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Blue Velvet


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Seeing no dedicated thread, I'm launching this one. However, I'm not eager to discuss this film, to which I've had a hate/love relationship over the years.

Instead, I want to link to an amazing Roger Ebert review of the film originally published on Oct. 2, 1986, and recently re-posted on Ebert's Web site.

He reminds why I've hated this film in the past, and why I might decide to hate it again.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Thanks for this link Christian. Even though I disagree with Ebert on the film, this has long been one of my favorite film reviews. It has always struck me as the tone of writing I have wanted to achieve as a "Christian" writer.

But then, as Ebert points out, Lynch has always wanted to produce artwork that a viewer would want to "sink his teeth into" in a literal sense, and this is precisely what Ebert does in the review. Ebert's consternation with Blue Velvet seems to imply that Lynch has been successful. Other critics, such as Kael, who glazed over how awful the film is to deal with are the ones that actually missed the boat.

So maybe I don't disagree with Ebert? Now I am confused. But ultimately, I think I want to remain confused by Lynch's good films as they are so intentionally slippery.

Edited by MLeary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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  • 3 years later...

My wife and I started BLUE VELVET last night, and we'll finish it tonight. I've seen BLUE VELVET before, but she had never seen it, and after she fell in love with MULHOLLAND DRIVE, she's been hankering for more Lynch. That brought us to ERASERHEAD, and now we're on to BLUE VELVET. Unlike a number of others 'round these parts, I don't hate this film. In fact, I suggested she watch it with me because I think BLUE VELVET is such an essential and remarkable entry in Lynch's filmography, indeed, perhaps his greatest work (any other A&Fers with me on that one?). That's not to say it's an easy watch. Few films unsettle me like this one does.

I'll hopefully get around to posting more detailed thoughts after we finish. Like most Lynch films, BLUE VELVET is so terribly "slippery" (as Michael put it up above), and I'm finding myself once again caught up in processing his complicated work.

Edited by Ryan H.
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Unlike a number of others 'round these parts, I don't hate this film--indeed, I suggested she watch it with me because I think BLUE VELVET is such an essential and remarkable entry in Lynch's filmography, indeed, perhaps his greatest work (any other A&Fers with me on that one?). I'm not sure any other cinematic artist so understands how to give life to a cinematic nightmare like Lynch does. His work is terrifying in ways that few films manage, and BLUE VELVET is a deeply uncomfortable, unsettling experience.

I'm with you. I've been catching up on a few other Lynch films this past year (LOST HIGHWAY, WILD AT HEART). I think BLUE VELVET is still his "best", however you want to parse that.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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After finally seeing The Straight Story a few weeks ago, I've now seen every Lynch. My knee-jerk reaction is that I don't like Blue Velvet at all, don't find it interesting or fascinating, at least after the initial ear is found. It's got nothing on Eraserhead in terms of both style and deep substance. But I haven't seen it in years, perhaps not even since the late 90s, and I wouldn't mind visiting it again as an "adult."

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I'm with you. I've been catching up on a few other Lynch films this past year (LOST HIGHWAY, WILD AT HEART). I think BLUE VELVET is still his "best", however you want to parse that.

I still need to see LOST HIGHWAY and WILD AT HEART.

There are some good moments in each film (Sailor is one of Nick Cage's great characters, and the Robert Blake's Mystery Man is profoundly disturbing), but neither adds up to the whole that BLUE VELVET does. It exemplifies the fragility of our civilization, via the grotesque and frightening lurking just below the surface of society, but not in a banal AMERICAN BEAUTY kind of way (you know, the whole "Isn't suburbia a drag?" routine). Instead, as David Foster Wallace described the term "Lynchian," it encapsulates " a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former's perpetual containment within the latter." And that is a very terrifying notion indeed

After finally seeing The Straight Story a few weeks ago, I've now seen every Lynch. My knee-jerk reaction is that I don't like Blue Velvet at all, don't find it interesting or fascinating, at least after the initial ear is found. It's got nothing on Eraserhead in terms of both style and deep substance. But I haven't seen it in years, perhaps not even since the late 90s, and I wouldn't mind visiting it again as an "adult."

I have to say, I do think it has real substance.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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My knee-jerk reaction is that I don't like Blue Velvet at all, don't find it interesting or fascinating, at least after the initial ear is found.

Give it another shot, Stef. Blue Velvet isn't my favorite Lynch film, but it's the one I'd choose if someone said, "Darren, I've never seen any of this guy's work. What one film should I watch to get a sense of him." That DFW quote Anders pulled out is a nice summary, but I'll go back to what has become my standard line on Lynch: his best films are about the tragedy and sorrow of violence. Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) and Sandy (Laura Dern) stumble into a titillating mystery that their secure, middle-class backgrounds have left them totally unprepared for. Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini) is trapped in a horrific situation. It was only when I saw the film years later, as a mature adult, that I suddenly became overwhelmed by the sadness of it all (rather than mesmerized by its surrealism).

The first season of Twin Peaks is, to me, a masterpiece of television because at its sorrow-filled core it's a show about a young girl who was abused and murdered by her father. Blue Velvet is, likewise, a great American tragedy.

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The first season of Twin Peaks is, to me, a masterpiece of television because at its sorrow-filled core it's a show about a young girl who was abused and murdered by her father. Blue Velvet is, likewise, a great American tragedy.

The second season of Twin Peaks is tragic too, though in a different way.

I read the DFW essay last fall, and it made me appreciate Lynch in ways I hadn't thought of before. It talks about the horror of violence quite a bit, as well, especially in regards to Fire Walk With Me.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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Thanks for the invite, Darren. I am backslidden filmically, having recently rejected The Searchers and now taking a month off to watch De Palma. You are obviously very kind, reaching out to us when we slip. :)

I might take you up on it though. Maybe later in the summer. I find that sometimes my own growth in viewing is key to revisiting certain works, other times it's just me and the way I've changed over the years. Revisiting films sometimes shows one how their own definitions have really changed.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I've mentioned this elsewhere on the forum, I think, but I was a Lynch skeptic for years. It wasn't until I worked through all of his films, more or less in sequence, that I came to appreciate him. I'm only making the case for Blue Velvet because my most recent viewing of it was such a revelation. I wouldn't be surprised if you had a similar experience.

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I'm not a fan of either Blue Velvet and am convinced MH is one of the worst experiences I ever endured in the cinema. Avoidef W@H and LH and TP.

But I do think Elephant Man is a profoundly altruistic achievement. And I really like Dune.

Sue me.

Nick Alexander

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Host of the Prayer Meeting Podcast - your virtual worship oasis. (Subscribe)

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Blue Velvet is a movie I desperately want to love but can't, somehow. I admire it; I appreciate the ideas at play and the performances and all that. But I just can't warm to it in the way I do toward Mulholland Dr, Twin Peaks, Eraserhead, or even Dune. I'm certainly not going to join Ebert's condemnation of it, but on the whole the movie doesn't really grip me in the way that nearly every other Lynch movie does (exception: Wild at Heart. What a mess).

I do admire the slow corruption of Jeffery Beaumont, though--it's a slow shift, at first, with a protagonist with the same sorts of voyeuristic weaknesses that plague Hitchcock's leads. But where Hitchcock always pulled back just before tossing Jimmy Stewart into the Black Lodge (well, beyond Vertigo, a film that holds an obvious amount of influence over Lynch in general and Blue Velvet in particular), Lynch confronts Jeffery with his darker impulses head-on, and the result is predictably terrifying. I can groove on that. But something in the execution always leaves me dissatisfied every time I revisit the film. I wish I could lay my finger on it, but I can't.

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It seems people like DUNE. Now that I just don't get. But I also think Herbert's book is pretty lousy, so, y'know, maybe I'm just not the right person to make a call on that film.

I do admire the slow corruption of Jeffery Beaumont, though--it's a slow shift, at first, with a protagonist with the same sorts of voyeuristic weaknesses that plague Hitchcock's leads. But where Hitchcock always pulled back just before tossing Jimmy Stewart into the Black Lodge (well, beyond Vertigo, a film that holds an obvious amount of influence over Lynch in general and Blue Velvet in particular), Lynch confronts Jeffery with his darker impulses head-on, and the result is predictably terrifying. I can groove on that.

This is, for me, the most compelling element of BLUE VELVET.

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  • 8 years later...

Bumping this for some discussion related to the top 100. The first post in this thread links to Roger Ebert's review that I agree almost completely with, seeing it as a bad satire that doesn't trust its dark material enough. I say this to disclose that I won't crack easily on this one as I have with other films we've been discussing. But I still want to give a chance to those who want to advocate for it. Especially to anyone who nominated it, I'd love to hear you make a case for its spiritual significance.

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Thanks Darren. That's an excellent argument. I don't plan on voting until the end of the window, so I'll think about you have to say. I'm afraid, as I said before, that I'm not too flexible on this one, but I promise I'll carefully consider what you said before I make my final decision on how to vote.

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