Blue Velvet Review
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A David Lynch film is kind of like the old saw about art itself: I may not be able to define it, but I know it when I see it. One of the director’s best-known films—and one that encapsulates many of his favorite themes and techniques—is the love-it-or-hate-it 1986 thriller, Blue Velvet, newly re-released on a 25th anniversary edition Blu-ray. This sordid neo-noir tale of seamy criminality beneath a veneer of wholesome, small-town America retains much of its ability to shock and unsettle, while also remaining an exquisitely crafted piece of cinema.

The film is set in the small town of Lumberton—a clear predecessor to the titular setting of Lynch’s seminal TV series, Twin Peaks. College student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle McLachlan) returns home after his father suffers a stroke and happens upon a severed human ear while walking through a field. Unable to resist the tantalizing albeit macabre mystery, he clumsily begins to investigate, which leads him into dangerous territory and introduces him to several uniquely Lynchian characters, including idealistic high-schooler Sandy (Laura Dern), damaged lounge singer Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini), and sadistic criminal Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper).

  
 
Lynch made this film following the critical and commercial bomb that was his adaptation of famous science-fiction novel Dune. After acrimonious dealings with the studio on that disaster—and thanks to his willingness to forgo much in the way of budget or salary—Lynch was able to make Blue Velvet entirely his own project, and it shows. The film moves at a leisurely pace, taking time to dwell on deliberately composed visual and auditory elements, always keeping you aware that there’s more going on than just moving the plot forward. Lynch’s background as a painter shines through in this Blu-ray edition, making full use of the vivid colors and sharp contrasts afforded by high-definition screens. Even the sparkling fabric used as background for the titles and credits is simply gorgeous.

While the lead actors each hold their own, special mention has to be made of Hopper’s performance. Frank Booth may be one of the seminal American screen villains—a manic, profane, and profoundly disturbed psychopath. Even while chewing scenery with gusto and dropping more f-bombs than your average hardcore rap album, Hopper manages to layer in just enough sentimentality to keep you from writing him off as a cartoon. Just the look on his face while an underling lip-synchs Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” speaks volumes.

There’s no easy way to sum up Blue Velvet. It’s a deeply textured work by an artist who’s known for committing a unique vision to film. It’s an exploration of violence and sex and the way we try to keep those things carefully hidden beneath view. It’s also a beautiful, intelligent film and a reminder that when talented individuals are allowed enough free reign to realize their vision, they create work that lasts.


Blu-ray Review:
Befitting a special edition of a classic film, this Blu-ray edition of Blue Velvet includes a couple of excellent special features, including a making-of documentary that should be required viewing for fans and about an hour’s worth of extra footage that, while its inclusion would have made the film somewhat bloated, provides some interesting character details while coloring in around the edges of the plot.

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