Blue Velvet (1986) dir. David Lynch


Before PBR beer became a prominent signifier amongst hipsters to proclaim their cool, it was perhaps better associated as the cornerstone of Dennis Hopper’s tumultuous acting career. (And yes, dear reader, I say this with Hopper’s turn as King Koopa well in mind). What I’m referring to is a rather inconsequential moment in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet when Dennis Hopper’s character — Frank Booth — screams, “Heineken? Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!” It is iconic –and honestly what I thought of the most after I saw Blue Velvet for the first time.

And there’s a lot to think about with this movie! Or at least process. Watching Blue Velvet is to experience whiplash. One moment your smack in the middle of a small-town satire (or love-letter?), the next in a world of sadomasochism. Blue Velvet is in many ways the perfect encapsulation of David Lynch’s obsession with duality. People often point to Twin Peaks for its absurd mix of horror and small-town campiness, but in my opinion, this movie is the far more balanced of the two

However, especially at the time of its release, not everyone saw the merit in Blue Velvet. 


The legend himself as King Koopa!


In Roger Ebert’s one-star review for Blue Velvet he wrote, “… [its] scenes of stark sexual despair are the tipoff to what’s wrong with the movie. They’re so strong that they deserve to be in a movie that is sincere, honest and true. But “Blue Velvet” surrounds them with a story that’s marred by sophomoric satire and cheap shots. The director is either denying the strength of his material or trying to defuse it by pretending it’s all part of a campy in-joke.”

I think Ebert has his points, but I also think that what he wants Blue Velvet to be — judging by those comments — would rid the movie of its Lynchian quality (to get into a rabbit hole of what that neologism means, check out David Foster Wallace’s essay about Lynch). It is exactly that cognitive dissonance which Blue Velvet creates which makes it so fascinating. There are plenty of movies to watch which have beating hearts at their center and bring tears to your eyes….  

But Blue Velvet is designed to make you laugh, make you aroused, and make you disgusted.

And if that doesn’t sound like good time… Well then, maybe you should watch something else.

Blue Velvet
dir. David Lynch
120 mins.

Screens Thursday, 12/15, 7:30 PM, and Sunday, 12/18, 12:30 PM @ MFA
Part of the ongoing series: Woman Inherits the Earth: The Films of Laura Dern.

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