Monday, 5 July 2010

(500) Films of Empire - Day 293

84 - Blue Velvet - 5 stars
Tonight at The Belmont we had a screening of the David Lynch classic. Originally this was booked as part of a film noir season but following Dennis Hopper's death due to a battle with cancer, it became a tribute screening to the late, great man's career with Frank Booth, arguably his most memorable role.
Like Shrek was fond of saying "Onions have layers", and this film is a noirish onion that peels back the layers of US small town suburbia to reveal the dark underbelly of society.
It was a predecessor to the likes of American Beauty and Desperate Housewives but obviously goes to much darker places. It was only tonight that I noticed the connection as Kyle Maclaughlin stars in Housewives and Velvet, something that must have been on the producers' minds when casting him (in Housewives that is).
A very young Maclaughlin is walking through the quiet sleepy town of Lumbertown and finds a severed ear. His fascination to solve the mystery of who it belonged to sends him tumbling down the rabbit hole to find some deeply disturbing and unpleasant characters lurk behind closed doors, in a theme he would revisit with Lynch in the fantastic TV series Twin Peaks. That reminds me, I should really get the second season on DVD once this challenge is completed.
The two main inhabitants of this "strange world" are the masochistic singer Dorothy Vallens (Rosselini) and the sadistic and psychotic Frank Booth.
This central menage a trois and the sexual violence that results from it sparked huge controversy at the time and caused Mark Kermode to write a scathing review that got him a punch in the mouth... he has since rewatched it and loved it.
Rosselini brings a sadness and vunerability to the character and like Hopper famously said, "he is Frank" and makes his chilling portrayal believable in this dream like world.
Music always plays an important part in Lynch's films, and there is often a moment where one song becomes a focal point of the movie. However it is not Blue Velvet, but In Dreams by Roy Orbison. It features twice; once lipsynced by Dean Stockwell, Lynch used the same effect in Mulholland Drive with Llorando which is a Spanish version of Crying by Roy Orbison again, and then spoken by Frank to Jeffrey during a scene where he beats him up, saying the lines:
"In dreams, I walk with you. In dreams, I talk to you. In dreams, you're mine, all of the time. We're together in dreams, in dreams."
There is a dream like quality to this film like much of Lynch's work but with Frank "Baby wants to fuck" Booth around it will always be more of a nightmare.

Days remaining - 72 Films remaining - 72

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