Blue Velvet

Screening on Film
Directed by David Lynch.
With Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper.
US, 1986, 35mm, color, 120 min.
Print source: HFA

Ostensibly set in the present, Blue Velvet evokes the Fifties and, even more than the actual era, its florid melodramas. Lynch both celebrates and defamiliarizes a comfortable, picture postcard façade of malt shoppes, football fields and rec-room basements—as well as Roy Orbison, whose morose ballad “In Dreams” is lip-synched by the androgynous proprietor of a shabby brothel (Dean Stockwell). Given its originality, Blue Velvet received a mixed response. The movie was rejected as “pornographic” by the Venice Film Festival even though it was produced by Italian mogul Dino De Laurentiis and starred native daughter Isabella Rossellini. On the other hand, the critic for the mainline Protestant journal Christian Century declared it the best film of 1986, “probing the depths of evil.” Writing in the National Review, John Simon called Lynch “a naïf from Montana who wants to be deep, but whose depth consists of drawing huge sexual organs on Norman Rockwell paintings.”

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