LIFF30 Review: Blue Velvet – not for the faint-hearted

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Idyllic suburbia, with its white picket fences, rose gardens and tree-lined streets has its drapes pulled down in Blue Velvet (1986) by David Lynch, a heavily surreal mystery thriller. Kyle Machlachlan plays Jeffrey who, home from university , finds a severed human ear during a walk. He turns it in to the local detective and meets his daughter, Sandy (Laura Dern), who reveals some information about the ear that she overheard.

This sets Jeffrey on an investigation as he enters a double life, talking with Sandy during the day and becoming entangled in the mysterious world of a local blues singer (Isabella Rossellini) by night. This soon leads him into the path of the film’s villain, an extremely violent, unhinged and truly terrifying Dennis Hopper. This is not a film for the faint-hearted: Lynch shows little restraint in showing what excesses go on behind closed doors, mainly gore and sexual violence (though there are no real jump scares). It explores dark thoughts and desires, the lengths evil will go to and whether the good of the world can stop it. It has realist and surrealist scenes, which are either dreamlike or nightmarish.

‘Some could feel that it goes too far, but it is also a brutal, mesmerising film and, for anyone who can stomach it’

A brooding score by Angelo Badalamenti is joined by the haunting use of 50s and 60s ballads, such as the title song and In Dreams. The idea of Americana as represented by these songs has, by 1986, been torn down. Compared to Lynch’s later work, it is rather straightforward to follow, as the audience uncovers the mystery with Jeffrey. There are strange asides and it is often very funny, usually at the most unexpected moments. It is an uncomfortable viewing and some could feel that it goes too far, but it is also a brutal, mesmerising film and, for anyone who can stomach it, is highly recommended.

Ramzi Ramadan

(Image courtesy of De Laurentiis Entertainment Group)

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