David Lynch directs Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini and Dennis Hopper in this psychosexual mystery where a college boy returns home to find a severed ear, a distressed chanteuse and whole lot of nightmare beyond his white picket fence.
That’s a font for a title credit. Sexy cursive. What’s under that lawn? Decay, turmoil, writhing. Mr Beaumont Snr. is fucked up in his neck brace. We’re In! Are we? We dawdle in wasteland and zoom into an ear. Whose rotten detached headspace are we entering? The hospital and hardware store scenes seem superfluous. I guess Jeffrey needs to take the place of his father and that needs to feel mundane, ugly and distasteful. Detective John Williams: the open cop. Enter the dame 1: hard to think of Laura Dern as the good girl now but she’s as pure as a glass of milk here. A real Nancy Drew / Hayley Mills. Kyle MacLachlan’s dorky chicken walk. How many bobbysoxers did teenage Lynch woo with that move? Date at The Slow Club. Enter the dame 2: Isabella Rossellini is off the chain brave in this. After getting her ‘goddess of the stage’ introduction she is stripped, abused, frantic, bruised, vulnerable, catatonic. You never know what this Dorothy Vallens is going to do next. It is an unhinged, gut driven piece of screen acting that deserves more recognition. Obviously your more bombastic nasty lunatics (Hopper, Stockwell) obscure what Rossellini achieves here but…
The dark side of town. Four honks unheard. Sneaking a peek! This sequence feels like it goes on forever. Caught! Dorothy gets to be in charge for a little while. “Baby wants to fuck Blue Velvet!” The scissors, the gas inhaler… what are we watching, Jeffrey Beaumont? Who is Frank? One of cinema’s most unfathomable but bleakly funny villains… well played Dennis. Jeffrey can’t resist going back. “Hit me!” Joyride with the neighbour. Beer brand disagreement – PBR is endorsed, I’m guessing no product placement payola changed hands on this one though. Off to Sauve Ben’s cathouse. Al from Quantum Leap lost on downers, covered in pancake slap, ready to gut punch you. A heartfelt reunion behind closed doors – non-sexualised Dorothy ain’t for our eyes. Candy Coloured Clown. Work Light Karaoke. “I’ll fuck anything that moves!” Teleporting jump cut. Skanky car roof dancing. “Don’t be a good neighbour to her. I’ll send you a love letter straight from my fucking heart!” If I ever made a movie, I wish I could replicate just a tenth of the unease and unpredictability Lynch conjures in this middle act.
Shell shocked Kyle MacLachlan sitting on a bed trying to process his yen for a beautiful but distressed woman being raped by a baby and a daddy… Is he to a Frank? Full of dark desires and posing as a “well dressed man”?… Or a little boy who saw his parents at it and is warped for life by the lusts it defined in him? “Who’s that? Is that your mother?” the jocks ask as they are about to kick our hero’s face in and a naked woman appears distraught and wailing. I’m sure David has his own deeper interpretations of all the mysteries and visual clues. He always does, the tight lipped genius. Poor Sandy’s heart is broken. Police raid. Back in the apartment where the nasty always happens… a set design dry run for The Black Lodge. You can see the rough sketch of Twin Peaks in pretty much every authorial choice here. This room is where your sexual desires become nightmarish reality. Dirty cop still buzzing up right, nothing but electrified muscles. Walkie talkie con job. Really fantastic small scale denouement, other thrillers take note… Lynch can do the genre basics too! Shitty robot bird. Not even the shape of a robin. But all that squirming turmoil is mastered in its beak. “It’s a strange world.”
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