2016 Milwaukee Film Festival – Day Fourteen – BLUE VELVET
The 2016 Milwaukee Film Festival is approaching the end of its fifteen day run. But there are special events every day of the festival, and in this case they had a 30th anniversary screening of David Lynch’s seminal film BLUE VELVET in front of a healthy, enthusiastic crowd at the Oriental Theatre.
Early on in BLUE VELVET, Laura Dern’s Sandy tells Kyle MacLachlan’s Jeffrey Beaumont “I don’t know if you’re a detective or a pervert.” That’s clearly a false dichotomy as David Lynch shows that both can be true as Jeffrey Beaumont journeys into darkness and finds some in himself. Especially as he becomes obsessed with what Isabella Rosselini’s Dorothy Vallens can seemingly offer. But, there’s darkness all around and just around the corner from Jeffrey Beaumont’s white picket fenced home in Lynch’s Rockwellian America. There are drugs and corruption in the police force. There is sex and violence mingled together. Even Laura Dern’s Sandy, the image of light and innocence, emerges out of the darkness and starts Jeffrey on his journey with the knowledge she secretly has. And there, at the very extreme, is Dennis Hopper’s Frank Booth embodying rage and hyper masculinity. BLUE VELVET remains a mesmerizing, frightening experience.
I last saw BLUE VELVET in the theater nearly 30 years ago and the audience was deeply divided afterwards. Not so in 2016 as the theater was clearly dominated by fans, with some curious newcomers, who knew how to read the movie where audiences were caught unprepared 30 years prior. BLUE VELVET is a great film, it changed the way I look at films 30 years ago, and last night was a celebration of the film.
What is perhaps most surprising is that BLUE VELVET has lost almost none of its power, except the power of surprise which all films lose. It’s grounded in a 1950s Norman Rockwell aesthetic, filmed in vivid faux Technicolor, and features classic music from Bobby Vinton and Roy Orbison so it always was a bit out of time. Lynch is saying that there’s always been darkness in America and in our souls, and that remains a timeless theme. That aesthetic has worn well with time. The film has joined the realm of classic that it was borrowing from at the time.
There’s only one day left in the 2016 Milwaukee Film Festival. Tickets and information are available at Milwaukee Film’s website.