IT'S A STRANGE WORLD, ISN'T ITRichard Corliss, Time, September 22, 1986
Strange and repellent and seductive a world of power plays in which everybody's somebody's victim. Sandy is attracted to Jeffrey's quiet intensity. Jeffrey is beguiled by Dorothy's mystery, her dangerous demands. To keep her family alive, Dorothy must surrender to Frank's depraved games. But even Frank is in the thrall of Ben (Dean Stockwell), an epicene drug dealer, who in turn is subject to the political power of a heavyset enigma in a yellow jacket. On that stroll in the woods, Jeffrey fell down the rabbit hole and found an inverted pyramid of moral monstrosity. ''I am seeing something that was always hidden,'' he says. Now he can't take his eyes off it.
The plot alone would be enough to earn Blue Velvet this year's Authentic Weirdie prize. But wait, there's more. Writer-Director Lynch (Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, Dune) has stocked his movie with artifacts from every decade of postwar America; it could be taking place now, then or never. Emotionally, the picture comes from outer space. Instead of seducing the audience, the characters are picture-book flat. Only the images are deep and dense. The friendly loggers of Lumberton wave at the camera; Frank screams an obscenity and poof! disappears; a corpse is bound and bowed like a Kienholz sculpture; the climactic gun battle takes just a few shorthand strokes. The acting styles collide fiercely too. MacLachlan and Dern have an innocents-in-hell sweetness; Stockwell does a preening Percy Dovetonsils number; Rossellini is a madwoman with all stops out; Hopper tops her, with maybe the vilest sadistic creep in movie history.
All of which is to say that Blue Velvet is in no sense a realistic film. It is not modernist camp either. Lynch believes every bit as much in the redemptive power of teen love with families miraculously restored and two kids kissing to the crooning of a wedding-chapel organ as he does in the force of evil. He and his film will surely be reviled, but as an experiment in expanding cinema's dramatic and technical vocabulary, Blue Velvet demands respect.
Reviews | Blue Velvet | David Lynch main page
© Mike Hartmann