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The Blue Velvet Project

Blue Velvet, 47 seconds at a time by Nicholas Rombes

The Blue Velvet Project, #27

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Second #1269, 21:09

We don’t know it yet, but the faint buzzing sound of static we hear at this point comes from the flickering red neon ELEVATOR sign that Jeffrey—emerging from the far right side of the frame—will encounter in a few moments. Ian Watt—the great deconstructor of the barely visible codes of narrative fiction—once described the actions of a character named Kayerts in Joseph Conrad’s short story “The Outpost of Progress” and in doing so introduced the phrase “delayed decoding” to describe how Conrad sometimes placed readers in the position of his characters, for whom events unfolded more quickly than their minds could decode:

This narrative device may be termed delayed decoding, since it combines the forward temporal progression of the mind, as it receives messages from the outside world, with the much slower reflexive process of making out their meaning. Through this device . . . the reader participates in the instantaneous sensations of Kayerts.

Over the course of the next 15 seconds we and Jeffrey will together, simultaneously:

1. hear the elevator sign buzzing,

2. discover the elevator is out of order,

3. locate the name VALLENS on the apartment tenant board

Our identification with Jeffrey through delayed decoding grows ever stronger, and it is here that Blue Velvet’s tyrannical impulse begins to be felt. The fangs are gradually bared. You can see it here—a glimmer of it at least—in Jeffrey’s face as it shape-shifts between Boy Scout and stalker. Here he is: the exterminator, climbing up the stairs to fake his way into a woman’s apartment. He ignores the cues warning him to stop—the defective elevator sign and the out-of-order elevator—and continues onward. The camera (and by extension us) follows. At this frozen moment Jeffrey is trapped in the stairwell space just before the doorway, with the spooky orange-ish circle on or behind the glass of the door (a light fixture on the stairwell wall?), like some flat bubble from another dimension that has been waiting forever there for Jeffrey.

The frame, which echoes a reverse-engineered Edward Hopper painting, is a wicked geometry of clean lines and squares and rectangles, a geometry which traps even the ghostly circle and–just a few frames later–Jeffrey himself.

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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