"don't you--look at me!"
There are films I’ve seen throughout my 26 years that never really gripped me. Maybe they were lazy or failed to resonate at the time, but these titles will never be replayed or re-analyzed in my mind. However, as I’ve come to digest more and more offbeat and cult-like films, I now see just how difficult making movies actually is, along with an understood importance that films should create several different reactions and responses, upon viewing.
From specific budgets and lofty expectations to time constraints and studio pressures, film making is tough work. Yet, there are those movies I’ve seen throughout my lifetime that have gripped me to the point of no return. These works of art are of the utmost importance in my life, and have not only helped me see the world in a new way, but have assisted in my growth as a human being, and as a creative. A few weekends ago, I watched David Lynch’s Blue Velvet for the first time.
Before viewing, I’ve always felt I had a definition for what made a great film.
- ) Powerful story
- ) Powerful plot
- ) Great characters
- ) Amazing cinematography and shots
- ) Engaging, great pacing, perfectly placed music
- ) Shocking, beautiful and powerful scenes
A few months ago, I also watched Mulholland Drive for the first time, as I’ve begun to dig into the catalog of the trippy, yet brilliant, David Lynch.
Then, I gave Blue Velvet a run, and I’m not sure I will ever experience a film the same way again. On the surface, Blue Velvet is a crime noir, psychological mystery/drama/thriller — I think. It’s also bathed in 1950's nostalgia with the fashions and styles of that time period popping in and out of the film, and the wonderful Laura Dern as Sandy — the stereotypical blonde haired beauty, “Girl next door” American dream girl. Sandy represents youth, innocence, positivity, love, and oh, so many dreams. Yet, while many of us have our ideal “Sandy”, we also have our darker fantasies and attractions lurking somewhere in our subconscious.
Just as Jeffrey has his Sandy, Dorothy keeps her version of “Sandy” aka Jeffrey close throughout the entirety of the film. For Dorothy, Jeffrey represents innocence, lust, the college kid next door, freedom, and oh, so many dreams. As the movie tugs and pulls at your emotions, all the while drawing you in, it’s impossible to look away.
In one of the most shocking and disturbing scenes I’ve seen on film, we are introduced to Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth, a sinister, vile, almost caricature-like representation of crime in America, or the suburbs, or the city — or in your mind. David Lynch leaves it up to up to the viewer.
If you haven’t seen the film, I’d wait for this one. NSFW by the way…
With Lynch’s masterful camera work (living room, back to the side angle in the closet), I was instantly transported into his world. From Frank’s brash tone and all-black style to his terrifying, yet comedic “Baby wants to fuck!” line, Lynch plays this scene to absolute perfection. As the viewer, we’re drawn in — yet helpless “in the closet” just like Jeffrey is in this particular scene. However, the viewer is expected to look on with more of a sense of shock and horror than Jeffrey, who oddly seems to be enjoying the experience.
Or, are they?
This is where Lynch differentiates himself from many directors, as he often decides to leave the ball in the audience’s court. Shouldn’t Jeffrey be more shocked than he actually is? Shouldn’t we? In a media-centric world driven by quick angles, juicy storylines, sex, and plenty of violence, Lynch makes sex and violence come alive through the medium of film. Just like Jeffrey, it is difficult to look away during life’s unpredictable moments, and sometimes, even the most dangerous ones. Taken very literally, we are sex. We are created from it — whether lust or love — we are shaped by it, and life’s transition begins during our connection to it during puberty and long after.
In Blue Velvet, we are shown sex’s irrationality, unpredictability, heartbreak, strangeness and violence through the collision and lives of Lynch’s characters. We are submerged in it. With Lynch’s dreamlike directing style, camera work and editing techniques, this dream trance only continues as the movie progresses. Pretty soon, we are caught up in a web of violence, deceit, heartbreak, death, and of course, plenty of sex.
Blue Velvet is an absolute masterpiece.
Camera Work: 5/5
Testament of Time: 5/5 —Way ahead of its time.