* Image taken from Turner Classic Movies (TCM)
Last night’s late night showing of Blue Velvet at the State Theater felt like watching a sex scene with your parents. That is, a two hour sex scene in a world where sexual blackmail prevails, women are held captive to masochistic, drug-addled perverts, and a young boy discovers his sexuality in a Freudian psychosexual nightmare. I don’t know how we watch it. Even less how it was made.
Blue Velvet is the strangest coming-of-age tale ever created. Released in 1986 by the infamous director David Lynch, Blue Velvet was initially rejected by several studios based on its aggressive, sexual, and, frankly, perverted content. However, despite these initial trepidations, the film went on to achieve true cult classic status, with Lynch earning an Oscar nomination for best director. I first watched Blue Velvet when I was 14 years old, and was immediately transfixed by the opening scene. A camera travels down a royal blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds, coming to rest on a white picket fence covered with luscious red roses. A smiling firefighter, a dalmatian by his side, waves at the camera from a slow-moving fire truck. This is a land of serenity: children safely cross the road, a man waters his green lawn, and a woman sips a cup of tea while watching TV.
But things are not as they seem. Suddenly, the man falls into the mud, clutching his neck. Something terrible has happened. The hose comes to rest at the man’s groin, obscenely shooting water into his dog’s mouth. As he lies prone on the ground, the camera travels down into the underbelly of the world. This is no longer a place of roses and tea. We dig into the ground, where carnivorous spiders burrow into the dirt and ants bite chunks out of stringy brown leaves. This is the real world – a place of secrets, confined underground in the Earth’s bowels.
I don’t really know how Blue Velvet is supposed to make me feel. Its content is so erotic, so charged, it feels almost like David Lynch is abusing the actors. Isabella Rossellini plays Dorothy, a battered woman who is being blackmailed into sexual slavery by the sadistic Frank (Dennis Hopper). Dorothy starts up an equivalent sado-masochistic relationship with the clean-cut Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan), who is ashamed of his feelings toward her but can’t control his urges. The scenes this trio – almost a love triangle – share are some of the most pornographic I have ever seen.
Blue Velvet is a 20th century masterpiece. I don’t know who decided to play it at the State Theater, but that person is one sick bastard.