Erotic, neurotic, euphoric and at all times unutterably twisted and bizarre, David Lynch’s Blue Velvet is back in cinemas, 30 years after its original release: an intensely 80s movie with an intensely 40s noir template: a baffling and unique palimpsest of styles and associations.
From the dreamy, disquietingly intense vision of picket-fence America, a macabre drama emerges. Clean-cut Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) is walking home when he discovers a severed ear on the ground: does that ear stand for the director’s own hyper-sensitive perception of underground stirrings, the secret life of underground America? I continue to wonder, incidentally, about how Jeffrey comes to be walking anywhere, given that we later see him at the wheel of a gorgeous red convertible.
Jeffrey conceives a fascination with nightclub singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) who sings Blue Velvet, while her abusive, misogynist sugar-daddy Frank (Dennis Hopper) watches, caressing a sample of this same material. Jeffrey breaks into Dorothy’s apartment to spy on her – a classically Lynchian Alice-down-the-rabbit-hole or Alice-through-the-looking-glass moment – and indulge a dysfunctional romantic rapture, in which he witnesses how she is abused. The film releases a toxic narcosis of fear. The standing-up dead man in the yellow suit – kept upright by some kind of rigor mortis or final act of will – is an invention of pure horror.
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