No 85 - Blue Velvet
Director - David Lynch
I do not own Speed or Easy Rider or Rebel Without a Cause and so when I heard of the death of the great Dennis Hopper I pulled out the two films I do own - this or Apocalypse Now. I decided it had to be this, as I have Apocalypse Now Redux, which isn't TECHNICALLY the film which was voted in...
It also meant that I could continue my tradition of watching completely unsuitable films over breakfast.
The film begins pretty innocuously with beautiful opening credits of elegant text against blue velvet (naturally) - it feels like a classic MGM film and that feeling's continued when the film pans into the middle American suburbia that Lynch is clearly fascinated by (see Twin Peaks for a small town version of the same theme).
But once we have been lulled into this false sense of security, the Lynchian weirdness begins. However, this is still a fairly (and surprisingly) standard story. There is none of the insanity of Eraserhead or Mulholland Drive. I kept expecting a strange angry dwarf to appear or some shocking nightmarish image. But there aren't any. The majority of the film fits the story. It is just that once we seep through the suburban exterior, we face the shockingly foul-mouthed violent underbelly.
Our protagonist is Jeffrey (an amazingly young Kyle MachLachlan) who discovers a disembodied ear in the middle of the woods. He then decides to investigate the ear himself - partly out of curiosity but also partly to impress the detective's attractive daughter.
Once there, he becomes embroiled with Frank; the insane, torturing, murdering psycho and the villain of this film. Also just an amazingly powerful and genuinely terrifying performance from Dennis Hopper.
I did not know that this was his 'comeback' film until I started doing a bit of research after watching, but what a comeback it is. Violent and abrasive he (literally) screams his presence and sears himself into the viewer's mind. It is made all the more scary by his unpredictable nature. Yes, he has goons, and yes, they all seem to be joyfully violent and vindictive - but they seem safe in comparison to Frank because they're not gassed up. Gas makes villains far more terrifying...
Frank's world is weird - but it isn't the nightmarish world which I was geared up to expect. Most of it is just cruel and unusual, and the only bit that genuinely doesn't make sense is that one of the cast appears to suddenly get a lobotomy. Is it a stray bullet? Or some kind of deliberate ploy to silence someone? Don't expect an answer. Just expect a stationary dribbling fool.
However, the best bit of Frank's world is that it includes a really effeminate Dean Stockwell as Ben (who is - to quote Frank - "One Suave Fucker"). Bloody love Dean Stockwell - he is great in both BSG and Quantum Leap! Certainly, the point where he starts singing is odd. But again, not as odd as Eraserhead.
This is a film which has touches of symbolism and the briefest hint of surrealism but is mostly quite realistic and a gritty return to classic film noir.
Whilst certainly not an easy watch, I found it quite enjoyable!