Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Blue Velvet

David Lynch, 1986 (7.7*)
A naive suburban teen, played by Kyle MacLachlan in a breakthrough performance, finds a severed human ear in a field near his house. After going to the police, he decides to do a little amateur investigating on his own, to the chagrin of his girlfriend Laura Dern (who doesn't have much to do here other than act astonished). He uncovers a sinister local underworld revolving around sultry lounge singer Isabella Rossellini, whose signature song is the film's title.

It turns out that even though married, she is persued by drug-huffing and freaky Dennis Hopper, who has more than a few screws loose in this film, even compared to his normal dysfunctionality. Her rejections of his disgusting affections have led to the seamy big city underbelly that Kyle has stumbled upon.

There are many unsettling scenes in this, beginning with a closeup of the fly-covered ear in the films opening scene, but it gets far worse than that. In a way, this is like watching a film of car wrecks and high school catfights - you are disgusted but somehow oddly attracted, thinking what the hell is coming next? This film is not for the squeamish, but innovative director David Lynch (Eraserhead, Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive) has put his own personal stamp on crime films and has created an updated noir style for the new millenium.

This is now considered a cult classic, yet only has a rating of 7.8 at IMDB and 75/100 from Metacritics, so it's a film that is often discussed yet not universally praised. Like most Lynch films, your own feelings may vary widely, as he often wavers between brilliance and depravity. This is a film that could be accurately rated as both over-the-top pretentious garbage and as a uniquely different crime classic. There's a lot more unsettling disgust here than true romance (I felt embarassed for Isabella Rossellini and the demands placed on her performance), yet it's a film that won't go away, and despite my less than stellar rating, it's a must-see for die-hard fans of crime films.

One thing is certain: I'll never be able to hear this song again without this film bubbling up from the subconscious.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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