characters Frank is one of the more colorful but definitely fits in well with this motley crew. You might also notice some elements here that would be revisited and elaborated with Lynch’s seminal television series, ‘Twin Peaks’.
Some detractors of this film are quick to note that it lacks a strong central narrative and, well, just fail to make sense. While a valid case can be made to support this opinion it must be noted that Lynch is an artist who has selected film as his preferred medium for expression. Surrealism is a valid and time supported genre that encompasses most artistic forms from painting to literature. It is rather myopic to preclude cinema from this form of expression. This is a dark film that explores the covert depths of the human psyche. In this context the usual methods employed by a story teller just won’t provide the proper framework for what Lynch was attempting. The twisted vantage point of Lynch’s movies are as artistically valid as Van Gogh's famous Starry Night. Both purposely distort reality to make an artistic statement. I have seen this film in several formats but this high definition Blu-ray release is spectacular. The colors are brilliantly rendered with a contrast that brings out the smallest details placed there by an extraordinarily meticulous filmmaker. The movie is expertly built layer upon layer taking the relatively familiar genre of film noir and infusing it with a dreamlike, or perhaps better described as nightmarish quality that is a trademark feature of Lynch’s style. He manages to deconstruct the usual elements of the crime thriller reassembling them into something born in the perverse recesses of the imagination. Like many dreams it begins on a fairly rationale plane but quickly descends into a world not dependent on the usual language but by texture, color shapes and other images. This film has stood the test of time and will continue to generate heated discussion. One thing that is certain about it as a representation of Lynch’s work; you may love it or hate it but few will find it lukewarm. The film was designed to stir an emotional response in the audience and it remains exceptionally proficient at achieving that goal.