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Blue Velvet (1986)

May 16th 2015
Intro by Lisa Rae Bartolomei
Cinemaniac board member

Cinemaniac’s would like to introduce you to a strange world.. Of dark secrets lurking just beyond the white picket fence. A story of twisted desire, innocence lost and love discovered. The genesis of BLUE VELVET began shortly after David Lynch had finished filming The Elephant man. Lynch met with producer Rick Roth at a local hamburger joint to discuss his script for Ronnie Rocket a film Lynch would unsuccessfully attempt to get made for the better part of twenty years. Roth swiftly rejected the script about a 3 foot man that controlled electricity and asked Lynch if he had any other scripts on the go. Lynch proceeded to describe a fantasy he had about sneaking into a girls room and watching her change and then seeing something that would provide a clue to a murder mystery. Roth loved the idea and sent Lynch off to write a treatment. That night Lynch had a vision of an ear in a field he remembered from his childhood in Boise, Idaho. The Bobby Vinton version of the Bernie Wayne song Blue velvet would provide further inspiration. While Lynch has admitted it is a song he never much cared for as a fan of rock ‘n’ roll he felt it had certain mystery about it. It conjured a vision of green lawns and small towns at twilight, red lips and blue velvet. Roth and Lynch pitched the script to Warner Brothers. When David Lynch left the room the executive asked Rick Roth ‘ Is this a true story’ ‘ Did he really find an ear or did he just make it up’ Richard told him he just made it up and the guy said ‘ Jeez I’ll do that ‘ Lynch wrote 2 drafts of the script that he described in his own words as ‘just horrible’ full of darkness and not much else. Warner brothers were furious and shelved the project and the other studios stayed away fearing the reaction of film goers to the films inherent sado-masochistic, violent and erotic themes.

Lynch would go on to direct the sci-fi epic film adaption of DUNE filmed over a three year period it was a financial disaster which saw Lynch and producers Dino and Raffaella De Laurentiis clash over the creative direction of the film. Despite their creative differences on DUNE their was no bad blood between the director and hot blooded producer and while on set Dino De Laurentiis asked what their next project would be. Lynch answered Blue Velvet. Lynch gave De Laurentiis only the first half of the script to read as he had yet to finish the film to his liking. The end of the film would come to him fully formed in a dream. De Laurentiis liked the script at quickly leaped to action to secure the rights from Warner Brothers. After his problems with Dune, Lynch insisted on final cut of the film a term De Larentiis agreed to only if Lynch agreed to cut his salary and the budget for the film. In half De Laurentiis refused to write this into their contract stating ‘if people see you have final cut of the film, everyone will want it and I cant do that. But you have my word ‘ According to producer Fred Coruso for all his bullishness De Laurentiis’ word was gold and the film remained completely and uncompromisingly Lynch’s vision right to the end.

Molly Ringwald was Lynch’s first choice for the part of Sandy Williams the went to Laura Dern after Lynch was blown away by her heartfelt performance in Mask – obligatory plug Mask is being screened by Cinemaniac’s as part of our Oscar Winning makeup season . I ‘m happy to announce we have an exclusive intro with Laura Dern and director Peter Bogdanavitch to air before the film. Lynch & Dern immediately hit it off bonding over their mutual interest in Meditation and Astrology. She would become a lifelong friend and collaborator of David Lynch’s playing the sexually free firebrand Lula in Wild at Heart and the women in trouble in the surrealistic opus Inland Empire. Lynch campaigned for Laura’s nomination for Inland Empire by sitting with a cow by the side of the road. You tube it it’s one of the best things ever. Lynch wanted Helen Mirren for the role of Dorothy Vallens. By chance he met Isabella Rossellini at a restaurant in New York where they were dining with mutual friends. He famously told her “You could be Ingrid Bergman’s daughter.” His friend quickly took him aside “ you idiot that is Ingrid Bergman’s daughter. Lynch then offered Rosselinni the part.

Rossellini would comment on the part “ It was a wonderful way to portray sexuality and the darkness of it. And I play a femme Fatale who was a femme fatale just because she was kind off beautiful and she was singing and she had the features of somebody beautiful but yet she was completely destroyed inside. That’s a pretty good role”. Dennis Hopper vied for the role of Frank Booth telling Lynch on the phone “I am Frank Booth’. This statement alarmed Lynch who stated Frank Booth was not someone you want to have lunch with. Despite the reservations about Dennis possibly being a psychotic madman and his recent recovery from drug and alcohol addiction he did in fact become Frank Booth. Robert Loggia also auditioned for the role and exploded at David Lynch in a psychotic rage when forced to wait for hours to read for the role. Lynch remembering this outburst would later cast him as sadistic mob man and pornographer Mr. Eddy in LOST HIGHWAY. Kyle Maclachlan was cast as the Lynch surrogate Jeffrey Beaumont, Lynch admired his innocent and curious qualities and the thoughtfulness portrayed in his eyes. Blue Velvet would also mark the first collaboration with composer Angelo Badalamenti who was asked by producer Fred Coruso to help rerecord Isabella Rossellini’s vocals and then compose the music to a poem of David’s – the Mysteries of Love when the rights to This Mortal Coils “ Song to the Siren” were to expensive. David fell instantly in love with Badalementti’s beautiful melancholic music and asked him to score the whole picture to this day Lynch credits Badalamenti for bringing him into the world of music. He initially planned to use Shostakovich’s Symphony 15th Symphony in A Major which he had listened to on repeat while writing the script and played on set to create the right mood for the actor’s performances.

The Film was Shot Wilmington North Carolina at De Laurentiis studios and on location. In Rosselini’s nude scene inhabitants of the town flocked to the set with their families even after being repeatedly warned of the violent and graphic content. The proceeding controversy would see them banned from shooting in Wilmington’s streets thereafter. Controversy would follow Blue Velvet into its release with critics polarized between their love and condemnation of the films eroticism and horrifying portrayal of domestic violence, voyeurism and sadomasochism. My first introduction to the film after watching Twin Peaks as an 11 year old. I was told unequivocally that I was not allowed under any circumstances to watch that film and I was allowed to watch everything. Much like Jeffrey’s curiosity upon finding the ear I knew I have to witness that mystery and immediately went over to a friend’s house and got them to hire it from the video store. I grew up in the dark world portrayed by Blue Velvet in St Kilda drug taking and prostitution were the norm. There was a Frank Booth on every corner. That world didn’t seem that strange to me and I had only a child’s view of sexuality and saw Adults as mainly perverse and strange. Upon viewing the film as an Adult I began to understand why people were so enthralled yet disturbed by the film. There is a great quote by David Lynch that I feel sums up quite nicely both the beauty the dark corruption that lies at the heart of Lumberton and in the Soul of America. Something he observed first hand in his idyllic country upbringing and then the ugliness he witnessed in the fear soaked atmosphere at art School in the industrialized wasteland of Philadelphia in the early ‘70’s

“My childhood was elegant homes tree lined streets, the milkman, building backyard forts, droning airplanes, blue skies, cherry trees, Middle America as ii’s supposed to be . But on the cherry tree there’s a pitch oozing out- some black some yellow, and millions of red ants crawling all over. I discovered that if one looks a little closer at this beautiful world there are always ants underneath”

Ants play a crucial role in the beautiful opening sequence of blue velvet and in the recently released deleted scenes there are scenes between Jeffery and Aunt Barbara where they find termites infesting the house. An apt metaphor for the infestation of Jeffrey’s soul by the darkness he is witnessing and letting into his heart. Part of him is Frank Booth aroused by pain. He is curious about the dark side of sexuality and wants to learn yet horrified by its cruelty. In another deleted seen he is at College before the film. He watches a rape in progress quite possibly Sandy correctly identifies him as a pervert. But we all have our secrets, our perversions which we cover with our own white picket fence. This is one of the main themes of lynch’s work both in his films and paintings such as “My Shadow is with me always” and My Shadow is A Monster”.

Lynch says:

“Everyone’s sub-conscious is filled with plenty of horror all the things we don’t want to face with our conscious minds and it’s all there waiting for us’

We the audience through Jeffrey’s voyeurism confront our own desires, fears and pathologies. Are we horrified or secretly aroused? Frank Booth can be seen as a character completely consumed by his shadow, He plays out all his perverse, infantile and oedipal fantasies on the people around him. For him love and fear are desperately co-mingled. He is completely consumed by his love for Dorothy must possess her at all costs. We are not given any background to understand Frank or the other characters behavior in Blue Velvet. We are confronted by their perversions without context it may well be that Frank is a victim of violence himself and it is the only way he knows how to express love. Dorothy victimizes Jeffrey’s character much in the way she herself is being victimized as a way to regain some of her own power. She herself submits to this horrifying experience out of love for her abducted son. She enjoys the torment, we are not quite sure why which adds to the horror of Blue Velvet. Isabella Rossellini described her characters sexuality in the following way –

“ Sex is portrayed as something you go out and choose for yourself but we know the reality is it just happens to us and we don’t know what to do with it, what to make of it. I thought that this woman, who has so many torments in her mind, became the victim of abuse so that when she did get the first blow, the first punch, her tormented thoughts, could stop and that’s why she asked to be beaten. If you read psychiatric journals very similar descriptions are given to self-mutilators. They need away to make there psychological pain tangible so they hurt themselves. Rossellini purposely made her nudity unattractive she wanted to be like meat, a Francis bacon painting and based her hands in front walk on a picture of a Napalm victim in the Vietnam War. The nude scene was based on a childhood experience of Lynch’s were instead of being aroused he cried on seeing a naked women on the street having an inner knowing that something horrible had happened to her.

Lynch answered the criticism to the film saying that all though not every woman is Dorothy and every man is Frank Booth people like them exist. We have all met Frank Booth he is a part of American and I would say Australian Landscape. All you need do is look him in the eye. One of the customers at my work kept yelling don’t you look at me at work the other day and once he beat his wife on the street in front of everyone.

In this year alone 37 Women have been murdered in this country already. 3 this week. ½ a Million Women reported they have experienced physical or sexual assault in the last 12 months. More than a million women have experienced physical or sexual assault by their current or ex-partner since the age of 15. 33.3% of women have experienced physical violence and 19% have experienced sexual violence since 15. 64% of physical assaults go unreported and 81% of sexual assaults. The world of Blue Velvet may be dark beautiful and surreal but it’s also real a strange world… Thank you very much enjoy the weird world of BLUE VELVET.