Twenty-five years ago, David Lynch held a crystal clear mirror up to the face of America. Blue Velvet, which had played festivals in Montreal and Toronto, opened in the US on September 19, 1986. It was mainstream America’s real introduction to the private world of David Lynch. Eraserhead was still a cult film. While many people had seen The Elephant Man and some (not many) had seen Dune, few were prepared for the deeply idiosyncratic dreamscape Americana seen in Blue Velvet. Attacked for depicting a savage sexuality rarely seen on screen, the movie attracted no shortage of negative attention, but it quickly became regarded as a classic.

After twenty-five years Blue Velvet’s mysterious and musical vision of middle-American life remains seductive and powerful. Its gallows humor still earns laughs, and a peculiar clash of of classical Hollywood and noirish styles draws viewers in to Lynch’s unique world. The classic and noir impulses came out of Lynch’s own fondness for movies, but combined with his depiction of raw, violent sexuality they suggested something specific. That is, the deranged sexual power games in Blue Velvet aren’t anomalies; they’re what was always going on when the camera panned away in movies of the past.

The film established the career of Laura Dern and prevented Kyle MacLachlan’s image from being lost in the sandstorm of Dune. (MacLachlan’s look as the young Jeffrey Beaumont was actually based on Lynch’s own sartorial manner.) More than anything else it gave Dennis Hopper a framework in which to create one of the strongest, ugliest and most frightening characters ever seen on the silver screen: the raging gangster and sexual manchild Frank Booth.

The film’s twenty-fifth birthday is something to celebrate. As Jeffrey says when making a toast in the film, “here’s to an interesting experience.” Read More »

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