I don’t know a thing about director David Lynch’s personal history. I haven’t read any Lynch biographies, and am not even sure where he hails from (although I have a vague recollection that it might be Montana). But after watching his films, I get the impression that young Mr. Lynch was raised prim and proper, a good little Protestant boy who on one fateful day wandered across to the wrong side of the railroad tracks – and was subjected to one massive dose of weird.
I speculate about that because filmmaker Lynch is famously obsessed with the macabre, the odd, and the surreal, and Blue Velvet is a prime example. Essentially a Hitchcockian spin on a Hardy Boys story, Blue Velvet follows young Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan), a college student who on one sunny afternoon discovers a severed human ear in a vacant field and decides to conduct his own investigation. As the story progresses, Jeffrey learns that it is a strange world, indeed. But whereas Hitchcock used humor to break tension, Lynch opts for bizarre interludes. There is one scene near the midpoint in which – completely out of the blue – a gay man croons Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” to a rapt, crazed Dennis Hopper. The scene still has me shaking my head. What on earth has it to do with the plot — or anything whatsoever?
But it wouldn’t be a Lynch film without such scenes. Sociopathic Frank Booth (Hopper) and pals are unfathomable to Jeffrey and to us, and yet Lynch makes them feel very real. Isn’t that a great recipe for what’s truly frightening in life?
Jeffrey learns that there are two sides to everything. “I’m seeing something that was always hidden,” he tells his girlfriend Sandy. The small town he calls home is a bucolic Mayberry in daytime – and a dangerous haven for joyriding thugs at night. Jeffrey has a virginal, sweet-faced blonde (Laura Dern) to woo at a Norman Rockwell soda shop – and a rough-sex-loving lounge singer (Isabella Rossellini) to corrupt him in bed. There are red robins, blue velvet, and a “Yellow Man.” There is weirdness galore, or, as Sandy and Jeffrey repeatedly tell each other, “a strange world.”
All of which makes me wonder again: What in the world did young David Lynch stumble into when he crossed those railroad tracks? Grade: B+
Director: David Lynch Cast: Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Hope Lange, Dean Stockwell, George Dickerson, Priscilla Pointer, Frances Bay, Jack Harvey Release: 1986
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