Strange World

In a social group of cinephiles, music snobs and general arty folk, I was lacking something. My friends just assumed I'd seen all of those talked-about films. The ones everyone is supposed to see. The ones that if you haven't, well, you just fall below the cool mark. The truth? I had never seen Blue Velvet.

To most people, missing a movie isn't that big a deal. But when you and all your mates spent the majority of college in film class, the pressure's on. But I figured that after all the hype, after all the Pabst Blue Ribbon toasts of "To your fuck!" and general David Lynch idolatry, the movie just wasn't gonna be what it was cracked up to be. I had even procrastinated watching Blue Velvet for fear that it wouldn't rank up there with my beloved Twin Peaks or Mulholland Dr. But this charade had gone on long enough, so on a recent evening--almost 20 years after its release--I settled in with Blue Velvet.

A mere 25 minutes in, I found myself thinking, "Lost Highway what? This is the David Lynch I adore." There's Kyle MacLachlan in the lead role, bad lounge music and a mysterious unattached ear. The odd humor, the uncomfortable silence, the log truck drive-by shots Lynch is known for. I was hooked, disconcerted and totally involved with Jeffrey (MacLachlan) in his quest to solve the mystery of the lost ear.

Then I met Dennis Hopper's Frank Booth, a psychopath with a penchant for sniffing robe remnants. I found myself torn between laughter and shock. For instance, when Frank violated Isabella Rossellini's character, I was shocked. But when he shared expletive-laden toasts with Dean Stockwell, I laughed. I gasped when Frank beat the shit out of Jeffrey, except during shots of the random skank-dancing on top of a car. At those, I laughed...really hard.

I found a harmony, a synchronicity, in Lynch's masterpiece. I felt comfortable in the film's meager settings (which seem very midcentury in one scene and very '80s in another) and humored by the stuff Lynch threw in for detail. I'm two decades late, but I struck gold when I popped that disc in the player. Now, it may seem as though I'm writing this with the assumption that readers have seen Blue Velvet--and that's because after I watched it, I realized you should have.

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Merritt Martin
Contact: Merritt Martin