With the critical success of THE ELEPHANT MAN and the mainstream flop of DUNE behind him, director David Lynch made BLUE VELVET, which truly announced his unique and original style to the world. Largely debated about what it really means, the film is still surprisingly simple and can be viewed as a moody mystery.
Set in the picturesque suburbs of an unnamed American town, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan, DUNE) finds a severed ear in a field one afternoon, which he takes to the police, spurring within him the desire to uncover the mysterious events surrounding the ear and a sultry voiced nightclub singer named Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini, WHITE NIGHTS). To help him, Jeffrey enlists the police chief's high school-aged daughter Sandy (Laura Dern, JURASSIC PARK). The deeper and deeper Jeffrey gets involved the more he is aroused by the corrupt underbelly of this home town that he never knew existed. Haunting Dorothy is Frank Booth (DENNIS HOPPER, RIVER'S EDGE), a violent man with a fetish for blue velvet and ether.
The film is a brilliant examination of the plastic perfect perception of the suburbs versus the gritty and dirty underworld lurking close by. Jeffrey represents the common intrigue many people have in the dark and dangerous. But can he really handle what the dark side says about him? MacLachlan has the right innocent face for a young man who gets involved in something way over his head. Hopper is at his best, creating a character that is unforgettable. He is savage and unhinged, which is just a defense against his vulnerability. Recently the American Film Institute named Frank Booth one of the 50 best villains in American film history — a distinction well deserved. Rossellini plays Dorothy as a desperate woman who uses her sexuality against Jeffrey, which is exactly what Frank is doing to her. And once you think things can't get stranger Ben (Dean Stockwell, TV's QUANTUM LEAP) shows up and Jeffery learns the identity of the man in the yellow suit.
The film is visually striking. The colors are deeply saturated and dark, adding to the opposing feelings of attraction and skepticism. Lynch provides classic visuals from the bugs tunneling under the idyllic lawns to the severed ear lying in the field to Dorothy in her blue velvet robe to Frank sucking on his mask of ether and his fetish for scissors. Contrasting the bold images, the sad '50s ballads used on the soundtrack compose an eerie, unsettling feeling. It's amazing how the familiar songs that usually feel safe and comforting become so creepy in this context.
Lynch mines the twisted world of film noir. Jeffrey falls down a dark rabbit hole of sex and violence. He starts out a curious voyeur, but once he gets involved first hand it gives him a whole new perspective. When Frank screams, "Stop looking at me!" you can't help feeling that he is yelling at the audience as well. This is a brilliant masterpiece that should not be missed.