Blue Velvet is a film I have seen several times and which I really like so therefore I had a lot of pre-conceptions coming in to watching it this week. I therefore tried to pretend to watch the film with new eyes but this was inevitably impossible, so apologies if this review is a little biased.
Geoffrey (Kyle Maclachlan) discovers a severed ear in his backyard he sets out on an investigation leading him into two love affairs and the discovery of a crime gang in his neighbourhood headed by the increasingly odd Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper)
One of the things that Lynch does best as shown previously to this film in Eraserhead and later in his career with Twin Peaks is that he takes a normal town adds unexplainably odd characters and then does something incredibly weird and horrific.
Blue Velvet has this Lynchian factor down to a tee. The film begins with a beautiful montage full of imagery showing a standard American lumber town; then introduces a few odd characters before Geoffrey finds the ear and his adventure begins. From this point the film straddles the line between normality (with a little weirdness) and the just plain messed up. For example after finding the ear Geoffrey takes it to the police station shows it an officer whose response is a casual ‘That’s an ear alright’. Moments like this are odd yet also slightly comedic as their deadpan delivery is obviously meant as some sort of sick joke.
After these moments the film often gets more intense with graphic sex and violence being a common factor in this film. The violence inflicted is made much more intense following the slight comic elements. It is also quite shocking the amount of violence as many of the townspeople are made out to be fairly normal with odd quirks in their personalities.
All the casts perform admirably in this film considering its odd nature however Dennis Hopper playing the villain Frank Booth is the stand out. His character constantly swears and breathes creepily from a gas mask. His opening scene consists of rape and he performs magnificently; taking the comic oddness that his character contains and making it truly horrifying.
The film also contains one of my favourite moments of product placement:
When watching the film this time and trying to pick holes in it I really struggled as I truly believe this film to be an exemplary piece of cinema. The only real problems I could find are that story is a little slow and implausible at times; however I think that is the point as Lynch is not trying to spoon-feed his audience.
Due to the oddness of the characters in the film I also found that I didn’t really care for any of them come to the end of the film; other than Geoffrey (who although with his own strangeness always remains the focus of normality). This lack of empathy for the ending meant that certain moments in the climax and ending that didn’t affect me even though they where clearly meant to.
Blue Velvet is a true classic and the best example of David Lynch’s work. It’s not a film for everyone however those ‘who get it’ will join me in saying it is a masterpiece. 5 Lynch’s.
Dune is the first film in this challenge that I had not previously seen and this somewhat excited me as it also a film I have heard a lot about. There are several versions of Dune in circulation (some of them under the name Alan Smithee rather than Lynch) and it took some time to decide which version I should watch. Eventually I decided upon the original theatrical release as this is according to a majority of my sources (not all of them) the only edit in which Lynch himself was involved.
I should also point out before reading that I am not a ‘fan’ of science-fiction and had no previous knowledge of Dune and its universe (other than it was set years in the future) prior to watching the film.
A young man (Kyle Maclachlan) trains an army of desert warriors and pitches them in battle against the controlling government in an attempt to free their world.
The special effects in this film where pulled off perfectly particularly for a film made in 1984. The giant worms look incredibly stylistic whilst even the photographic effects look amazing particularly in an early fight scene when two characters are fighting inside giant magical cubes (it sounds stupid and kind of is but looks good).
The performances of the cast and crew are all very good with Kyle Maclachlan taking the starring role and doing an excellent job in his first collobaration with Lynch. It was also interesting to see a young Patrick Stewart as well as a short-haired ginger Jack Nance.
The most Lynchian segments of the film come in several dream sequences in which Maclachlan’s character sees across the universe. These sequences make use of symbology to explain what is happening and are rather interesting particularly in showing the magic that exists in the universe.
Having no knowledge of the characters, locations or story going into the film was something I found a huge problem as right from the outset the audience is thrown into several deep conversations in which places and names are constantly name-dropped. Some of the elements are explained in a voiceover at the start which felt (and was) hastily added, however the majority of the film was spent attempting to figure out who was who and exactly what was going on. This became rather annoying and made the film seem long and tedious, perhaps more so than it was as in reflection there are many action sequences in the midst of the story.
Dune is an interesting film to rate as I feel that if I knew the background of Dune (had read the book) and its characters I would have thoroughly enjoyed the film, as I would not have been so concerned by its mess of a plot.
There is however very little that I could describe as Lynchian in this film and therefore I can only award it two Lycnh’s.
This week’s film is the Elephant Man which contains John Hurt in one of my favourite performances on film.
Partially based on true events the film follows a Victorian surgeon (Anthony Hopkins) who rescues a deformed man (John Hurt) from a freak show and teaches him to live with disfigurement. The Elephant Man turns out to be a kind and sensitive man who struggles to find acceptance from society.
The film is very different to last weeks film in that it is fairly mainstream with very little in the way of Lynch’s typical weirdness (especially in the plot) This is by no means a bad thing however as the film is extremely interesting throughout and a creepiness is created even if the narrative is linear.
The film begins with a surrealist sequence in which an elephant attacks a woman; this sequence can be read in many ways and helps grasp the fact that the film is about ‘the Elephant Man’ (who will not appear on screen for a while).
The film is constantly interesting and raises emotions within the audience regarding how disabilities are treated within society; it is cleverly crafted in that the same events happen but in slightly better circumstances. At the start of the film the Elephant Man is mistreated and laughed at for being a freak; and although later in the film he is not mistreated he is still mocked (by the upper-classes of society), showing that even those who would class themselves as more civilised are not. The phrase once a freak, always a freak is one that is often used when talking about this film and rightly so.
Being a mainstream film with a fairly big budget, David Lynch was most likely not allowed full creative freedom which is why certain parts of the film seem a little toned down; mostly however the film is magnificently crafted, with the use of black and white adding a true sense of eerie to the film. The make-up and locations are also perfectly co-ordinated to give a real sense of the deformity; this is highlighted in a short kidnap scene when drunk commoners attack the poor Elephant Man.
The film also contains John Hurt’s career best performance (until he plays the Doctor in November!). He is truly astounding as the deformed man delivering lines perfectly in a way to bring pure pity upon the man. Every word he slurs out pulls on ones heart-strings making the film an emotional pleasure to watch.
My main problem with the film (namely because of the challenge) is that it is not Lynchian enough; the film is too predictable with even the disgusting parts not being overly strange. David Lynch works best when he is allowed to create a Universe full of strange characters and in the film the characters are all too dull particularly Anthony Hopkin’s as the surgeon; who seemingly has no personality.
I love the Elephant Man as a film and it would make my top 50 list; however on a Lynch-scale it is not experimental enough to deserve more than 4 Lynch’s.