blue velvet | david lynch | isabella rossellini | kyle maclachlan | dennis hopper | drama | mystery | thriller | united states | arthouse | laura dern | hope lange | dean stockwell | george dickerson | priscilla pointer | frances bay | brad dourif | jack nance
Film: Blue Velvet
Director: David Lynch
Writer: David Lynch
Starring: Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan and Dennis Hopper
This film is one that I actually never heard of, but was listed in the Fangoria Top 300 Horror Films issue, so I sought it out. This was my second foray into David Lynch films as I had seen Eraserhead in college. The first time I saw this, I didn’t know what to think. My last viewing was the 4K transfer in the theater actually. The synopsis here is the discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child.
It then begins Mr. Beaumont (Jack Harvey) watering his lawn. He has something wrong with him as he collapses to the ground. We then see a bunch of beetles crawling all over themselves. We then see a young man walking down a country road, this is Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan). He goes into the hospital and into the room of the man who collapsed. It turns out that Jeffrey is his. He is home to help out at his father’s hardware store with him in the hospital.
On his walk home, he stops off near a shed on that same road. He tries to break a bottle with rocks. While he is looking for stones, he finds a human ear. He collects it with a paper bag. Jeffrey then goes to the local police station and looks for a Detective Williams (George Dickerson). He finds him on the second floor. We learn the reason Jeffrey goes to him is that he’s friends with his father. He turns the ear over to him and Detective Williams launches an investigation
Jeffrey goes home where he talks with his mother (Priscilla Pointer), and his aunt (Frances Bay). He tells them he is going for a walk and ends up at Detective Williams’ house. He tries to follow up on the investigation, but doesn’t get much. As Jeffrey is leaving, he meets the detective’s daughter Sandy (Laura Dern). They go for a walk and we see there’s chemistry there. Dern reveals to him that her room is above her father’s office and she gives him some information about the case that Jeffrey has started.
The next day he picks her up from school, where she is a senior. They go to a diner and he reveals that he has a plan to get more information about the case. Sandy reluctantly agrees to help him. They go to the seedy apartment building and Jeffrey goes up, pretending to be pest control. The apartment belongs to Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini). Sandy is supposed to knock at the door to distract her so he can find a way back into the apartment later. Instead a man in a bright suit comes in. He makes eye contact with Jeffrey, but Dorothy takes him into the hall. While this happens, Jeffrey does finds a set of keys and pockets them before leaving.
Jeffrey reluctant continues on with his plan, needing Sandy to come with him to the club where Dorothy sings. While she is there, he goes back to her apartment to find a hiding spot. The problem is that after she comes home, he makes a sound and she finds him. It takes an even darker turn when Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) shows up. Jeffrey gets himself entangled in this web of kidnapping and violence.
I have to say that after seeing this film a few times, I have a much better appreciation for it after each viewing. As I’ve said, I’ve seen a few of his films now and he really is an interesting filmmaker. He is great at taking a film like this, which has a dark, noir type feel and giving a dream/nightmare feel to it.
Even though this has that type of feel of a dream, this one is the most grounded in reality from him that I’ve seen so far. As I said, this definitely is a neo-noir film first and foremost. We have Jeffrey who is a college student, but he’s hooked into investigating where this ear came from. Dorothy is most definitely a femme fatale and Frank is a terrifying villain for sure. It goes much deeper than that though.
Something that I really picked up after this last viewing is a corruption of innocence. Jeffrey is sucked in by the mystery of finding the ear. Sandy sparks this when she reveals information she shouldn’t have to him, giving him a route to continue on. We see during that first encounter in her apartment that Dorothy is into some violent sexual acts. I’m not one to judge, but she does like to be slapped around. I wonder though, was she into this before her child was taken and the corruption is from needing to feel alive? She does start to corrupt Jeffrey as he keeps coming over. I do really think that this film is kind of saying how this is an issue, as he in turn corrupts Sandy from the perfect, high school life she has going for her. There’s also an interesting duality that in the beginning of the film, we’re hearing the classic rendition of ‘Blue Velvet’ and seeing the idyllic suburban life while later hearing Dorothy’s version before meeting the seedy criminals she’s entangled with.
That takes me to the pacing of this film, which I know the first time I saw this I thought it drug on. After my last two viewings, it doesn’t feel that way and I just get sucked into what the film is showing us. It also made me so anxious with some scenes while also giving a sense of dread. There’s some interesting editing while flashes of images to metaphorically explain things, which I dug. It runs at an even 2 hours and I have to say I don’t mind it a lot. I do think there are some things that could be removed to tighten it up, but being that it is Lynch, I’m not surprised that it’s there. There’s an interesting idea that once you get into this lifestyle, it is hard to get out of. I think the ending is fitting and a nice revenge for what we get earlier in this one for sure.
From here I want to shift to the acting, which is great across the board. I think Rossellini is really good as this broken woman. She wants someone stable like Jeffrey, but she can’t get away from the manic that has taken over her life. She is in turn corrupting him though. This takes me next to MacLachlan who I also think this great. He’s someone who truly hasn’t experienced the world and almost treats this as a game. He gets spooked when he sees how real all of this. It also jades him as well. Hopper is a manic here and I absolutely love his performance. It truly is terrifying. Dern is solid as a high school student who is even greener in life than Jeffrey. She tries to resist, but that temptation is too great and it messes with her idea of what her life should be. Dean Stockwell is also really good and I like the cameos by Hope Lange, Dickerson, Pointer, Bay, Brad Dourif and Jack Nance to just name a few. They help to round this out for what was needed.
Next I will shift to the effects of this film. There aren’t really a lot as it isn’t that type of film. The bit of blood we get looks good. I did notice a couple of times that marks on Jeffrey’s face change from scene to scene when it is supposed to be the same day. I could be wrong on this though so I won’t take anything away. A podcaster did point out that the mask Frank uses isn’t connected to anything and it was after this viewing that I caught it. This is another thing I mark up as Lynch and his dreamlike aspects. I will say this film is shot beautifully for how ugly a lot of what we see is.
The last thing to cover would be the soundtrack. This film uses a couple of renditions of the song ‘Blue Velvet’. I personally like the different feel of each one that fits what the film is conveying. There’s another song that Frank listens to a couple of times that syncing it up with the images doesn’t necessarily match, but it does in a creepy way for sure.
Now with that said, I definitely feel like Lynch is a director for me that the more I watch his films, the more that I appreciate them. I definitely feel of the ones I’ve seen, this is the most grounded in reality while still having that dream or nightmare logic at times. I really like the neo-noir feel of this and how terrifying Frank is as a character. The film runs two hours, but I didn’t notice it this time around. The acting was great across the board. There aren’t a lot in the way of effects, but it doesn’t need them. It is shot beautifully and the soundtrack oddly fits for what they needed. I think this is a really good film. If this review sounds good and you can handle realistic violence, I would give this a viewing. It is not overly brutal, but there’s a sick feel to it still.
My Rating: 9 out of 10