Blue Velvet is one of David Lynch’s most iconic, yet surrealistically beautiful, films. Blue Velvet demonstrates David Lynch’s ability to mix artistic sequences with practical storytelling, and the film incorporates David Lynch’s satirical depictions of the secret sins of suburban America: a theme that would play a very important part in future projects such as Dumbland, Lost Highway, and Mulholland Drive. Blue Velvet was made after the release of David Lynch’s most celebrated film, The Elephant Man, and his biggest cinematic flop, Dune. David Lynch had a lot riding on Blue Velvet to get his cinematic career back on track after soaring such highs and lows, however, David Lynch achieved great success with Blue Velvet and the film remains to this day one of David Lynch’s most memorable films, and a spiritual precursor to David Lynch’s magnum opus: Twin Peaks.
Blue Velvet‘s starring cinematic achievement is the film’s control of cinematic flow. The film starts off relatively normal, providing an idyllic view of sunny suburbia. However, as the movie continues, the film’s content begins to devolve more and more away from normalcy with the inclusion of off-putting surreal sequences with bizarre characters that emanate an atmosphere of pure dread, reflecting the intense journey of the protagonist, Jeffrey Beaumont, as he is plunged deeper and deeper into his hometown’s violent underbelly. This surreal atmosphere makes Blue Velvet a very uncomfortable film to watch. As a viewer, I felt a constant feeling of threat whilst watching Blue Velvet because the film holds nothing back: the characters are intimidating, deeply perverted, and uncomfortable, and the film itself is jarring and inconsistent. However, despite the disturbingly nightmarish content that the film has to offer, Blue Velvet is full of thought provoking symbolism that is both clear and hidden behind the aesthetics. All in all, Blue Velvet is about the balance of good vs evil, love conquering oppression, and by the end of the film, Blue Velvet is strangely uplifting with a clear positive message hidden behind it’s disturbing content.
What truly makes Blue Velvet stand out, however, more-so than any other David Lynch film, is the incredible performances given by every single actor: Kyle Mclachlan gives a convincingly empathetic performance as Jeffrey Beaumont: a lost lamb in a sea of mystery and danger; Laura Dern plays Sandy, the picture perfect suburban princess; and Isabella Rosellini gives a tour de force as the deeply disturbed and constantly abused singer Dorothy Vallens. However, these performances, no matter how good they are, pale in comparison to the one given by Dennis Hopper. Already a veteran actor by the time he started Blue Velvet, Dennis Hopper gives a frighteningly unhinged performance as the film’s villain: the perverted, violent and criminally insane Frank Booth. Dennis Hopper’s character is what makes Blue Velvet so frightening to watch: Frank Booth is an unreasonable lunatic who’s only motivation is his need for nihilistic hedonism, and Dennis Hopper portrays the character perfectly; giving a nightmare inducing performance which makes Blue Velvet so memorable and so mesmerizing to watch. In fact, Dennis Hopper’s performance as Frank Booth could possibly be the greatest performance of his outstanding acting career.
In conclusion, Blue Velvet is a cinematic masterpiece, and it is as outstanding today as it was 32 years ago; a real achievement in the film industry. Blue Velvet is unrelentingly nightmarish and uncomfortable to watch, but that’s exactly what makes watching Blue Velvet such a powerful cinematic experience. In my personal opinion, Blue Velvet may not be David Lynch’s greatest film, but it’s a perfect example of what makes David Lynch such an iconic film-maker: a film-maker able to balance the real with the surreal to create a movie watching experience unlike any other.