- David Lynch
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Wednesday, March 11, 2009
You just see his frames, with such bizarre design, but nothing really unnatural about them at first sight, and realize that there’s something special about them. What’s so haunting about an old colorful living room with a couple of fat girls and a weirdo, for example? It is, perhaps, the context: the place is supposed to be a brothel attended by a psycho who has kidnapped a man and a boy to blackmail the wife and mother into perverted sex… in picture-perfect 1950s Anytown, U.S.A.
That’s more or less the idea and the way it’s played. Lynch goes back and forth from happy settings to excruciating ones, and from the get-go we’re not sure which are worse: those where people seem to smile forcedly or those where they live out their darkest inhibitions though these include pain and fear. Either way, it’s hard to feel comfortable watching the combination, particularly as photographed, also in extremes, by Frederick Elmes. It’s special, to say the least, but hard to bear. This is not for all tastes, but a must-see.
I suspect the main character is based on the writer/director. Having left to college, apparently leading a dull life, Jeffrey (Kyle MachLachlan) is forced to return to his hometown after his father has suffered a seizure and is hospitalized. The collapse is played out in such a way that foreshadows what it will trigger: perfection has come to an extreme and the man doesn’t seem to stomach it, falls down, and is soon joined by a thirsty mad dog as he lies on top of (the camera zooms to reveal) vicious insects. The son, quite unable to show emotion, perhaps a reaction of growing in such an artificial scenery, is disturbed, as are we, by the sight of a severed human ear which he takes to a police detective. Jeffrey is advised to stay away from the case, rather as a child is from films like this. But such kid is curious, and sometimes sneaks into the TV room at night to take a peek.
As Jeffrey excitedly pokes his nose into the case, he’s introduced to a world of perversion, sadomasochism and crime which he finds magnetic. Simultaneously, he romances the detective’s daughter (Laura Dern), one that perfectly fits the 50s’ mold and speaks as in a sitcom from that era, and though she’s excited by Jeffrey’s antics, doesn’t seem much into them, but rather curious in a teenage fashion, that which makes us all do stupid things that we regret the next day if something goes wrong. Jeffrey, on the other hand, finds no end to his inquisitiveness, and only finds any logic in his relationship with Sandy through the investigation that he shares with her.
But it is in his discoveries that he finds the two elements that likewise fill Lynch’s oeuvre: a badly humiliated woman who lives in the shadow of a threat and finds herself inevitably attracted to such lifestyle, and the monster that enthralls her. She’s played by Isabella Rossellini as if in perpetual trance, half-naked at best, sensual and dirty, suffering and enjoying, hating and loving; a masterful portrait of a woman who’s perhaps confused or maybe in bliss. Dennis Hopper is as unforgettable as ever as the man who has put her in that position, who seems at times capable of the worst, and at others completely vulnerable, perhaps the real victim of the situation.
The disappointment comes when there doesn’t seem to be a point to any of it. It turns out to be a display of shocking contrasts, a study of perversion in an unlikely setting, perhaps a satire of seemingly perfect towns and the people who foolishly enjoy living in them, or those who hide secrets as dark as we can only imagine, finding catharsis in improbable ways. As I said before, I must encourage a viewing of this, but I cannot pretend to having loved it.
Gon C Curiel en Twitter | CriticSociety en Twitter | CriticSociety en Facebook
Share on Facebook | Share on Twitter
Other reviews of Blue Velvet (1986): Morris