by Tony Dayoub
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Blue Velvet, surely one of the most significant films of the last 25 years, is something rather ordinary for a movie with so many shocking and memorable images. It is the opening shot. Not the saturated opening shot of the red roses against the white picket fence of the film proper, mind you. I mean the fade up into the image of blue velvet flapping as if being blown by some mysterious wind. Composer Angelo Badalamenti’s timpanists roll right into the plaintive violins of his main theme, paving the way for a solitary clarinet repeating their melody. Initially, the clarinet’s crisp intrusion into the lushness of the violins is as transgressive as that of the film’s main character, Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) into the nightmarish beauty of his sleepy hometown, Lumberton. But eventually, the clarinet blends in with the violins, achieving a harmonic unity not unlike the one the naïve Jeffrey does when he gets simpatico with the twisted underbelly of his innocent-looking small town and its frightening denizens.
It’s telling that this encapsulation of the movie’s plot occurs aurally as opposed to visually, for director David Lynch’s films stimulate the auditory as much as (if not more than) the visual nerve centers. Indeed, Blue Velvet credits Lynch’s longtime collaborator, sound designer Alan Splet (The Black Stallion), immediately after Badalamenti (Mulholland Dr.) in the opening titles. Appropriate for a film that can mostly be read as Jeffrey’s extended dream, beginning when he finds a dismembered ear while walking in the woods. Frederick Elmes’s camera dollies into the ear, traveling in extreme close-up until it seemingly falls down the ear canal, only to emerge out of a different ear – a sleeping Jeffrey’s – at the film’s conclusion. Everything that happens in between could just be happening in the inquisitive Jeffrey’s head, Lynch seems to be saying. And what a remarkable imagination Jeffrey (an archetypal Lynch alter ego) possesses, if that’s the case...
CONTINUE READING AT NOMAD EDITIONS: WIDE SCREEN