Blue Velvet (1986)
This one is so R-Rated I considered not posting it.
DIRECTOR: David Lynch
Oh, I am going to burn so many bridges with my opinion of David Lynch. When I worked at the video store, I quickly learned that everyone loves David Lynch. I do not like David Lynch...for the most part. But we have the Twin Peaks podcast coming up, so I wanted to knock out the one major Lynch film that I hadn't seen. Readers, if you have been perusing this blog for the objective, hard hitting criticism that I tend to offer (okay, even I can't take myself that seriously), I'm going to deliver some emotion here. This is a real confession. I always attacked David Lynch in the past for the reasons I'm about to present. I'd get into these major debates with my co-workers and customers and they would always say, "But what about Blue Velvet?" I would retort with a confident "Yes, even Blue Velvet," pretending I had seen it. Now I can actually say "Yes, even Blue Velvet" despite my shameless lies of the past...again, for the most part.
My major beef with David Lynch is that weirdness for weirdness sakes is easy. The real challenge to creating art is building upon the backs of the forefather's visitors, reliving each moment of photosynthesis until darkness foresakes its eternal prison and I nac etirw sdrawkcab oot. (If you didn't get what I was doing, I was flawlessly demonstrating how easy it is to be weird.) Now, this is where I run into a degree of hypocrisy. I do like weird things. I'm going to use Wes Anderson's direction as a contrast to David Lynch's because he's really good, but also really weird. Please understand that I think weirdness can be a good thing and there are many directors who use it extremely well. I'm just going to use Anderson as my example because I think he's really consistent in his stylization of film. Lynch loves to show weird stuff. He wants his audience to feel uncomfortable and he was not alone in that philosophy. Many directors want to alienate their audiences because that discomfort can throw an audience into a fury. They believe that complacency is the enemy of revolution and an audience that simply absorbs a narrative is less likely to make change. While I think that's a bit of malarkey to begin with, I don't know what David Lynch wants its audience to do. Does he want them to be weird? Does he want them to look at the world around them and think of the dark underbelly that feeds it. There is a point in Blue Velvet that would really support this theory. The movie opens with the title song playing over an overly-idealistic sequence of the Midwest before zooming to a swarm of beetles, contrasting its ugliness. As a metaphor, it really works. But that's about as far as the audience is thrown into a frenzy. He just wants me to know that the world is a bad place? Weirdness does not expose that theme. Wes Anderson uses his weirdness with a certain set of rules. Looking at the beginning of The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson establishes the rules of the world. He shows what is acceptable and how people will react to certain scenarios. He establishes that the Tenenbaum clan is very intense to begin with in a world already pretty accustomed to strangeness. When something weird happens later, there is a level of plausiblity because that is what I was told earlier. The emotional attachment to these characters still happens because I have learned to love the characters. I always get the vibe that Lynch wants me to hate his characters because of their emotional aloofness.
Blue Velvet is actually pretty tame compared to many of his movies, maybe with the exception of Dune, oddly enough. There is a straightforward plot and something that can be somewhat invested in. I can see why everyone cited this movie in their argument against me. It is the blueprint for much of what would happen on Twin Peaks. The setting of Lumberton, the woman caught up in a hidden underbelly in distress, many of the actors...these would all be repeated in Twin Peaks. I think I have to read about the history of Twin Peaks. I know about the new Twin Peaks. David Lynch nearly left the new show because he wanted complete freedom to do whatever he wanted with the show. That's a dangerous thing, I think. Blue Velvet has the same plot elements, but he wants to show everything. The movie feels like it is trying so hard to be dark. If Lynch intended for Jeffrey to be so young to mirror what a teenager thinks deviancy is, he's a genius. I get the vibe that's not what's going on. Twin Peaks tries its hand with eroticism, but has to maintain television broadcast standards. Even there, what it views as uncouth feels like a community theatre production of "sexy". But letting Lynch off the chain without restriction lets us in on how juvenile Lynch's fantasies are. Honestly, the dirty part of the film feels like online fan fiction because I refuse to believe that the world acts like that. He's not calling for action; he's justifying perversion. Add to that Dennis Hopper's ironically evil character. I know, the f-bomb is ironic. It has to be. But the joke wears thin very quickly. I love Hopper, but good gravy that got under my skin. But again, I'm a hypocrite. I like Negan in The Walking Dead comics, so how is that okay? Anderson uses irony sparingly. He does callbacks and structures his films cleverly. Lynch beats weirdness into the ground and calls you an idiot for not liking it
But the movie is watchable. I think it is because this movie is holding back a little. He hasn't gone Eraserhead or Inland Empire yet, and I guess I can applaud that. The end was genuinely cool. It is weird, but fittingly weird. There are times I got really engrossed with the story, maybe against the creator's wish. Isabella Rossellini knows her audience with Lynch. Her choices are super bizarre, but that matches everything else. I love that Dean Stockwell got the "And" credit in a movie with Dennis Hopper. I'm not really sure why he's in the movie, but I always appreciate a good Dean Stockwell cameo.
Lynch lacks subtlety with his filmmaking, but that kind of works for a lot of it. He always seems to pick strong colors, which kind of make the quality seem chincy. I have the same problem with John Waters, so if you like him, I can also alienate you while I'm at it. But on the other end of that, he knows how to light and shoot the crap out of a film. I know this is one of his earlier entries, but Lynch shows that he's got director chops here. This seems wildly condescending, but I Idon't like his directorial choices so I question what happened. Regardless, I clearly am in the wrong here because consensus is against me. He's a quality filmmaker but --blech-- not for me.
For more on this topic, listen to our upcoming Literally Anything podcast sometime this month. We'll probably have some guests to defend Mr. Lynch's legacy, so fear not. I'm going to be taking a break from reviews for a while as I'm traveling abroad without Internet. I'll be back in a week. If you find a ton of mistakes, I apologize. I'm typing this on my phone in the back of a bus.
6/10/2017 10:11:38 am
Hey, the 6 hour director's cut of Dune was awesome; plus young Patrick Stewart!
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.