Review Detail9.8 7 10
Extended Edition March 12, 2013 7942
For the ultra-fan, if you’ll so indulge me....
I’ve evening-waltzed with Blue Velvet for 30+ years, and have never felt entirely comfortable with it except as one of those terminally “guilty pleasure” films ala Scarface or Bram Stoker’s Dracula or even Lynch’s own Dune - films hypnotically watchable, but so riddled with flaws and inconsistencies you keep it on hand but at arm’s length, through the years, almost as you would a Rottweiler you’ve raised but never really tamed...
David Lynch here gave himself over to the motifs and indulgences he would become famous for. We have it all - the dichotomy between absolute light and dark, most specfically personified in two women. We have a pre-modern, classical approach to musical cues ala Hitchcock, a director film isn’t at all shy alluding to, sometimes quite explicity (see “Frenzy” on the TV). We also have Lynch’s delicious postmodern irony when it comes to some of the more insufferable elements of noir, especially given the 1985-6 timeframe of the film - this isn’t a latecomer addition to the genre so mch as it is a thoroughly and self-consciously ironic take on the genre as a whole, while also earning, in its own terminally twisted way, a right to a place alongside the very greats (here’s looking at you, Maltese Falcon….) It’s not parody, but dares to tread the line and deem itself realistic. Horror does, indeed, contain elements of impossible comedy, and vice versa, and very few films did it better than Blue Velvet.
It's nothing if not outrageous. There was so much written about this at the time, how it burrowed its way upwards smack into the direct consciousness of mainstream 1986 Chicago Bears-Reagan America, and yet simultaneously didn’t feel out of place (some of my old-time, jocular, good ol’ boy conservative friends who remember those days simply love the memories of seeing this film in the theater, almost as a “dare you to” thing). Lynch raised the mainstream art stakes from Rambo and Rocky and Spielberg to a sense of total, insane lunacy, daring to meld what may be dismissed as ribald pornography with high art, as Bertolucci once did with Brando, and also daring the audience to buy his vision completely, humorous indulgences and all. Roger Ebert, for one, was exremely hostle to this vision and chastised Lynch quite explicitly, for reasons that may explain where the former was coming from politically and culturally (Lynch, after all, expressed shy admiration for the Gipper…)
What was left from the legacy of the film stylistically was the very notion that one could be so surreal and yet so uncomprimsingly simplistic at the same time. Quentin Tarantino, upon viewing Dean Stockwell’s Orbison lyp-synch, said how he couldn’t understand how he was “really watching” this movie, in real time, as the best adrenaline rushes will have you spot-check.
The problem I’ve always had, however, is one of structure and character - I simply couldn’t believe nor buy Jeffrey’s full and voluntary immersion into this world. It felt like I never really knew the lead, and this, no, was not intentional ala Taxi Driver. I think Lynch made a critical error leaving out two big scenes that have been so mercifully, beautifully, and powerfully restored by Q2 for this fanedit. I saw Q2’s Twin Peaks fanedit and found it suffered from a lagging and pacing problem, but I don’t think Q2 had those intentions, as I don’t think he did here. He simply put the deleted scenes into the film, where they would have gone, and let the chips fall where they may.
Well, then, how does it hold up, at almost 3 hours? I mean, we’re talking Godfather length now for a film that was famous for being a very intense, tight, compact, 2-hour thriller. Does Blue Velvet have the chops to hold itself up under its own weight? Lynch’s original cut was something like 4 hours, if the tales are true, and even here the biggest strain on an audience is buying the idea that it isn’t some postmodern B-picture, but instead epic-caliber shit. Well, what do we think here?
Give it a thumbs-up, and Ebert can go to lunch, may he rest in peace. There was, and perhaps always will be, way more to Blue Velvet than meets the eye. Is it the fact that the story may very well take place entirely “within the ears”, as per Lynch’s very explicit visual cues? Or for the fact that, indeed, there is something so mysteriously elusive at the film’s core, that same elusiveness that drove fans like me rather batty?
As said, I could never get into Jeffrey’s plight. I felt that his motivations and reactions seemed forced, and not at all believable for a niceguy college boy…overlooking this simply has never been an option. Despite the film’s utter outrageouness and power, I could never, ever fully give myself up, for the fact that Jeffery is just so damned enigmatic - and not in a good way. Remember when Sandy says, “I don’t know if you’re a detective or a pervert…” and he responds, “Well, that’s for me to know and you to find out.” Translation: “I’m a PERVERT!”
It is quite telling that in the very next scene, as he “investigates” Dorothy’s apartment (not at all, by the way, interested in much of anything else except, likely, that hardening bit in his pants) Lynch seemed to overdub / add the “Heikeken” line while he casually takes a piss in Dorothy’s toilet. Imagine the scene without that single word. Then Jeffrey really is a pervert, just doing perverse things in a strange woman’s place, not “Heineken”, or whatever. Clearly Lynch was struggling with how to balance out a character in the classic way Hitch handled the very, very dark elements of Jimmy Stewart’s characters in both Rear Window and Vertigo. Q2’s edit fixes this, in one big, sweeping stroke, reinstating vital elements to Jeffrey’s character that Lynch, either under duress or by some sort of misguided notion we “understood” Jeffrey, decided to exise.
Really, the first 15 minutes or so are very heavy on introducing the story. Jeffrey’s first appearance is just simply galvanizing - we start on ***exactly*** the note Lynch should have, originally - peering at a potential rape-in-progress and not only not doing anytning about it, but clearly getting off on what he sees….he then, in a flash, decides to be a “hero” and absolve himself of the situation, calling the dude out and then feeling therefore purged, or whatever. This is essential.
Without setting Jeffrey up for what is to come in the story, Lynch gives us a rather clean-cut kid who becomes drawn into unspeakable depths of sexual aberration, without any precedent to show his initial vulnerabity. Now we *expect* Jeffrey, to a degree, anyway, to take his investigation of the ear further onwards. Of course, having seen the deleted scenes on their own in one of those Lynch “mini-movies” he does (see “Twin Peaks - Fire Walk with Me”), it was frustrating to see how Lynch just decided this scene, so mandatory, wouldn’t make the final cut (again, did the film have to be 2 hours? If so, we could have found 2 minutes elsewhere to trim, surely!)
The second essential scene - more subtle, but just as needed - is when Jeffrey is at home, his entire world having crumbled down, he stuck in his Lumberton room, with his parents. The second “peep” scene. This one, again, is elusive and rather subtle…but it’s there…Jeffrey flips the blinds, from his room…clearly depressed…and sees…..absolutely nothing. His days of being a resident creep, invariably, and undetected, are now gone and moot. There’s simply nothing to see now he is at home. Is this Jeffrey’s true source of motivation - his lack of opportunity, the need so strong it pushes him onwards towards a chaotic world of violence and sexual weirdness? Eventually, Of course, it’s so repulsive Jeffrey realizes he’s bittten off way, way more than he can chew here, and Dorothy, for one, knows it. From here on, Jeffrey’s propensity towards voyeuristic pleasure drives the entire story. Even deep into the story, as the urgency to “do the right thing” starts to equate his initial lusts, the drive isn’t entirely purged, simply balanced (check the robin at the end and the aunt’s quip “I could never eat a bug!”)
How does the rest of the film hold up with the additions, again, totaling almost 40-50 minutes? Well enough to stand up and call itself an epic, I think. Some scenes clearly are not neeeded per se, but everything does add a “building” element - even the humunculous story of Blue Velvet - aunt killing the termites. Or how the way far-extended TV-watching scene lends to Mike’s rage on the road later (in the oiriginal, it truly came out of nowhere). There are some issues with pacing here, and it tends to drag just a bit, but this is small potatoes vs. what the deleted scenes lend to the overall gravity of the story. Lynch is truly painting on a grand canvas here of psychology, and if it takes 3 hours to tell the tale, even in that maddeningly slow-but-not-slow way Lynch likes to do things, then so be it. This is a treasure, and if you’re going to experience Blue Velvet for the first time, do it this way, dear reader. You’ll save yourself decades of tap-dancing with this thing, trying to decide if it’s really that great or if you’re just still in shock from that first viewing.
Do you recommend this edit?