31 Days of Halloween 20 – Blue Velvet Makes no Sense, Hooray
Blue Velvet (1986) was made by David Lynch, so it makes no sense. It is film noir, has lots of alcohol and violence, as well as crime and sex. It plays with perspective and has strange characters, so David Lynch isn’t taking any risks here. He’s doing what he does best.
David Lynch’s askew vision is hard at work in this film and metaphors are common. It’s a metaphor paradise. Everything represents something and the deeper meaning behind this movie adds to its presentation and impact. A David Lynch movie is usually presented this way. There are usually bad guys with horrible morals and a hero with equally questionable morals. Jeffrey fits the heroic mold perfectly for David Lynch. He is played by Kyle MacLachlan.
The dark undertones of this movie make it perfect for the Halloween season. The setting takes place in the 1950s and it looks like it is Summer or near Autumn. It also has the typical film noir scenes and usual seedy film noir places and characters. There are seedy businessman, crooked cops, and high-in-the-sky junkies all over this movie.
Of the cast, Dennis Hopper comes off the best. He plays a weirdo crime lord named Frank, who snorts gas for fun; a perfect role for the incessantly over-the-top Dennis Hopper. Frank is the contrast to the white picket fences, flowers, and small-town America shown in the movie.
David Lynch is living out his dreams in this movie, however abnormal they may be. In an interview in 2001, David Lynch described his life as “normal”. His parents were normal: they didn’t drink, smoke, or swear. Despite all the safety and normalness, he wanted stranger things to happen. Yeah, I think you’ve got that covered now.
I would have to say David Lynch is an unusual filmmaker, but not a master. He has a tight control over plot, dialogue, and the structure of his movies, but throwing in a bunch of weird stuff does not automatically make movies good. I really hate Dune (1984) and Mulholland Drive (2001) for that reason, but Blue Velvet (1986) is an exception. Of course, Twin Peaks is a classic for being weird, so I don’t know what I’m talking about sometimes.
This movie has mystery and it certainly has suspense. In one scene, Jeffrey figures out the mystery and hides in the closet from Frank, as he hunts around for him. Frank swears and cusses up a storm as he trashes the apartment looking for Jeffrey, knowing he’s there. Jeffrey keeps his gun pointed at the closet door, as if not wanting to shoot, but is compelled to out of fear, as Frank tears open the closet to find him.
There’s some Dragnet investigating as Jeffrey and Sandy try to figure out the mystery. Sandy is played by Laura Dern and she does an excellent job. She fits perfectly into the 1950s, like she belongs there. Her character is tuned to the morals of the current day, sticking out by comparison to the other sleezebags in the movie.
The movie has an edge to it I’ve never seen before. It just doesn’t deal with subjects in a straightforward way, but presents them turned or twisted. In a simple example, Jeffrey starts dating Sandy, but she has a boyfriend already. It is dangerous and wrong, but the consequences are secondary. When we meet the boyfriend later, he is dismissed for larger concerns, like a naked lady on Jeffrey’s front lawn. The boyfriend is brushed aside, as we are ushered off to find out what is going on with the next strange occurrence. This is the skewed vision at work.
Frank is not just a psycho, but he snorts gas, hits women, and gets off on controlling everyone. In another example of Lynch’s skewed vision. Dorothy hates and loves Frank, unable to fight back but liking it too. She convinces Jeffrey to smack her around too and she gets off on it. She’s not the most normal person, obviously.
Lastly, there’s the ending, which is like a scene out of the 50s show, Father Knows Best. Jeffrey is drawn back into the Reganesque place of his dreams and celebrates with Sandy, who becomes his girlfriend. It is a strange ending, mostly because we never learn what happened to his father, who had a stroke at the beginning of the movie, and Jeffrey’s real feelings are never addressed. He’s spent most of the movie beaten up or abused, but is back in the cradle of the middle class at the end. This may be one of Lynch’s jokes, but it does stress that there are more strange seedy things in life beyond the house where we feel safe.
All in all, I like this movie a lot. You can watch it just to watch it, or you can look a little deeper at the seedy underbelly trying to infect America. I’d watch it for Dennis Hopper alone, because he destroys the screen with his angry performance. It’s great. Laura Dern is there to be sympathetic and wholesome, but Isabella Rossellini contrasts her enough that we never get bored. I disagree with Roger Ebert, who said this movie was cruel to the actors and to the audience, because I think it has the courage to go deeper and be shocking, like going for shocks in Father Knows Best. Jeffrey looks stunned for most of the movie, as if questioning what the hell David Lynch is doing to him and the 1950s.
31 Days of Halloween Movie Marathon
1 – Frankenstein and the Monster from HELL (1974)
2 – Dracula has risen from the grave (1968)
3 – The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb (1964)
4 – Evil Dead II (1987)
5 – Dawn of the Dead (1978)
6 – Les Diaboliques (1955)
7 – The Howling (1981)
8 – Friday the 13th (1980)
9 – Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter (1984)
10 – Hellraiser (1987)
11 – Let the Right One in (2008)
12 – Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1984)
13 – House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
14 – The Strangers (2008)
15 – The House of the Devil (2009)
16 – Psycho (1960)
17 – The Orphanage (2007)
18 – The Amityville Horror (1979)
19 – The Raven (1963)
20 – Blue Velvet (1986)
21 – Repulsion (1965)
22 – Dementia 13 (1963)
23 – The Vanishing (2008)
24 – Halloween (1978)
25 – Shaun of the Dead (2004)
26 – The Silence of the Lambs (1988)
27 – An American Werewolf in London (1981)
28 – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
29 – The Exorcist (1973)
30 – The Ring (2002)
31 – Night of the Living Dead (1968)