A totally whacked "mystery" movie from your friend and mine, David Lynch. Featuring the ever present Kyle MacLachan, Dennis Hopper and others, it explores bizarre sex, evil deeds and more, slightly less bizarre sex. The bad guy loses in the end, and everyone lives happily ever after, well sort of.
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The Final Sequence of David Lynch's Blue Velvet

In Blue Velvet (1986, David Lynch), the viewer is witness to an epic battle between good and evil. The seemingly serene setting of the town of Lumberton is almost torn apart by the uncovering of a dark and frightening sub-culture, or perhaps sub-world, that has been operating in hiding the entire time. Almost immediately after Jeffrey kills Frank, hence slaying the dragon, the viewer is transported by means of a fade-to-white, a technique that suggests ascension, to the final scene before the closing montage. This scene shows the viewer that the dark half of the Lumberton equation, Frank, et al, has been destroyed, or at the very least cowed and forced into hiding. This second possibility is quite dark in and of itself, and I will return to it.

The scene begins with a fade from white to an extreme close-up of the inside of an ear. We have seen shots like this previously in the film, although before they were of a rotting, disembodied ear (Dorothy's husband's) and before we were moving into the ear. In this shot, we start off practically inside the ear and pull out. In those previous ear-shots, the inside of the ear was shown as a dark, forbidding and animalistic place. What is, literally speaking, inside of an ear? One could say that the human brain is, suggesting that all of the external darkness in the world of Blue Velvet is a measure of the personal and emotional darkness of the characters.

As this extreme close-up pulls out, the plot thickens as it is revealed that the ear in question belongs to one Jeffrey Beaumont. This suggests that Jeffrey, like Frank, has this darkness hammering around inside of his skull, and the pull back from the ear is not meant to be reassuring. Instead it is just that: a pull back. A moving out of the dark half of Lumberton/Jeffrey, almost like theatrical curtains being drawn. This dark side of Jeffrey is not just suggested here. We see it in the rest of the film as well. It wasn't innocent curiosity that drove Jeff to sneak into Dorothy's apartment, and it certainly wasn't what drove him to return a second and third time. At one point, Frank tells Jeffrey that the two of them are the same, and Jeffrey seems more worried than offended, suggesting that he has become aware of it.

As the pull back concludes, we cross-cut between Jeffrey's face and his point-of-view: a robin in the tree above his head. This, of course, is a reference to Sandy's dream about robins, representing love, ridding the world of all the bad things; all the Franks. What is interesting about this robin, however, is that it is clearly a puppet. It would have been the easiest thing in the world to simply go out and shoot an actual robin. It would be easier and less expensive. So why build a bird puppet that doesn't cut the mustard? To imply that this idea of a "robin of love" is not realistic. Yes, Frank is dead, as is the Yellow Man and just about everyone in Frank's operation. But what about Ben? The audience is never shown what, if anything, happens to Ben. If anything, Ben is more evil than Frank. More calculating, more cool and inhuman. More "fuckin' suave"; as Frank would put it. If there's a Ben out there, that implies that there is a larger social frame-work that Ben exists in. Jeffrey and company uncover a tiny piece of this "seamy underbelly." Despite what Jeffrey may think, it's not all's well that ends well in Lumberton.

At this point, Sandy comes out of the house proclaiming that lunch is ready, looking every bit a perfect Suzy-Homemaker. Jeffrey responds, then gets up from his "relaxing-while-the-womenfolk-do-the-cooking"; position on a lawn chair.

In another part of the yard, Jeffrey and Sandy's fathers are talking. Jeffrey's father proclaims that he's feeling much better now. This, of course, refers to the medical problem that he had at the beginning of the film, probably a stroke. Here he's working in the lawn, just as he was when he succumbed at the beginning. The viewer has no idea what prompted this amazing recovery, but can only assume that the ailment itself was tied in with the creeping into the daylight of the dark side of the town. When that side was forced back into the shadows, Jeff's father recovered.

When Jeff heads inside, he sees his and Sandy's mothers talking on a couch, chatting away, completing the "perfect," pseudo-1950s, gender dichotomy established with the two fathers.

He is then called over to the kitchen by Sandy and his Aunt Barbara to see, yet again, the (puppet) robin. The robin is now sitting on the kitchen window-sill, holding an insect in its beak. This insect heralds back to the very beginning of the film. When Jeff's father collapses onto his lawn during the stroke, the camera penetrates the extremely green grass of said lawn, revealing an entire landscape of beetles similar to the one the robin is eating now. They are fighting and tearing one another apart. The camera's movement under the lawn mirrors Jeff's movement in the film. He starts off on the surface of the town, the green grass of Lumberton, but uncovers a violent and sinister undercurrent. The insects here represent the hate and violence that he finds. So, at the end, Sandy's robin of love, as it is essentially referred to in this scene by Jeff, nabs the bug of hate. But is this a perfect conclusion? I think not.

Again, the robin is clearly a puppet. The visage of love that has apparently flown in to save them all is blatantly artificial, as it should be. Love has not conquered all in Lumberton. Frank's criminal organization was not destroyed by blowing it away with the blinding light of peace and harmony. Instead, the cops raid the joint, apparently killing all the criminals, and quite a few cops in the process. This climaxes with Jeffrey deceiving Frank with the police radio, then shooting him in the head. The robins of love are nowhere to be found in these scenes. Jeff and the police have merely cut down the most blatant offenders, the criminals that directly affect them, leaving what is clearly a much larger underground society virtually untouched. How Jeffrey can smile and relax knowing that people like Ben are still out there is strange indeed. Ben is so frightening that even Frank admires him. Yet Jeffrey seems to be content pretending that he doesn't exist. This obliviousness is seen again in Aunt Barbara. Watching the robin, she comments that she could "never eat a bug." Because of this kind of squeamishness, she is content to not even think about the unpleasantness of what's going on in her own town and under her own lawn. This is hinted at earlier, when she warns Jeff to stay away from Lincoln Street.

The last line of dialogue in this scene, and in Blue Velvet as a whole, is Sandy commenting to Jeff that, "It's a strange world, isn't it?" I have seen this line provoke laughter in audiences, and for good reason. It's an incredibly trite sentiment, and it's funny to see someone go through what she's gone through and take away only that. She has not been changed by what she's experienced. She saw Jeff at his darkest, with the revelation that he had been lovers with Dorothy, yet she forgave him immediately. Jeff is no better, and is more than happy to fall into a domestic environment with his family and Sandy.

This, of course, leaves only Dorothy to remember. As we can see from the last shot of the film, of Dorothy with her son, she is all too aware of what the two of them have gone through, and what may be ahead.

neil says re Blue Velvet: A hidden feature on the Special Edition DVD tells the story of the robin. It was in fact a real robin. Just dead, that's all.

This essay is also available at my film site at http://lensflare.virtualave.net/bluevelvet.html. Just letting ya'll know so I don't get accused of ripping anybody off.

2 oz. black raspberry liqueur
2 oz. mellon liqueur
4 oz. vanilla ice cream
whipped cream (if desired)

Combine in a blender with ice. Mix until smooth, then add whipped cream.

Everything Bartender

Jeffrey: "See that clock on the wall? In five minutes, you are not going to believe what I just told you."

American film, released in 1986. Written and directed by David Lynch, with cinematography by Frederick Elmes and original music by Angelo Badalamenti (and some extra music composed by Lynch himself). It starred Kyle MacLachlan as Jeffrey Beaumont, Isabella Rossellini as Dorothy Vallens, Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth, Laura Dern as Sandy Williams, Dean Stockwell as Ben, Brad Dourif as Raymond, Jack Nance as Paul, composer Badalamenti as a piano player, and a bunch of other fine folks who are mad enough to work with David Lynch on a regular basis.

Frank: "You wanna go for a ride?"
Jeffrey: "No thanks."
Frank: "No thanks? What does that mean?"
Jeffrey: "I don't want to go."
Frank: "Go where?"
Jeffrey: "On a ride."
Frank: "A ride? Hell, that's a good idea. Okay, let's go."

Basic plot: Jeffrey is an innocent little lamb with a crush on Sandy, the girl next door, in a wholesome small town. Then Jeffrey finds someone's severed ear lying in a field. Unhappy with the pace of the police investigation, Jeffrey starts snooping around on his own. Then he meets beautiful but somewhat crazed lounge singer Dorothy Vallens. Then he meets evil motherfucker Frank Booth. Hijinx ensue.

Raymond: "Do you want me to pour it, Frank?"
Frank: "No, I want you to fuck it. Shit, yes, pour the fuckin' beer."

This is a good movie. You should definitely watch this movie. You should watch it now. Are you at work? Fuck work. Go up to your boss and tell him, "I'm going home so I can watch 'Blue Velvet.'" If he's seen the movie, he'll let you go. If he hasn't seen the movie and tries to give you shit about it, you are within your legal rights to tie him to a chair and set the fucker on fire. Yeah, motherfucker, it's that goddamn good.

Frank Booth: "I'll fuck anything that moooooves!"

Oh, you want more than just a garden-variety recommendation? Jesus, you're one pushy motherfucker. Fine, let's just call this my favorite of David Lynch's movies. Is it film noir? Horror? Black comedy? Fuck if I know. It's a weird, weird flick, from the giant picture of Montgomery Clift adorning Sandy's bedroom to Jeffrey's discovery of that disembodied ear to a mincing Dean Stockwell lip-synching Roy Orbison's "In Dreams" into a work light. A massively bizarre film, and it makes you want to watch it again and again.

Frank: "What kind of beer you drink, neighbor?"
Jeffrey: "Heineken."
Frank: "Heineken? Fuck that shit! Pabst Blue Ribbon!"

A movie like this is going to live or die on its actors, and this one pulls up a trio of great performances. First, there's MacLachlan, so earnest and trusting and innocent as Jeffrey. We see the whole story through his eyes, and though he comes across as a smart kid, we're constantly amazed by how utterly naive he really is, always saying the wrong thing, never getting out when he has a chance, sliding farther and farther down that slippery slope into the corruption that festers beneath his small-town existence. Rossellini as Dorothy also turns in a brilliant performance, beautiful, exotic, seductive, but also dangerous, teetering on the brink of insanity, and hopelessly, hopelessly lost. She flickers from victim to whore, from femme fatale to Helen of Troy. She's as smooth and sexy as blue velvet itself, and she's also as vulnerable as a torn dress on prom night.

Frank: "I'll send you a love letter! Straight from my heart, fucker! You know what a love letter is? It's a bullet from a fucking gun, fucker! You receive a love letter from me, you're fucked forever! You understand, fuck? I'll send you straight to hell, fucker!"

But this movie belongs to Dennis Hopper. Frank Booth is an evil, sadistic, foul-mouthed, gas-huffing motherfucker, and Hopper makes you believe it was all his idea in the first place. He exudes pure menace in every scene he appears in, whether he's bullying Jeffrey or bleating to his "mommy." Frank is so relentless and frightening, you never know if he's going to stab someone on screen or just crawl out of your TV and beat you to death with the DVD player. At the same time, he's also a bit funny, what with the unending stream of ridiculous profanity and his fondness for sucking on nitrous oxide. But it's like laughing at a werewolf in a clown suit. Yeah, it looks goofy, but it's still going to tear your fucking throat out and eat your goddamn eyes -- and ain't that something to giggle over? I really don't know that there has ever been a more terrifying portrayal of evil on the big screen. Dracula? Bah. Darth Vader? An amateur. Snow White's evil queen? A schoolgirl. For pure unadulterated wickedness, Frank has 'em all beat. Hopper won an Academy Award that year for his more friendly role in "Hoosiers," but everyone knew (and Hopper himself acknowledged it in his acceptance speech) that the Oscar was really for his work as Frank Booth.

Ben: "Here's to your health, Frank."
Frank: "Don't drink to my health, drink to my fuck!"

I bet you're wanting some fun trivia, too, ain'tcha, you fuckin' fuck. The roles of Jeffrey and Sandy were first offered to Val Kilmer and Molly Ringwald. Kilmer said he thought the script was pornographic, and Ringwald's mom nixed her appearing in the film. And Robert Loggia wanted to play Frank, but got passed over for Hopper. Also, Lynch and Hopper originally planned on having Frank inhale helium instead of nitrous. Oh, and the first draft of the film was four hours long. Lynch cut it down to exactly one frame under two hours. And no one has ever found the extra two hours of footage that didn't get used. No one knows what happened to it. Lost forever, goddammit.

Frank: "Let's hit the fuckin' road!"

Some research from the fucking Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com). I can hear your fucking radio, you stupid shit!

"Blue Velvet" is a now-classic David Lynch movie, described variously as a mystery, neonoir or psychological horror movie. Its a Lynch movie, so we can dispense with the labels. It might also be considered the first theatrical movie that was the full creation of Lynch, since previous films were either the student film Eraserhead, and the adaptations Elephant Man and Dune. It was released in 1986, and was a rebound after the commercial and critical problems of Dune. As can be believed, the movie was controversial at the time, and is considered a cult classic and also a regular classic. There are many views of this film, and this review will be mine. Since the film considers strong subject matter in many ways (sex, violence, drugs) I will be talking about some disturbing things here.

When I started watching this movie, I went through a few steps. To be honest, the beginning of the movie, with stilted acting and wooden dialog, showing normal life in the small town of Lumberton, made me wonder if I really enjoyed Lynch films or was just under the spell of his reputation. Then the movie shifted, giving me an at least intellectual appreciation of what he was doing, and then at a certain point in the film, everything clicked. This scene was the "descent into hell" where we first see the evil gangboss Frank Booth (played by Dennis Hopper), which occurs about 45 minutes into the 2 hour long film.

The story starts when Jeff Beaumont (Kyle McLachlan), a college student, returns home to the small town of Lumberton after his father has a stroke. On a walk home, he finds a human ear in an empty field, and takes it to a local police detective. The daughter's detective, Sandy (Laura Dern) overhears Jeff talking to her father, and together, as plucky partners akin to something from Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, they decide to investigate the crime themselves. They find out that Dorothy Valens (Isabella Rossini) is being blackmailed by sadistic gangboss Frank Booth. This is also where the movie takes an abrupt turn: from a story about two young people investigating a mystery to noir with frightening psychosexual elements. Jeff begins a sexual relationship with the abused Dorothy at the same time as he enters into a more traditional relationship with the "girl next door" Sandy. In the climax of the film, Frank Booth kidnaps Jeff and verbally and physically abuses him, as well as introducing him to Ben (Dean Stockwell), a bisexual pimp. The climax of the movie "revolves" the plot and lets the seemingly normal small town life return.

This movie worked, and not just because of the style (which, was of course, great, in a bizarre Lynchian way.) but because of the substance. My theory about why this film has substance, and not just style, hinges on how well Lynch explicates evil in the figure of Frank Booth. This, of course, is my guess, but enabling guesses is what Lynch films are about.

Frank Booth represents how cloying evil is. Booth shows two faces of evil: he is both totally aribitrary, and tightly restrictive. The dialog quoted above:

Frank: "You wanna go for a ride?"
Jeffrey: "No thanks."
Frank: "No thanks? What does that mean?"
Jeffrey: "I don't want to go."
Frank: "Go where?"
Jeffrey: "On a ride."
Frank: "A ride? Hell, that's a good idea. Okay, let's go." 
shows his modus operandi. He acts as if he is following some set of rules, and expects other people to follow them as well, but his rules are totally made up. He is both arbitrary and restrictive, and his evil lies in forcing people to accept his reality, even though it makes no sense. This is also a part of his weird Freudian play: in the sexual play that he forces Dorothy into, he insists on being "baby" and "Daddy", alternating between a infantile neediness and an "adult" insistence on domination and control. And so it is that with Booth, in every scene, he is dependent on others: he constantly seeks the validation and attention of others, usually through the verbal abuse of his henchmen and captors, but also through the fawning he shows to Ben. Although Frank Booth is a caricature, he is also a perfect depiction of evil in many ways: he is evil because he is both arbitrary and restrictive, and he is evil because he is parasitic, needing to constantly lean on other people to continue to exist. And this stands in contrast to Jeff, who exhibits a sense of self throughout the story. In fact, when we first see him, he is alone, appearing tranquil as he walks in nature. So if I had to sum it up, I would say that this movie substantially displays the difference between good and evil as the difference between what is self-contained and what is parasitic. Besides of course this is a David Lynch movie so it is always more than that.

One final note, that both weakens and strengthens this movie, depending on the viewer's taste. The year it is set in is somewhat mysterious. Some of the hairstyles and fashions (such as Jeff's earring) seem to be out of the 1980s, while much of the film resembles the 1960s. The movie is set in a hazy nostalgic time. The size of the town is also somewhat inexact, since we are dealing with a white picket fence small town---that still has 7 story apartment buildings, and night clubs playing jazz music. Which would all just be artistic touches, but certain issues in this movie, such as police corruption, also touch on issues of racial and social justice. There are only two black characters in the movie. So I feel that something is missing here, in that obvious issues of social justice are not addressed. But this is a David Lynch movie, so those connections might be alluded to without being directly answered.

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