David Lynch: 'Blue Velvet', a dark journey into the light
This is the first time that Lynch has entered a nightmarish world, caused above all by the brutal presence of outlawed and mentally unbalanced characters. It took him a long time to put the pieces together, but what interested him most was to show the nauseating subsoil of an apparently idyllic society, in a disturbing journey by a man who can be curious.
Curiosity killed the cat
After some very elegant titles of credit, on a blue velvet curtain, and with the music of Angelo Badalamenti, we pass to a fused with the blue sky, and some images of the bucolic place where the action will take place, a place in which the firefighters walk greeting with a smile, to conclude with a man who has a heart attack while watering his garden.
Afterward, Lynch's camera is introduced into the soil of that garden, and he observes thousands of insects. More expressive impossible. In a truly masterly manner, he has united the two worlds: the apparent and luminous, and the occult and tenebrous. And with that event, the man who suffers an attack, a casual event, begins the story, because his son Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) will be the engine of the action, when he finds an ear cut off and full of ants that will be the beginning of a terrible mystery in which he will not be able to avoid being involved.
Jeffrey is a good boy, responsible and hardworking, who is attracted by the dark side of existence. He wants to taste that fear and that darkness, and he's going to get a good ration of it. This is a classic figure of the innocent man who will be involved in a nightmare because of the morbidity that a woman, or a mystery, produces in him. Soon he will also meet the daughter of the detective in charge of the case, the wonderful Laura Dern (really, this director's favorite actress).
By sneaking into the apartment of the beautiful and mysterious singer Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), Jeffrey will begin an adventure in which a psycho gangster (Dennis Hopper) will horrify him with all sorts of perversions, strange sex, wild violence and, in short, the absolute evil that he longed so much to know and that he will now suffer in his own flesh. He wants to learn things, even if it means taking risks. His reckless plan almost cost him his life, but he will try to keep his innocence, still bruised, in the process.
With the total complicity of the operator Frederick Elmes, with whom he had already worked with optimal results on 'Eraser Head', Lynch deploys a serene but acerbic staging, in which very sharp profile shots are common, and then turn them into frontal shots in which the horror, or beauty, of the situation, is finally revealed. The photography is very beautiful and brave, being able to combine the luminous with the gloomy, which is the theme of the film. There is also a desire to emulate a certain cinema of the past, in the form of photographing Laura Dern, for example, as if she were a star of the 1920s.
This is the first time that we enter one of those Lynchian atmospheres that have made him famous and that have been imitated so many times. Of all the atmospheres, Dorothy Vallens' apartment stands out because of its inherent will, the beginning, and the end of the whole plot. It is an apartment in which a disturbing red predominates, and with characteristic Lynchian furniture that makes us uncomfortable. This apartment is the door to another world, and its fundamental wardrobe remains engraved on our retina.
Lynch moves like a fish in the water in this convoluted and evil story and is able to build tension and suspense with great skill. Lynch opposes, with music and, the tender Sandy and the sensual Dorothy as two very different women who will give Jeffrey very different aspects of sensuality. All three are characters that Lynch understands and respects, and they are left with an opportunity, unlike the murderer Frank, who has no chance of redemption.
Lynch's undeniably major work, which enters a stage of maturity and gets its first Oscar nomination for best director. He had to give up part of his salary and was forced to rewrite the story to cut costs, but he got what he wanted: total artistic freedom and access to the final editing. This personal triumph consolidated him as a consecrated author in the United States, and his fabulous critics gave him the confidence to dive with more energy into that twisted universe that he continued to investigate in years to come.