Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986, USA)

               Blue Velvet is arguably David Lynch’s most accessible film, and it has attained classic status for good reason. Made at the height of the Reagan administration, Lynch’s examination of the dark underbelly beneath an idyllic small suburban town has echoed throughout American cinema in the three-plus decades since the film’s release. Ostensibly a neo-noir murder mystery that begins with the iconic discovery of a severed ear in a field, Blue Velvet is ultimately more concerned about mood and feeling than the actual events of the plot. While there are some truly terrifying moments in Blue Velvet, it is counterbalanced with moments of lightness and humor.

               Kyle MacLachlan stars in the film as a young man who returns home to the small town of Lumberton after his father has a heart attack. MacLachlan, with his youthful charm and sense of innocence, is effectively a stand-in for Lynch himself. But like Hitchcock’s Scottie in Vertigo, Jeffrey Beaumont is a morally dubious protagonist, and his motives for investigating a local singer Dorothy Vallens are driven more by perversity than moral righteousness. He eventually gets wrapped up with a local criminal underworld, led by the figure of Frank Booth. Dennis Hopper plays Booth, a perverse psychopath, with a level of intensity that has rarely been equaled in any film before or since.

               While there is clearly a Freudian reading of the film, and Laura Mulvey has written extensively about the Oedipal family at the heart of Blue Velvet, the film does not require a degree in psychology to understand. Lynch is excellent at translating the idea of subconscious desires into the cinematic form in a way that is accessible. Blue Velvet also acts as a precursor to his work in Twin Peaks, a show which would explore many of the same themes, and star the same leading actor. Overall, Blue Velvet deserves the label of “classic.”



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