Movie Review: Blue Velvet

This was one of the last of David Lynch’s films that I watched. I’ve heard that it was a masterpiece of sorts but the first time I watched it, I left feeling indifferent. I watched it again last night after several months and I’ve noticed more.

A man finds a severed ear in a field and places himself in the middle of a dangerous situation.

I first heard of this film when I was in eighth or ninth grade, I don’t remember which. I bought one of Roger Ebert’s books and saw how the film wasn’t rated that high. It wasn’t until I became more aware of David Lynch in college that I knew that I had to see this sooner or later. It wasn’t easy to find. The first time around, I caught it on YouTube, much to the chagrin of surrounding distractions. Now, I have the 2002 DVD print in my personal library for easier access.

With a film like this, the use of color is so deliberate that it takes on a painterly quality. The use of red in Dorothy’s room and the trademark red curtains in the nightclub, the eponymous blue velvet and sky, the pale green of the diner, the stark yellow jacket; all of them help make nearly each frame a collection of paintings.

I could not picture Kyle MacLachlan as a young college kid in this film. I have known him as Dale Cooper since I was introduced to David Lynch’s work. Sure, I suppose he could be a freshman or sophomore at most but it left me confused.

I take no pleasure in abuse, period. It’s not at all pleasant to watch, even if it is the desired reaction. That said, Dennis Hopper’s character is one I do not want to meet in person. I’m not sure if there is a way to reasonably approach him. He’s downright despicable but it’s all part of his character and all for the better(?).

While it is on the 1001 list, I also see that it was one of the 400 nominees for the AFI Top 100 for both years. It’s also the only Lynch film on the list. I wonder if, it is included when it comes time for the 20th Anniversary of the list, it will make the list at all or just wait in the wings for another ten years.

I would list it as one of his best; not the best but in the top five. It should be watched but maybe not with other people.

7/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

400 Noms for AFI Top 100 for both years

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Movie Review (of sorts): Rabbits

So, maybe screening this late at night wasn’t one of my better decisions. It was an introduction to David Lynch’s other work and needless to say this film had an effect on others who watched it with me. While I wouldn’t necessarily have started newcomers to Lynchland with this, it contained the usual characteristics of a Lynchian world: droning soundtrack, cryptic dialogue, and strange occurances.

In a room, three rabbits lay in wait and talk in disjointed phrases while waiting for impending doom.

The soundtrack is pretty much set on repeat. A slow droning synth with an occasional mournful wail against a neverending deluge sets up the soundscape for the next forty-five minutes.

The dialogue, while disjointed, does tie together at the end. After having monologues and encounters with the man in the green coat and some kind of demon, the rabbits remind us what happened. When the line “It is after midnight” was spoken, it was 12:07 in our time. I did not plan that. Who could have known?

There are two shots throughout the entire piece, an establishing shot and then a close-up of the phone. The sudden appearance of the phone is really jarring as it wakes us up from the lull of the one shot we have ever known. (studio applause)

Barbed wire.

So, go ahead and watch it. It’s more of a group experience if anything. Take it from me, the man in the green coat.

6/10

Movie Review: The Elephant Man

I caught this on YouTube earlier in the year during a cold winter day but was distracted by my surroundings. Yes, I know that’s not a good thing, even when watching something by Lynch, one of my favorite directors. However, it wasn’t until yesterday’s viewing of Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus for Film Club that I realized I needed to rewatch this film as I found more connections to that than with Freaks. I’ll detail those particular connections in the Fur review.

In Victorian England, a severely deformed man tries to fit in with society.

Right off the bat, there’s a Lynchian moment with elephants and John Merrick’s mother and his birth. In slow motion, an elephant knocks the mother down and does something. When John is born, it’s represented by a cloud of smoke and a baby’s cry. From what can be inferred, it seems like the elephant rapes the mother and from that, the “Elephant Man” is born. That, or the elephant attack harmed the mother as she was pregnant. Take your pick.

The revelation of the Elephant Man’s face does not come until thirty minutes into the film. After the reveal, we can see the particular make-up used for John. Using casts from Merrick’s original body, this is as close to the actual person that the film can get. Alas, this was not recognized by the Academy despite the eight nominations for the film (it did not win anything). Because of that, the following year introduced the category for Best Makeup and Hairstyling.

The second of Lynch’s filmography, this is shot in black and white like his previous film, Eraserhead. What’s interesting about this particular film is that this is the first use of having a severely deformed character based in reality. Unlike The Lady in the Radiator from Eraserhead, John Merrick has depth in his character and we follow him throughout the film. The Lady is more fantasy-based and does not have much to offer other than hope for Henry. Also, we see John struggle with his surroundings and attempts to become accepted. With The Lady, she just is.

With the print that I saw, the StudioCanal logo at the beginning had some Lynchian qualities and I though he had some hand in it; nope. It turns out that the logo was just strange to begin with. Don’t believe me? Click here and imagine it in black and white.

As for the 1001, I prefer this over Freaks for reasons other than it being a David Lynch film. With Freaks, there was malice and revenge. True, those are human qualities, the way they acted upon their desire to “right the wrong” is unsettling and mean-spirited. Here, John doesn’t want to harm anybody. With the quote from the poster above, he wants people to understand him for what he is, regardless of appearance.

8/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

IMDB Top 250

Movie Review: Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

 

I watched Twin Peaks to the end and wanted more than just the ending. I found a copy of the movie, one that I thought at the time would be harder to locate. After watching it, I was creeped out and confused even though I saw it in broad daylight. It helps to watch the show first before seeing this as it is a prequel to the show but to be fair it’s a hard watch.

Does the movie provide more answers? Yes, but you’re left with more questions than answers. For example, Dale Cooper doesn’t have much of a part this time but we see him pre-occupied with the strange surveillance feed in the office. David Bowie appears but you’re not sure why; one thing’s for sure is that he’s not interested in stealing boys and turn them into goblin kings. Also, the boy without a face jumping around; I’m guessing it means that no one can see what is about to happen in the town of Twin Peaks.

If you watch this first before the series, then you will have seen a LOT of plot, namely the violent and disturbing bedroom scene with BOB. It hurts, it really does hurt to watch regardless of who’s directing. There’s really no good time of day to watch that scene, even with the lights on. At the same time though, the film succeeded in making me feel those emotions: shock and terror (not bird-related).

Needless to say, it did not do well at the box office and I understand why. It was more violent and serious than its television counterpart. At the same time, we do see what happened to Laura Palmer before she died, thus providing closure. At this time, it’s certainly not my favorite film of his. I’ll need to rewatch this but it qualifies as a horror movie in my book, especially with the aforementioned bedroom scene.

P.S. If anyone has played Sword and Sworcery, the Pink Room is referenced along with some Twin Peaks quotes. A nice touch.

6/10

Movie Review (of sorts): DumbLand

 

That face isn’t the only thing that’s creepy and, in most cases, disturbing in this compilation; if you feel that way, then the job’s done. True, this isn’t a theatrical Lynch piece but it is part of his filmography; this is a very strong example of something that most people would not want to see.

The first thing one notices when watching this is that the animation is poorly done. This is done on purpose to complement the crude nature of the cartoon. The characters are ugly and unappealing, the behavior is appalling, and the situations are tense and absurd.

Presented in short episodes, as originally done on Lynch’s website, it’s about a man trying to deal with what goes on in life, from dealing with neighbors to taking care of a really sick uncle. There’s no reference to other episodes or any real long-reaching plot.

So what’s the deal with the humor? From what I think, it’s more of a satire on what is considered funny for animated shows targeted toward an older demographic. Sure, some of the humor is lowbrow but the usual reaction is one of amusement. Here, you almost feel afraid to laugh because you’re not sure how the main character will react. Also, the way it’s presented is more of a matter-of-fact way and that nobody in DumbLand questions anything that goes on. From the man with the stick in his mouth from episode 5 to the incessant amount of noise in episode 6, it’s not a matter of how funny it is but rather why nobody is worried about Uncle Bob or what’s with the next door neighbor’s thing for ducks.

I honestly cannot give a recommendation as to what time of day it should be viewed. I wouldn’t see it first thing in the morning or right before bed. Maybe in the middle of the day, if you’re sure you want to see it. It’s only a little over thirty minutes, thirty unsettling minutes.

5/10