Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: contains violence, sexual violence and offensive language
Isabella Rossellini as Dorothy Vallens
Kyle MacLachlan as Jeffrey Beaumont
Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth
Laura Dern as Sandy Williams
Hope Lange as Mrs. Pam Williams
Dean Stockwell as Ben
Director: David Lynch
College student Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) returns home after his father has a stroke. When he discovers a severed ear in an abandoned field, Beaumont teams up with detective’s daughter Sandy Williams (Laura Dern) to solve the mystery. They believe beautiful lounge singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) may be connected with the case, and Beaumont finds himself becoming drawn into her dark, twisted world, where he encounters sexually depraved psychopath Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper).
Blue Velvet was the first movie I saw from David Lynch and it left quite an impression on me. Returning back to it after having seen some of his other movies, I find it to be an even better movie. A great and strange thriller, directed excellently and beautifully. It may have been divisive upon its release, but its generally regarded now as a classic.
Blue Velvet is by far the most straightforward of David Lynch’s films, at least one of his most. While there’s definitely a lot to unpack thematically, you won’t have to deep dive interpret events yourself to understand the general plot (like some of his other movies like Mulholland Drive). It is tightly paced across the 2 hour long runtime and keeps you constantly engaged. It starts as an innocent enough mystery that seems Nancy Drew esque (albeit one sparked by discovering a severed human ear in a field) but turns into a seedy nightmare as it descends into an unsettling psychosexual fantasy world. Lynch contrasts the bright and sunny façade of suburban life with the dark underbelly of crime and sexual perversions. Blue Velvet may be a neo-noir thriller but it’s a mix of a lot of elements, noir, comedy, satire, thriller, a bit of horror, and it’s even part sordid noir and teen melodrama. It’s a film dripping in sleaze and foreboding menace, and has a creepy aura.
The cast are all great in their parts. Kyle MacLachlan does well as Jeffrey, portraying someone who finds his innocence corrupted as he uncovers what’s really going on. Isabella Rossellini gives a very effective and memorable performance. Laura Dern is also good in her part. The performance that steals the whole movie however is Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth. Hopper has played plenty of villains, but none of them come close to the level of Booth in this movie. He’s completely depraved, disturbed and incredibly memorable. The movie is already great before he shows up, but its taken to a whole other level when he does, and really does signal the reveal of the darker side of the film’s setting.
David Lynch’s direction is nothing short of fantastic. It looks great, the cinematography is rich and colourful in its presentation, showcasing the light and dark of the town with impressive use of texture and shades of tone. At the same time there are occasionally some aesthetics of a horror film in here. The set and production designs are also quite effective. Blue Velvet really does aim for a noir movie feel, with the shadows, some of the shots and the score. Speaking of which, the score from Angelo Badalamenti works quite well. The use of songs also works in their respective scenes, including Blue Velvet, In Dreams and Mysteries of Love, fitting Lynch’s vision perfectly and heightening their respective scenes.
Blue Velvet is an excellent movie, a dreamlike and nightmarish thriller so fantastically directed and put together. It is up there among Lynch’s best work, and I think I’m close to considering it among my favourite movies now. While I haven’t finished watching all of David Lynch’s movies yet, I’d say that if you wanted a movie to start to get into his filmography, Blue Velvet is a great start.