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The Blue Velvet Project

Blue Velvet, 47 seconds at a time by Nicholas Rombes

The Blue Velvet Project, #13

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Second # 611, 10:11

This gliding shot, showing the underside of trees as Jeffrey walks the nighttime streets of his neighborhood, loomed large in my imagination after seeing the film for the first time in 1987. I wouldn’t see Blue Velvet again for many years, and in that time these few seconds of footage assumed meaning and feeling wildly disproportionate to their importance in the film. I can’t really account for this and, to be honest, when I set out to do this project I did it with the intention of not writing very much about my own personal stake in the film. But this is one of those moments that obliterates authorial intention.

This moment (followed by the camera slowly tracking into the severed ear as sound builds, followed by Jeffrey suddenly at Sandy’s front door) is like a distillation of the entire film because, for me, Jeffrey’s sadness (not a depressive or morose or self-pitying sadness, but a sadness that lies at the heart of everything Jeffrey’s future will hold) is captured by the depthless underside of those trees, as if he was looking deep into some other world, and for many years after I saw the film I associated it the Dr. Fricke, an English professor at Bowling Green State University who (in his habitual denim shirt) introduced the film to our small creative writing class by daring us to see it, and with his own sadness that he carried with him into that classroom in Williams Hall on Wednesday evenings, and I wondered how it was that a film, or a novel, or an album, or a painting, could mean so much to one person, and at the same time to another person, and to thousands of people, and how such a localized, specific thing (like the image of the underside of leafy old trees at night) could leap into the universal, like a virus, and as I watched Blue Velvet for the first time I wondered if the moments that moved Dr. Fricke were the same moments that moved me, and I was sure that this night-soaked shot of trees as Jeffrey walks alone was one of those very moments, and that that was why our professor recommended the film to us, for this shot alone which I’m still convinced, holds the dark secret code to the entire film.

Over the period of one full year — three days per week — The Blue Velvet Project will seize a frame every 47 seconds of David Lynch’s classic to explore. These posts will run until second 7,200 in August 2012. For a complete archive of the project, click here. And here is the introduction to the project.

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