on 19 March 2011
David Lynch's Blue Velvet is a fantastic film and I recommend it highly. Thematically, the film concerns itself with desire, fantasy and violence. It is directed with thought and skill. The plot concerns a young man, Jeffrey Beaumont, who discovers a severed ear. This leads him, partly through his own unstoppable curiosity, to discover a dark underworld that coexists with his innocent and friendly town. Along the way he is assisted by the local detective's daughter Sandy, he discovers a strange young woman named Dorothy, and encounters a sinister and perverted individual named Frank Booth. Throughout the film, Jeffrey attempts to understand the meaning of the detached ear, and its connection to both Dorothy and Frank. But by pursuing this mystery, Jeffrey discovers a number of terrible truths and is himself caught up in this dark underworld.
Lynch's film depicts two worlds: on the one hand, there is the all-too-perfect world of Lumberton, with its white picket-fences and smiling firemen; on the other hand, there is the dark underworld of Frank Booth and his associates. Lynch stylistically separates these worlds through several contrasts: Lumberton is mostly presented in daylight and in reassuring places such as the family home or the school; whereas the underworld is presented at night and in places such as a nightclub and a seedy home belonging to one of Frank's associates. Each world, though, is structured according to fantasy: Lumberton's fantasies revolve around family life, education and dating, whilst Frank's world centres on intoxication, adrenaline, and sex.
Whilst it is tempting to see Lynch's world in terms of a good place and a corrupt underworld, this would leave out Dorothy and the mini-world of her apartment. It would also be hard to maintain such an interpretation in light of the fairly obvious satirical elements. Lumberton is depicted with heavy doses of irony: the smiling, waving fireman and his dog aboard the fire engine; the too-perfect red roses; and the billboard depicting the friendly town of Lumberton. But Dorothy and her apartment represent the biggest problem of interpretation here. Her space is dark, disturbing and the scene of two very different sexual encounters: Frank's and Jeffrey's. This world sits uneasily between Lumberton and Frank's underworld. It is neither too-perfect nor typically (and thus reassuringly) dark. It is a mini-world, a liminial space, a void. It is the place not of fantasy, but of pure desire. It is for this reason that it haunts Jeffrey and Frank, and by extension us.
Although both Frank and Jeffrey are made anxious by Dorothy and her apartment, each responds in a different way. Frank's fantasised sexual encounters with her are a means of violently repressing her sexual otherness (embodied in his repression of her gazing at him), whilst Jeffrey tries to place himself in the role of saviour, rescuing her from Frank and returning her son to her. However, despite both attempts, Dorothy still troubles both Frank and Jeffrey. There is a particularly poignent moment in the film when Dorothy breaks from her liminal space of pure desire and invades Sandy's innocent home. At this moment, desire invades Sandy's fantasy space and she cannot control herself, breaking into tears.
This is one of Lynch's great gifts to cinema (which he has repeated a number of times, albeit with differences): his stylistic and thematic choice of presenting the worlds of desire and fantasy separately. Unlike other films by Lynch, such as Lost Highway or Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet ends on a quasi-happy note (though with plenty of irony still). Jeffrey vanquishes his enemy Frank, Dorothy's son is returned to her, and Jeffrey and Sandy live happily ever after. However, those ironic elements have the last say in the film: the fireman, the roses and that ludicrous robin almost smiling at Jeffrey and Sandy, and by extension us. The film is thus disturbingly hilarious and I found myself laughing at the end on some occassions, though with a sinister feeling too.
A note on the DVD: I strongly warn people not to buy the version published by Prism Leisure. This version is by far the worst available. It is watchable, but if possible I recommend getting a different copy. The version released by Sanctuary Visual Entertainment, which is a 2-disc edition and region free, is an excellent version of the film. It has both stereo and 5.1 surround sound options, two documentaries and a nice 16 page booklet.
on 24 March 2002
Not meaning to contradict other reviewers, but I thought I'd lend my opinion about the controversy surrounding this DVD release. Basically, I put off buying this for so long simply because of many of the reviews on here complaining about the picture and quality on the region 2 version. The other day however, I DID buy it and was pleasantly surprised.
I own the 4Front video release and this DVD just trashes it in terms of picture quality and sound... in the video you can't see what's going on half the time because it's too dark, the colour is over-saturated and the sound is too low.
Sure, it hasn't been remastered or anything, much like the Castle release of 'Dune' but it IS a good transfer. MUCH better than the video, which really spoilt my enjoyment of the film.
On to the film itself. 'Blue Velvet' is probably David Lynch's defining moment and masterpiece. Where as 'Eraserhead' and 'Twin Peaks' are strong cult films [and TV series], 'Blue Velvet' was a heavy blip on the timeline of American cinema. Certainly without it such films as 'American Beauty' wouldn't have come about, although that's not to say that this film is anything like that... Lynch's vision of the darkness beneath suburban USA and the human psyche is much darker and explicit.
It all starts with the discovery of a severed human ear in a field and spirals downward from there into a psychosexual thriller involving some of the best characterization I've ever seen, especially by Denis Hopper who is FANTASTIC as the evil Frank Booth. Simply put, this is a film you will NOT forget and will haunt your thoughts long afterwards. It's dark, it's elaborate, it's Lynch.
on 25 December 2011
This isn't a review as such, as I imagine that most movie buffs will have already made up their mind whether or not they like Blue Velvet and want to spring for a blu-ray. But praise to this 25th Anniversary edition for a splendid transfer of the film itself and some truly eye-opening extras, not least almost a full hour of deleted scenes. And bear in mind that these aren't a bunch of scrappy outtakes made up of grainy workprint footage - we're talking fully-formed sequences that have been edited and scored.
No, my main reason for writing this review is just to forewarn anyone buying the disc that it has a very peculiar design. There is no main menu and when you play the disc it just jumps straight into the movie. If you then press the menu button, it says there isn't one. Took me a good 15 minutes of fumbling around to figure out how to access the extras. Basically, you let the film start playing, then press the 'Up' arrow on your handset and a pop-up menu appears that asks if you want to continue watching the film or go to the extras, then you use the other arrows to navigate through the extras while the film continues to play under the pop-up menu. Once you've selected an extra by pressing 'Enter', the movie stops and you jump to your selection.
I've never come across a menu selection quite as weird as this - in fact, for a while I was convinced the disc was defective! So full marks for the movie and extras, points lost for the baffling disc design.
I should start by saying that I've never paid much attention to talk of good and bad 'prints' of movies, and always regarded it as a bit of movie snobbery. Until now, I've never purchased a DVD that left me seriously unhappy with the quality of the image.
I'm afraid this DVD (by Prism Leisure Corporation) changed all that. Quite simply, it's dreadful. Ok, it's a budget DVD, but frankly, if someone offers you this DVD for *free* you should politely decline.
Blue Velvet is one of my favourite movies. I bought this DVD as an upgrade from my aging VHS version. But after 20 minutes of trying to watch the DVD, I ejected it and went back to my old VHS.
In this version, the colours are washed out and muddy; the contrast is terrible; the image is far from sharp. In the dark scenes (and there are a lot of them) you'll frequently find yourself staring at a black screen. In short, watching this DVD is like seeing the movie on a seriously sick TV.
Really, you should give this a miss. Watch it on tape, or on the (much more expensive) special edition DVD (which I've now discovered is much much better and does the movie justice).
I can't believe that I'm writing a 1-star review of Blue Velvet!!
For the movie, five stars, easily. But because of the quality of this DVD, I'm knocking off four of them (and would knock off all five if I could). The movie is stunning, powerful, harrowing. This DVD is just harrowing. Avoid it like the plague.
on 17 August 2002
I remember my parents watching Twin Peaks when I was little and we had the soundtrack, a haunting, melodious collection of music that had me spellbound when I first heard it. However it wasn't till I was older and saw Blue Velvet that David Lynch began to take over my mind. . .
If you've never seen David Lynch this is a good place to start as it has a combination of his trademark obscurity (seen perhaps best in Eraserhead, Lost Highway and Twin Peaks FWWM) and a reasonably linear structure (though not as coherent as The Straight Story), so incorporating some of the finest techniques of his work. The plot is bizarre, complex and perverse leaving unanswered questions and disturbing imagery firmly impressioned on the mind. Blue Velvet creates a remarkably hokey smalltown American town and explores the sinister mechanics behind the seemingly placid facade. No one else can combine tacky diners, convenience stores, picket fences and tweeting robins with the sadomasochistic underworld quite like Lynch can.
Watch it and you'll never forget it. Watch any more of his films and you'll never think about cinema the same again!!
on 17 January 2005
Certainly David Lynch's best film and one of the best films ever made.
I'm not sure that it is best seen on DVD - it works best in the cinema but failing that a very dark room. This is a film that you need to engage with; it is not one to watch in bits and pieces or with interruptions.
It is a beautiful film - full of amazing imagery and fantastic cinematography - it is also very dark and disturbing film but laced with humour and many funny moments.
Dennis Hopper steals the show as Frank but he is well supported by Isabella Rossellini and Dean Stockwell. The two main characters Kyle MacLachlan and Laura Dern are wooden but this is strangely effective.
Not for the faint hearted but recommended to all those brave enough.
on 9 March 2004
The term post modernism is used so loosely these days, David Lynch however secures the winning title of a post modern piece of film.
A mixture of narcotic fuelled sex and violence, drugs and alcohol abuse contrasted with the aesthetics of a 1940/1950`s exterior. The stranger would think nothing of this little town within America but look through the voyeuristic eyes of Jeffrey and you will be sucked into a world not even you could imagine.
This film isn`t for the faint hearted but is a genuine masterpiece from the movie genius that is David Lynch.
on 11 August 2013
I waited around some time before buying the Lynch UK Blu-ray releases from Universal, because there were infamously initial problems with some of the discs which prompted drastic revisions to what had been released. Anyway, having picked up the four films I was interested in recently (Lost Highway, Twin Peaks, Eraserhead, and this one, Blue Velvet - yes, I could have bought the boxed set but I like the individual packaging and couldn't face Dune again...) I'm on the whole pretty pleased.
Blue Velvet does not need much introduction, suffice it to say it's a fairly disturbing, at times darkly humorous, tale of murder, voyeurism, degradation, and love. Maybe a few other things too - there's a lot going on in here, which makes it ripe for repeat viewings. Dennis Hopper's screwed up performance is one of the things most people remember, and as far as David Lynch's 'weird' films are concerned, this is probably one of his most accessible, where the weirdness is kept in check, just about within the realms of acceptability as far as most film fans are concerned I would imagine. Pretty much buried on release in the mid-eighties, it's since gone on to accumulate quite a bit of respect and cult love.
The Blu-ray presents the film with a full HD image (running at 24 frames per second thankfully) at approximately 2.39:1 widescreen. At first I thought the dark scenes were too dark, but comparison with the DVDs that have gone before it reveals that they all seem to be about the same, suggesting creative choice at source rather than transfer issues. I've heard that the US Blu-ray contains marginally better resolution of the darker scenes but haven't seen this to verify it myself. The lighter scenes (particularly exterior) are where the HD shines and outclasses the DVDs, with a fair bit more detail, depth, and colour fidelity. The largely front-based audio mix is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 (as is the US Blu), sounding very good with the nicely selected range of music and typically grim Lynchian soundscape. Vocals are limited by the recording technology of the era, naturally, but probably come across as good as they ever can here.
The extras are very nice, with an interesting difference between the UK and US Blu-rays (possibly down to territorial rights issues?). Firstly, and most importantly, there is an excellent feature length documentary (Mysteries of Love, in SD) which contains wonderful snippets of interview footage with Lynch, as well as many of the other people involved in the production of course. I find Isabella Rossellini fascinating to watch - aside from being strangely attractive she is uncannily reminiscent of her mother, Ingrid Bergman. This runs to about 70 minutes. Then there is a couple of minutes of Siskel and Ebert arguing about the film, again on both discs. We get a few minutes of Lynch 'vignettes', which I'm not sure about the point of, plus a couple of minutes of outtakes, and a few trailers. Finally, and the significant difference between the two discs that could sway a purchase one way or the other: the US disc has a 51 minute outtake/lost footage section (mastered in HD) which the UK does not - this is a great shame and something that I would think pretty much anyone into this film would want to see. There is some compensation, however. The UK Blu has included a 50 minute talking head interview with Dennis Hopper (filmed in 2000 I believe) where he talks for about 10-15 minutes about Blue Velvet before moving on to his other films and endeavours. It's a good watch with Hopper coming across as a fairly non-arrogant chap with lots of fine stories to tell. This one isn't on the US disc. I suppose given the choice I'd rather have the lost footage, but the price of the UK disc along with the Hopper interview sweetens the deal somewhat.
Overall I think this is a fine service to the film, the Blu-ray (UK or US) being the best way to watch it, backed up by a substantial set of extras whichever one you go for.
on 12 January 2001
Finally, a David Lynch film gets the home video treatment it deserves. This 25th anniversary edition boasts a beautiful new High Definition transfer overseen by Lynch himself, and a superb DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Rest assured, Blue Velvet has never looked or sounded better. Colours are rich, blacks are strong and there is no sign of obtrusive digital manipulation. The clarity, depth and atmosphere of the lossless surround soundtrack is equally impressive.
I would urge anyone to buy this version over the UK release. Despite the box stating that this is a region "A" disc (i.e.-US and surrounding territories), this will work perfectly on a British BD player. Crucially, it also features something the UK release does not: 51 minutes of newly discovered deleted scenes.
Previously featured only as stills on the earlier Region 1 DVD, the footage has been fully restored, presented in HD and featuring the original music and sound elements. The care and attention these scenes have received makes a mockery of the scrappy, unfinished workprint versions of deleted scenes featured on most releases.
Whilst it could be argued that the majority of this footage was rightly excised from the final cut, it nonetheless offers a fascinating alternate perspective to the film, and provides a wonderful insight into Lynch's creative process. Would that the production company holding the rights to the legendary deleted scenes for "Fire Walk With Me" acquiesce to Lynch's demands and afford similar respect to that footage.
The disc also features the fantastic 70 minute "Mysteries of Love" documentary carried over from the Region 1 DVD along with the trailers, TV spots and "Siskel & Ebert" review. The disc menu is rather strange: having no screen of its own, it is only accessible via the "pop up" menu whilst the film is playing (although the film can be paused whilst scrolling through the options).
All in all, a wonderful edition of an incredible film at a superb price. Every Lynch fan should own this.
on 15 February 2003
I rarely comment about DVD quality unless there is a glaring issue. In the case of this DVD, there are several. The sound track is extremely, extremely important in this film; much of the dialogue is played at near-whisper and the sound effects are much more important to the impact of the film than in most others. Unfortunately, the sound quality here is just muddy enough to undercut the overall effect. The visuals are also surprisingly weak, heavy with digital pixilation that is particularly noticeable in the film's shadowy scenes--of which there are a great many. As for the bonus material, any one purchasing this "special edition" for them may be disappointed: the documentary is so-so (and I might add that the picture quality there is often flatly atrocious), but the "deleted scenes" indicated are simply not there. These scenes have never been recovered, and the DVD offers only a handful of sequences recreated from still photographs and without dialogue of any kind. Although I am not a great fan of David Lynch per se, I do indeed recognize the importance and influence of both this film and his overall vision, and frankly BLUE VELVET deserves much better than it receives here.
All of that said--I saw this film in its first theatrical release, and at the time I did not like it; it struck me as incredibly pretentious and wildly derrivative of numerous European directors, particularly of Hitchcock, Bunuel and Fellini. (Indeed, I recall remarking to a friend that it was very much like Fellini meets Chuck Waters.) I had no intention of revisiting the film until a friend expressed an interest in seeing it--and so, rather reluctantly, I agreed to sit through it one more time. And on this occasion I was pleasantly surprised. It wears extremely well.
That is not to say that there are not problems with the film. Kyle MacLachlan is a remarkably wooden actor; the plot frequently falls apart; and Lynch's bursts of surrealism are occasionally miscalculated and actually tend to get in the way of any coherent statement. But what BLUE VELVET does well, it does very, very well indeed. The story is a bit convoluted, but in general it concerns a young man (the eternally wooden MacLachlan) who comes home from university when his father is taken ill. While walking to the hospital he discovers a severed human ear--and when the police fail to give him information re his discovery his own curiosity leads him into investigation. His investigations center on beautiful singer Dorothy Vallen (Isabella Rossellini), who is rumored to be involved with local underworld figures--and in the process he becomes directly involved with both Vallen and the dark forces that surround her.
David Lynch uses this storyline as the hook on which to hang his dark statements about the nature of sexual awakening, moral choice, and the deadly evil to which we strive to remain oblivious but which nonetheless lurks very close to the surface of otherwise ordinary lives. And while many aspects of the film can be justly criticized, in this the film is entirely--and unnervingly--successful. In BLUE VELVET, sex and violence are ruthlessly connected, and both are forever simmering just under the skin.
At the time of its release, and even today, BLUE VELVET was extremely, extremely controversial for its nightmarish depiction of sexual attraction and violence--and deservedly so, for the film repeatedly focuses on a horrific sexual humiliation of the mysterious Dorothy Vallen by the predators that surround her; the rape sequence (which is genuinely horrific), her endurance of repeated physical and sexual assault, her sado-masochistic edge that implies a certain complicity in her own abuse are front and center throughout the film and is all deeply disturbing. Strangely, however, the film contains considerably less nudity and graphic violence than one might expect; much of the effect arises more from the on-going dark, surrealistic visuals and disquieting sound effects than from any one single scene.
With the exception of MacLaughlin, the cast is very fine here. Laura Dern has seldom been so effectively used in any film as she is here, but the real standouts are Isabella Rossellini and Dennis Hopper; Rossellini was a relative newcomer at the time, but she gives an incredible performance, and Hopper virtually re-invented his languishing career in the role of her psychotic tormenter, and Dean Stockwell's against-type cameo was so startling that it drew tremendous critical fanfare.
But now we come to the final question. Do I like the film? No. Even though I can now watch it and appreciate it, and although I certainly recognize its importance and influence, and although I grant it status as art, I still do not like BLUE VELVET and I remain dubious about director David Lynch in general. It seems to me that he lacks the discipline to create a cohesive statement. But do I recommend it? Absolutely. Those who admire Lynch admire him with a passion, and you may be among those. And even if you are not--BLUE VELVET is an important film in so many respects that no one seriously interested in film can afford to miss seeing it at least once.