David Lynch is one of my favorite directors of all time. He’s weird and pretty much all of his best films need an “Interpretations” category on Wikipedia. With the release of Blue Velvet on Blu-Ray, we get to see Lynch at his very best. Too bad Wild at Heart followed this masterpiece. But I’m not going to get into that.
Blue Velvet is Lynch’s return to form after the just-okay Elephant Man and the abysmal adaptation of Dune. In fact, if he hadn’t made Blue Velvet after that aforementioned bomb, he might have forever been cemented as a guy who sold his soul to Hollywood. Hell, he wouldn’t have been the first or the last.
But Blue Velvet wasn’t another attempt at going commercial for Lynch. Blue Velvet was Eraserhead, but with color and Dennis Hopper wheezing into a gas mask. I’m not saying that Eraserhead has anything to do with Blue Velvet. They couldn’t be more opposite films. What I’m saying is, Lynch went back to writing and making films for himself with Blue Velvet. In so doing, we got a twisty, neo-noir film starring a then-nobody Kyle MacLachlan (who also starred in Dune) finding an ear on the ground, which leads to one of the weirdest, most disturbing films ever made…that just so happens to also be a masterpiece.
MacLachlan, playing a college student named Jeffrey Beaumont, finds the ear and takes it to the police. What follows is Dennis Hopper’s most iconic performance, Isabella Rossellini requesting to be beaten during intercourse, a guy known only as “The Yellow Man” because of his yellow jacket, and the eerie lip-synching scene with Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” (It should be noted that Orbison’s “Crying,” is lip-synched -- in Spanish -- in Mulholland Drive. Noticing a theme?).
What I love most about the movie, though, is the overall arc of it. Unlike many of Lynch’s later films, we really do get to see MacLachlan’s Beaumont go through some very dramatic changes. He starts out as this regular college kid with an inquisitive girlfriend (Laura Dern), but he’s a genuinely different person be the end. We get to see his entire journey as a character. In later Lynch films, much of this growth is implied visually. But in , we see Beaumont, who is at first just a regular voyeur, turn into something very different by the conclusion. It’s haunting, and it’s weird, and we’re all the better for it.
That said, this isn’t even Lynch’s weirdest film, not by a long shot. As I mentioned above, there’s actually a coherent narrative thread going on here, and that’s what makes it one of Lynch’s tightest and best films to date. Sure, the surreal "are these dreams?/are these nightmares?" qualities aren’t as heavy as they are in his later work like Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, or the nigh-unwatchable Inland Empire, but that’s what makes it so unique in its own right. Blue Velvet signified the re-emergence of a master just getting back on his feet. And if you haven’t seen it already, then you should. This Blu-Ray is the place to start.
This disc is loaded with special features. The “Mysteries of Love Documentary” is over an hour’s worth of footage, which is definitely old since Dennis Hopper is still alive and well it. It starts at the beginning, talking about how difficult it was to get Blue Velvet into theaters, how the town of Lumberton is actually real, and how sound plays such a huge part in the film. It’s all appropriate and interesting stuff, especially if you love the film like I do. The “Newly Discovered Lost Footage,” while great to finally see, might have been better if it had never been seen, as if involves a lot of talking on the phone. I also wish there was an option to put these scenes in the film where they were intended to go, but I’m sure that would haven take too much unnecessary work.
There disc also includes several tiny vignettes, with one of them featuring Lynch talking about a fish filet sandwich he likes at a local diner. Interesting. The “Original Siskel & Ebert Review” has Siskel praising the film and Ebert railing against it because of Isabella Rosselini’s vulnerability. I wonder how he feels about the movie today. A few outtakes, the trailer, and TV Spots round out the rest of the special features.