100 films I haven’t seen: ‘Blue Velvet’

I noticed the other day that David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” was leaving Hulu on Aug. 1, which seemed like the nudge I needed to finally get around to watching it.

Film 6: “Blue Velvet”

My excuse for not seeing it: I was seven years old when it came out, so that’s probably a good excuse. I saw “Dune,” “The Elephant Man” and “Eraserhead” when I was in high school, but I’d say “Blue Velvet” stands apart from as fairly different from David Lynch’s first three films. It has moments of the weirdness of “Eraserhead,” but it really feels like a proto-“Twin Peaks.”

Between Kyle MacLachlan, the noirish mystery, the music by Angelo Badalamenti, the small town setting and the weird psychosexuality that Laura Palmer could have easily been wrapped up in, “Blue Velvet” features a lot of material that “Twin Peaks” would go into greater, weirder depth on (albeit sanitized for network audiences).

Thoughts after watching it: I was a little nervous because Lynch’s work is always interesting, but sometimes (“Mulholland Drive”) I feel completely lost while watching it. Despite its weirdness, “Blue Velvet” is a pretty straightforward noir story. Clearly, Lynch was looking to reset things following the overly ambitious “Dune,” and he pulled it off.

I had never considered how early “Dune” was in Lynch’s career. Lately it has seemed like a lot of directors have jumped from a single small film or TV series to massive projects (The Russo Brothers, Josh Trank, Colin Trevorrow) with mixed results. But I guess this wasn’t a new problem. So don’t write off Josh Trank, maybe he’ll follow up his Craptastic Four with something really interesting. But probably not.

I know Dennis Hopper’s performance is the standout of the film (I remember being perplexed by his appearance as Frank Booth on SNL around that time), but it was Dean Stockwell’s small role that really caught my eye. I know Stockwell’s career dates back to his days as a child actor, but I first noticed him as the brash Al on “Quantum Leap.” Here he’s so reserved but also scary. His unexplained makeup made him look like a cross between David Bowie and David Johansen/Buster Poindexter. I wanted to know more about him, but I was also very satisfied to just sit back and ponder the many oddities in “Blue Velvet.”

I feel bad that I haven’t mentioned Isabella Rossellini or Laura Dern up to this point. They’re both star-making turns, while also fitting neatly into the often troubling molds of Lynch’s female characters. But they work for the film as Lynchian takes on a femme fatale and Girl Friday types.

Movies it has inspired me to check out: We recently finished watching the original run of “Twin Peaks” (I had seen the first season, but never the second), so “Fire Walk With Me” and the Showtime relaunch are on the horizon. I should also check out some of Lynch’s later works like “The Straight Story” and “Inland Empire.”

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