Blue Velvet (1986)
It must have been fascinating to watch David Lynch’s movies in the time before everyone started agreeing with him. Here in 2022, maybe especially in 2022, it’s no longer just evident that ineffable, nightmarish wickedness lurks in the hearts and homes of the most normal-appearing people — it’s kind of boring. Does every generation believe itself to be living in an era beyond parody? Having survived the 1980s, it would seem that the answer is no. But who, now, could be our David Lynch? What taboos are left to instrumentalize? Where have you gone, Kenneth Anger? Our nation turns its chien-andalou-ed eyes to you.
Mainstream culture’s natural defense mechanism to transgression is to subsume it, digest it, and excrete it out into a little owl pellet called “style.” The style of David Lynch is now one of the primary modes of media product — but the other reason that progression is particularly interesting here (in a different way than, say, the cultural metabolism of The Matrix), is that David Lynch himself has not changed at all. His voice has expanded but never diverged. From Eraserhead to the third season of Twin Peaks, the same mind is working through the same ideas. But that’s true of a lot of creators, and it’s not usually a compliment. Lynch still feels important, like he’s still pioneering even though now the path is well beaten. Maybe that’s because Lynch’s transgression includes and uses style, relies on and reacts to the output of the mainstream millstone. Blue Velvet‘s most unforgettable scenes happen on a set that looks exactly like an apartment in a cheap three-camera sitcom. And not in a way that’s winked at, or deployed for any delineable effect. He’s not doing it for anybody; he keeps doing it because he can’t help it.
Sounds like a certain somebody else we know.
Take REWIND’s hand and fall backwards once more into the inkblack vortex of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. It’s a neat movie!