THE SCREENING ROOM
By Bill KallayThere was a time when I admired the works of director David Lynch. His vision was so unique and different, films like "The Elephant Man" and even the sporadic "Dune" seemed fresh. Then in 1986, "Blue Velvet" was released, polarizing audiences and critics. I loved the film at one time. Now seeing it twenty-five years later, my impression of it has changed.
"Blue Velvet" is now available on Blu-ray.
The first time I saw the film was on VHS. It was a horribly butchered pan-and-scan version. Despite not seeing the entire aspect ratio, I fell in love with how Lynch took a basic detective story and twisted it beyond recognition. I loved how Kyle MacLachlan's character of Jeffrey Beaumont goes from a total geek to a total voyeur. I found Dennis Hopper's character of Frank Booth to be delightfully evil, and at times, sickly humorous. The film's overall darkness and playful delight in sexual overtones impressed this young adult. It was a filmmaker's film, blending Hitchcock with Lynch's oddball mind.
The film continued to resonate with me over the years. I bought the LaserDisc and finally was able to see the entire aspect ratio. It was beautifully filmed by Frederick Elmes. And later, I finally saw the film on the big widescreen at a film festival at my old alma mater, Cal State Long Beach. It was then my impression of "Blue Velvet" began to change.
At one time, I clearly admired the film. The dark plot, Hopper's sadistic behavior, Lynch's sarcastic view of clean-cut little towns was very exciting to me. I was budding filmmaker and Lynch was so original. My young cynical mind found humor in "Blue Velvet." Hopper, just as an example, was so over-the-top. He was a villain I had never seen before. He was funny, scary, and outright crazy. He made me feel uncomfortable, yet I couldn't keep my eyes off the screen. I found Isabella Rossellini's performance to be haunting and strangely heartbreaking. Laura Dern was the anchor that kept the craziness of the entire film from floating too far away. Kyle MacLachlan was such a nerd, yet likable. But when he ventures into the dark world of Lumberton and goes into his own subconscious desires, I somehow rooted for him.
Now watching the film, I find myself questioning why I enjoyed this dark film so much. I haven't suddenly, in middle age, become a prude. But I wondered why my young adult mind took in Lynch's unusual vision so much. Seeing the film today, I was actually taken by how really bizarre it is. It's a dark, twisted world that Lynch has created. I was somewhat uncomfortable with the film in 1986, yet it appealed to me. Today, I almost felt guilty in taking joy in it.
There is no question that "Blue Velvet" continues to divide people. Although many films today, and even some television, stretch the bounds of violence and sexuality, Lynch's film continues to startle. I still find that there are scenes of brilliance. The acting in the film is dead-on, and I've always enjoyed the score. Hopper still hypnotizes. I guess now that I'm a bit older, the film no longer enchants my deranged mind. That said, I still contend that Lynch's film is a brilliantly disturbing, yet flawed, masterpiece.
The Blu-ray picture is excellent. Elmes' cinematography is rife with color, light and darkness. I noticed that the print occasionally weaves, making the Blu-ray presentation seem like you're watching an actual film print. Bravo! There are some scenes that are very sharp (exterior scenes), while the darkly lit scenes in Dorothy's apartment are appropriately dark and soft focused.
The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is excellent. The score and some of the sound design is quite well-recorded. This is a film that has always sounded good. The only setback, in my opinion, was some of the dialogue. The dialogue, at times, is distorted. It sounds as though perhaps the location recording was used, particularly on Hopper's lines.
"Blue Velvet" will probably continue to astound audiences for years. If anything, Lynch certainly pushed the boundaries of cinema.
Special thanks to Click Communications
Photos: © 20th Century Fox. All rights reserved.