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Jeffery Beaumont is a naive young man who becomes involved in murder, voyeurism, sado-masochism and a terrifying evil after he discovers a severed ear in a deserted field. He discovers and follows a nightclub singer, who is ensnared in a brutal relationship with the psychopathic Frank.
For more about Blue Velvet and the Blue Velvet Blu-ray release, see Blue Velvet Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on November 3, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Hope Lange, Dean Stockwell
Director: David Lynch
» See full cast & crew
Blue Velvet Blu-ray Review
This 'Velvet' has thorns.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, November 3, 2011
Is there anyone more adept at deconstructing suburbia than David Lynch? Lynch exults in painting a picture perfect surface and then delving beneath that surface to reveal the ugly underbelly of supposed normalcy. While Eraserhead, Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet are probably the best examples of this proclivity, really there are elements of it in everything from Wild at Heart to Mulholland Drive to Lost Highway to Inland Empire to, yes, even arguably (arguably) Dune and The Elephant Man. All of these films revolve at least in part around the dialectic of what is perceived to be a rational, "decent" existence and the more animalistic raging Id which underlies restrained personas. Even Lynch's most atypical film, The Straight Story, looks at the disparity between what is thought of as being normal and how some people actually behave. Audiences weren't yet used to this Lynchian technique when Blue Velvet premiered in 1986 and the film was looked at askance by large swaths of people, even as others, perhaps more cynical and antiestablishment by nature, started proclaiming the film a classic. Over the years, the film has attained a rather iconic status, perhaps seen through the filter of all the Lynch films and television offerings which followed in its wake. Blue Velvet is still an incredibly bracing, unabashedly innovative and original take on the mystery and noir genres, with an eye candy façade masking one of the more unseemly subtexts in modern film. In what almost might be seen as a dry run for Lynch's Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet posits Kyle MacLachlan as a straight arrow investigator looking into a mystery and uncovering all sorts of secrets in a supposedly idyllic little town. There may be no Laura Palmer or dancing dwarves in Blue Velvet, but that odd mix of the sinister and the surreal is front and center in Blue Velvet and makes it a one of a kind viewing experience.
Lynch's dystopian sense of humor is on display from virtually the first frame of Blue Velvet. Idyllic scenes of suburban life waft by in a sort of sylvan reverie, until we see a man watering his lawn who, due to the hose getting caught on a rose bush, over extends himself and drops dead from a heart attack. While his little dog nips furiously at the vicious spray emanating from the hose, Lynch's camera pans over the lawn and ends up going literally subterranean, revealing a host of icky crawling and marauding beetles, the first look at what will be a recurring motif of insects throughout the film. It's obviously a potent, if none too subtle, metaphor for the ugly reality—not to mention mortality— under the shiny façade. That façade is repeatedly poked and prodded by Lynch throughout Blue Velvet, as he leads his main character Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) through an increasingly depraved world after Jeffrey stumbles across a severed human ear in a field after visiting his dying father in a hospital. He takes the ear to a friend of his Dad's, Detective John Williams (George Dickerson), who tells him to keep his mouth shut and not ask too many questions. Jeffrey is too inquisitive for his own good, however, and decides to set out on his own investigation, accompanied by Williams' winsome daughter Sandy (Laura Dern). That leads Jeffrey into a sort of demented quest where he comes in contact with an enigmatic night club singer cum femme fatale named Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini), who may or may not have something to do with the severed ear.
That's really all you need to know with regard to the plot of Blue Velvet, because as with so many of David Lynch's films, the plot per se is not that important, it's merely a vehicle to deliver Lynch's skewed and skewered view of humanity. When Jeffrey starts spying on Dorothy and becomes embroiled in a fairly degraded scenario of sadomasochistic sex involving Dorothy and a local drug addict and criminal named Frank (Dennis Hopper in the role which helped revitalize his then largely dormant career), it's merely the tip of a pretty unseemly iceberg that sees the young man slowly get sucked into a veritable Id-fest where his better nature is subsumed by animalistic urges and uncontrollable desires. Playing out against this is the ostensibly sunny and cheery life he might be able to share with Sandy. Surface versus reality—or at least Lynch's version of reality—is the real story of Blue Velvet, scattered amongst an unlikely set of unforgettable if often troubling characters.
In fact it's hard at times to know what more troubling about Rossellini's character in particular, the fact that she's so horribly abused or the fact that she seems to enjoy it so much. Turning Jeffrey into a voyeur is a long honored trope filmmakers have used for generations as a stand-in for the audience itself (think back to Michael Powell's explosive Peeping Tom for another salient example), and indeed the audience may feel its own innocence and naïvete slipping away with Jeffrey's as the film progresses. Once the weird, in fact lunatic, antics of Frank and his cohort Ben (Dean Stockwell in a memorable semi-cameo) burst through the fourth wall of the film, viewers may feel as manhandled as Dorothy Vallens herself, for better or worse.
What saves Blue Velvet from being simply an exercise in shock value and smarm is Lynch's drier than dry sense of humor. Scene after scene plays out with a just beneath the surface winking quality. That may not lessen the film's undeniably disturbing imagery and outright depravity on display, but it at least casts a post-ironic spell on the goings-on that may help to distance the more squeamish from some of the more horrifying elements. When Lynch rips the bandage off the scab of superficiality he's exposing the viewer to unimagined terrors that seem to emanate from some hidden corner of the collective unconscious. Blue Velvet may in fact not be an easy film to watch, and there are probably close to as many who abhor the film as those who are devoted fans, but there's no denying that for better or worse it's a film springing from the singular vision of someone who knows exactly what's he's aiming for and whose aim is frighteningly on target.
Blue Velvet Blu-ray, Video Quality
According the MGM press release touting this new Blu-ray version of Blue Velvet, the film's AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1 was personally supervised and color corrected by David Lynch himself. The color here is absolutely superb, gorgeously saturated and full of the almost surrealistic deep hues that Lynch and cinematographer Frederick Elmes favor throughout the film. Fine detail is also excellent in the brightly lit scenes, and even in some of the darker ones as well, with textures such as Rossellini's blue velvet nightgown or the pill on Dern's sweater seeming almost palpable. The film does exhibit fairly noticeable crush in a number of scenes which may bother some viewers as so much of this film is intentionally dark (as in literally dimly lit, though of course figuratively it's dark, too). There is some passing edge enhancement noticeable in a couple of scenes where characters are backlit (the screencap of McLachlan at the top of the staircase is a fair representation of this—it's never horrible, but it's definitely there). Some of the film looks just a tad on the soft side, though that is also part and parcel of Lynch and Elmes' intentionally ironic, pseudo-"glamorous" take on the suburban world of the film. This is on the whole an extremely crisp and sharp looking Blu-ray that is certainly going to satisfy most if not all of this film's fairly rabid legion of fans.
Blue Velvet Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Blue Velvet's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is a brilliantly rendered and often almost subliminally subtle piece of work which adds immeasurably to the film's unsettling vibe. Angelo Badalamenti's score is wickedly serene at times, but listen carefully to how often ominous LFE creeps into some of his cues, as if to gently nudge the viewer (and listener) into a slightly off kilter state of awareness. The track has some great immersive moments, including little bits like the spray of water in the opening scene where Jeffrey's father has his heart attack, which is then followed by some LFE as the camera pans to the beetles at work. The now iconic uses of "Blue Velvet" and "In Dreams" also sound hauntingly magnificent on this track. Dialogue is extremely well presented, occasionally nicely directional, and the sequences in The Slow Club offer some great surround activity.
It should be noted that this is another of those MGM-Fox titles with no main menu and no bookmarking ability which my colleague Michael Reuben regularly takes to task. At least this release has copious supplemental material in its favor.
Blue Velvet Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Blue Velvet Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I was introduced to Lynch's bizarre vision rather early in life when a friend sat me down and had me watch Eraserhead. Lynch's off kilter sense of humor and often wickedly scabrous deconstruction of the suburban lifestyle fit in fairly well with my own somewhat cynical take on the very lifestyle in which I was being raised, and I've been a lifelong fan of Lynch ever since, even with films of his that have met with less than stellar response. A lot of people can't stand Blue Velvet, and frankly I understand that sentiment. Rossellini's character of Dorothy is not just disturbing, she's disturbed, and having (initially anyway) straight and narrow Jeffrey getting sucked into the gaping maw of her depravity is alarming and upsetting, to say the least. But it's my firm opinion that Lynch is going for more than mere shock value here. This is a finely crafted film that, yes, is unsettling and troubling, but which in its own unique way pries back the Leave it to Beaver perfection of perception and reveals something almost atavistic about the human condition. This Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic, and the recently found footage makes this a must buy for the film's fans. Highly recommended.
Blue Velvet Blu-ray, News and Updates
• This Week on Blu-ray: November 8-14 - November 8, 2011
For Potter fans, this Friday will be a day of extreme emotions. On one hand, Warner Brothers will be releasing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 on Blu-ray, the last chapter in the Harry Potter story. On the other hand, coming to the end of a long journey ...
• Exclusive Blu-ray Clip: 'Blue Velvet' - November 7, 2011
To celebrate the highly anticipated Blu-ray release of David Lynch's Blue Velvet on November 8, Blu-ray.com has partnered with Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment to provide our members this exclusive Blu-ray clip of David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti ...
• Blue Velvet Blu-ray (Updated) - August 19, 2011
In an early announcement to retailers, MGM has revealed that it will release a 25th Anniversary Blu-ray edition of David Lynch's cult crime thriller Blue Velvet (1986), starring Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Laura Dern, and Dennis Hopper. The confirmed ...
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