Sunday, January 09, 2011

#27: Blue Velvet

Blue Velvet, a film directed by David Lynch in 1986 much before his more popular Mulholland Drive( 1991) is the story of a young man's curious tendencies towards his mysterious neighbor in the sleepy town of Lumberton. The young man is Jeffrey ( Kyle Machlachlan) and the neighbor is a woman named Dorothy Vallens (Isabelle Rosellini) who is under the radar of the local police as a murder suspect. A casual conversation between Jeffrey and his friend Sandy (Laura Dern) piques the former's curiosity enough to sneak into Dorothy's apartment.

It is this inquest into the house that gives the movie it's momentum after a poetic start replete with some wonderful photography and the extremely likeable title track- "She wore Blue Velvet...". In what is a brilliant stroke by writer-director David Lynch, Jeffrey after landing himself in Dorothy's apartment suddenly finds himself possessing information that could become pretty handy for the local police in solving some of the crimes that have been going around in Lumberton. This information goes back to a person named Frank, played by Dennis Hopper, who not only physically abuses Dorothy at will but also has kidnapped her son and husband in return for sexual favors from her. Dennis Hopper is the very incarnation of evil in his role and delivers a staggering performance as the menacing Frank- a portrayal so riveting that with him on screen, you won't as much twitch your nose to breathe.

While Blue Velvet is a movie about crime, it also has a couple of morally complex storylines about how both Sandy, in spite of having a boyfriend and Dorothy end up liking the simpleton that Jeffrey is. The social triangle of affection between Sandy, Dorothy and Jeffrey becomes a point of conflict that is resolved only towards the end. At one point, Jeffrey is so taken in by his adventurous spirit that in his attempt to rescue Dorothy from Frank he finds himself embroiled in a group of bad men, led by Frank who threaten him that "he should count himself as f***ing lucky to be alive...". However, as in a typical film-noir movie, almost all characters have their dark shades that make it interestingly engaging for the viewers to judge them during the movie. The haunting background score goes a long way in coloring the movie with a lot of character and music is used as a theme that is central to both the characters of Frank and Dorothy.

I saw Blue Velvet in 2011, that's 15 years since it first released when it even got nominated for the Oscars.In the meantime, I had seen a few movies that explore similar ideas of a meek character in trouble pitted against the might of another character. Movies like Night of the Hunter come to mind. I wouldn't say such movies have necessarily been better than Blue Velvet but because they had similar overtones, I am inclined to think that Blue Velvet wasn't really a special one. It had the right ingredients for a compelling watch but unfortunately it just fell short. Not so much as the movie that is at fault but the fact that it just didn't age well enough to be as breathtaking to me now in 2011. It is still something I would seriously recommend if you've never seen a David Lynch movie for it is his lucid style - sometimes which shocks you and sometimes which pleases you but something that at all times effortlessly shines through the movie and makes it more than worth a watch.

Rating: 6.9/10

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