Tuesday, January 16, 2007

There is trouble until the robins come

Continuing my David Lynch-stravaganza is Blue Velvet, the movie that cemented Lynch's role in the fimmaking community and earned him an Academy Award nomination for direction. Blue can be described in threefold: 1) It is one part Hardy Boys mystery. 2) It is one part Hitchcock intrigue/triller. 3) It is one part WHAT THE FUCK? The first two parts are unique to this particular film, but part three spreads pretty much all over Lynch's repertoire.

As has surely been stated in numerous reviews far more scholarly than my own, Blue Velvet is Dennis Hopper's movie. Frank Booth is a mix between Adolf Hitler and the Tourette's Guy, spouting lines such as "I'll fuck anything that moves!" and "It's daddy, you shithead. Where's my bourbon?" as complete non sequiturs. He commits terrible atrocities under the influence of nitrous oxide, and the character is infused with some sort of terrific mania that struck Hopper. It's a role that both reinvigorated Hopper's worth as an actor and redefined his career. Somewhere along the line, Hopper got typecast as the lunatic, and he proceeded to play some great villains (Speed), some mediocre villains (24), and some horrible villains (Super Mario Brothers).

One of my favorite things about David Lynch's films is the way he utilizes unexpected contrasts, and one particular theme that recurs is the "dark side of the small, rural American town." The town in Blue Velvet--Lumberton, USA--is a dreamy, 50's-style logging town, and some of the earliest images in the film show smiling firemen waving from their trucks. Then, the camera takes us to the dirt in the ground, and shortly thereafter we find a severed ear among the grass. The sum of the perversions committed in this film is perhaps second only to Fire Walk With Me's heinous crimes. We see horrific murders, kidnapping, rape, abuse. The movie runs the gamut, and is all the more effective due to its decadence.

Angelo Badalamenti's score also parallels Bernard Herrmann's work on Hitchcock's films. This is one of Badalamenti's least-jazz-inspired Lynch scores, full of tense strings. It serves to heighten the emotion of the scenes, as opposed to the score of something like Twin Peaks which often works as a counterpoint to the action taking place. This very Lynchian contradiction between scene and music is not lost entirely in Blue Velvet. Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" is played as one character suffers a brutal beating in the outskirts of town. There are a few, brief, additional moments that follow the trend, but the score tends to adhere to the thriller formula.

I realize now why Lynch uses a lot of jazz-styling in his films. His films very much follow the cadence of jazz music, in which there is no clearly defined melody. There is a rhythm, but the noises that assault your ears are unexpected and oftentimes strange. Still, a talented jazz musician conveys a particular emotion with every song, and Lynch does the same with his films. He will barrage the viewers with images of snuffed candles, burnt out bulbs, and quickly passing roads (Lynch mainstays that appear in this film), and even if you don't know what it means, you will understand the feelings he wants to convey.

This is one of my favorite Lynch movies, and it's among the most followable of his original stories. Purchase the DVD, as the picture and sound are simply breathtaking.

1 comment:

Wes said...

Wow, really? I totally hated this movie! Like, really -- it provoked the same reaction from me as most Takashi Miike films... almost made me vow never to watch another Lynch movie again. But then I saw and enjoyed The Elephant Man, so he's not dead yet. :)