Blue Velvet/They Live
David Lynch’s Blue Velvet is a supreme ‘cult’ film that propelled the director to the status of a ‘cinematic auteur,’ a title I have taken from Todd McGowan’s article ‘Fantasizing the Father in Blue Velvet.’ This film is deeply core-shaking, disturbing and psychologically thought provoking. Lynch’s directorial style places much emphasis on subtle details and metaphors which are laden throughout this film, as well as many of his other works, such as Mulholland drive. In relation to They Live, both films project a sense of despair and depression- there exists a mutual consistent feeling of dissatisfaction and lack of resolution, yet also, the mutual theme of being ‘awakened.’ Both Blue Velvet and They Live are highly-senstitive works of art in my personal opinion, that use the cinematic medium to express a plethora of human emotions as well as the pandora’s box of the human psyche.
In Blue Velvet there is a defined notion of a divide; McGowan categorizes it as a split between ‘public social reality and its fantasmatic underside.’ In this way, the world is split between the over-saturated and hyperbolic stereotype of the ‘Stepford’ American town, and the dark bellied underside that inhabits within this superficial facade. Even so, both of these represent a false reality, or rather, a desire for a fantasy existence. Even the idyllic American town, all glowing and shiny, represents according to McGowan ‘the kind of perfectly realized fantasy world that one never encounters in reality.’This distinction is made immediate by Lynch through the films opening scenes, where we are exposed to the brighter-than-blue sky, whiter-than-white picket fence and perfectly colored roses, only to be quickly taken deep underneath it all (literally) with the gruesomely disturbing up-close shots of the various creepy-crawlies, bugs and beetles scuttering and crawling around in the under-growth. This shot, with its drastic change in color, hue and tone, not to mention the radical change in subject matter, catches the audience vulnerably off guard, and sets the tone for the film’s two-sided sets of existences. Lynch uses the quintessentially innconet character of Jeffrey to act as the escort into the dark and disturbed world of Blue Velvet, who’s discovery of the severed ear leads to the discovery of this somewhat alternate fantasy- reality.
One of the major underlaying themes of Blue Velvet is the concept of desire, and illicit pleasure. Desire is an interchangeable sphere within the film, encompassing many forms, yet it causes the unravelling and undoing of the Lynch’s world. Like Professor Siegel mentioned in class, ‘desire is the energy that undermines the fantasy world.’ When the structure of fantasy breaks down, reality perforates. There is a constant sense that fantasy is bound with signification, and consequently ‘the absolute commitment to fantasy produces the impossible moment at which betrayed desire returns.’ Sexual desire, romantic desire, desire for knowledge, for authority, for power and violence are all portrayed in the twisted facades of the film, with the character of Jeffrey acting as the audience’s vehicle to experience them all. But it is because of these conflicting desires that the fantasy world falls apart, and thus, fantasy and reality cease as a product of their own self-destructed demise.