Weird Movies Leading to Weird Blog Posts

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I admit it, I cheated. Although it wasn’t on purpose. I had no idea that the David Foster Wallace essay I was going to read was going to be on a film I would watch for a movie class just three weeks later. And that that film would be Blue Velvet, which is a film that is probably best watched with little prior knowledge. I consider this cheating because Wallace gives a lens through which to watch Lynch’s films by defining the term “Lynchian” as “a particular kind of irony where the very macabre and the very mundane combine in such a way as to reveal the former’s perpetual containment within the latter.” This idea was in my brain as I watched the movie, and I was denied the pleasure of—perhaps–coming to a conclusion like it on my own. It also gave me an idea of what to expect, so I wasn’t as creeped out/shocked/surprised as I could have been. Oh well. (The essay, which is titled David Lynch Keeps His Head and is mostly about Lost Highway, is great as a reader, but awful as a writer, mostly because I spent the whole time reading it wishing I could write that well about anything).

As I was leaving the screening, someone commented that he/she had no idea what to blog about. I said that I could write a hundred blogs on the movie.

Noir Element in Blue Velvet: The Femme Fatale. The most obvious example is Dorothy, specifically in the scene where she convinces Jefferey to hit her. She doesn’t have the sociopathy of a Phyllis or a Matty, but in some ways she is worse. She is not fooling Jefferey, or making him believe in a false love. Instead she is revealing depravity that actually existed inside of him.

However, the Jurassic Park-Sandy is a far worse Femme Fatale, because she represses Jefferey’s depravity. This is what enabled a person like Frank to exist in Lumberton: the general (and perhaps willing) ignorance of any sort of dark side of humanity. One of the men working with Frank was in the police department, an occurrence that would take a large degree of either incompetence or naivete, unless the townsfolk simply refused to see any badness. Then it would be easy for a criminal to become a functioning member of society. Sandy is a Femme Fatale because she leads Jefferey to forget anything he learned from Dorothy and Frank; she is the Robin that eats the Beetle. Eating the beetle takes the insect out of your sight, but also makes it a part of your interior, where it is more difficult to remove.

What exactly does the Grandmother eat in the last scene?

Noir Element in Blue Velvet: Neon “lux.” In the first scene in which Dorothy sings Blue Velvet—which is more like a “first look” than the film’s real “first look” in the apartment—she is bathed in blue artificial light and framed by two blue squiggle neon lights. This clues us in that 1)she is some sort of Femme Fatale and that 2) Jefferey is going to take some sort of illumination from her. Of course, from Kiss Me Deadly and other films we know that the illumination offered by “lux” (I might be switching the terms) is shallow and untenable without the illumination from “lumen.” However, as I mentioned above, in this film the “lux,”–an illumination that reveals Jefferey’s violence and depravity—seems more real than the “lumen” that apparently is offered by Sandy.

Typing “Blue Velvet Theories” into Google lead me to a feminist article on the Oedipal Aspects of the film, a film forum whose members recommend watching Inland Empire at 2AM for the best effect, an essay on postmodernism in BV that quotes David Foster Wallace in the first sentence, a blog that links to a J.G. Ballard essay on the film, and a fashion blog named Blue Velvet (there are no other mentions to Lynch on the blog, so the name might be coincidental; however, the faces of many of the models on the site are creepy).

Someone else said, after the movie was over, “so it was all a dream?”

An interesting compare/contrast blog would be young Charlie and Jefferey. Both are innocents living in a small town, whose world views are warped by the immorality they are exposed to. However, Young Charlie keeps what she has learned, and Hitchcock leads the viewer to believe that she will forever be aware of the darkness in humanity. The banality in the ending of BV reveals that Jefferey is going to, instead, repress/ignore what he has learned.

 

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One response to “Weird Movies Leading to Weird Blog Posts

  1. Matt,

    You say you could write 100 different blog posts on Lynch’s Blue Velvet; I could probably write 100 responses to this post. OK, maybe not 100, but your post contains several strands of thought, all of which are rich. I’ll focus on your argument on the women in the film and how they shape Jeffrey’s experiences and identity. First, you nicely pick out several ways in which Lynch aligns Dorothy with the classical noir femme fatale. This happens at the level of cinematography–particularly in the scenes where she performs at the Slow Club–and plot. She, as you suggest, forces Jeffrey to confront dangerous desires that he genuinely possesses (but represses by the end of the film). As such, she is no different from Phyllis or Mattie, who are instrumental to the male protagonists’ evolution as sexual beings. At the same time, however, Lynch refuses to pigeonhole Dorothy as a classical femme fatale. She is both a mother and a victim, which complicates–and, I would argue, fundamentally organizes–her sexual relationship with Jeffrey. What do you think?

    RE. Sandy, I largely agree that she is arguably the more dangerous figure of the two (at least in terms of how she shapes Jeffrey’s sexual identity), because she forces him to repress his desires. In this way, she is less like a femme fatale, though, and more like the classical noir home builder. (We didn’t watch any films with this type, but she is a stock character–usually associated with the home, law, and safe desires [and typically blonde].) Again, though, I wonder about your reading of her impact on Jeffrey. Given the film’s clear interest in Oedipal desire, Sandy serves as the (in Freud’s view) “healthy” means by which Jeffrey can repressed illicit, perverse, or unlawful desire. That is, Freud argues that in order to become a functioning subject, one must eventually move beyond the Oedipal stage; and moving beyond that stage *requires* repression. (So, the healthy subject is necessarily repressed.) On this reading, then, the Franks of the world are those who *haven’t* repressed their dangerous desires–in Frank’s case, he ritualistically re-performs an Oedipal fantasy–and so aren’t functioning subjects. I’m not sure that I completely buy this interpretation of the film (it seems too clear cut for Lynch), but it does complicate your views on Sandy a bit.

    Clearly, I could keep responding, but I have to get to others’ posts! I look forward to discussing all of this in class. (Oh, and I definitely see the link to Shadow of a Doubt–I often think of the two as “sister” films.)

    Nice post,
    MT

    P.S. That DFW essay is wonderful!

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