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The Blue Velvet Project

Blue Velvet, 47 seconds at a time by Nicholas Rombes

The Blue Velvet Project, #48

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Second #2256, 37:36

When not to look?

A fragment: Dorothy’s arm, reaching into the closet where Jeffrey hides, to fetch the blue velvet gown in preparation for Frank’s arrival.

A confession: I’ve never watched—completely watched—this upcoming section of the film, out of sheer fear of what I can hear unfolding on the screen.

Or if I have watched it, I have done so using the Travis Bickle method.

What is it that we need to protect ourselves from in the most brutal moments of Blue Velvet? In an interview with the writer Ben Marcus, Brian Evenson said that

to render a violent act in language is not at all the same as committing a violent act. The writing itself is not violent, but rather precise, measured, controlled, in the grip of certain arbitrary but self-consistent rules. Only rarely does real violence become endowed with aesthetic qualities.

The violence of the image, the moving image. The sad poetry of violence.

The tenderness, in this frame at second #2256, of Dorothy’s arm, her flesh reaching in to the dark space that shelters Jeffrey.

The implied camera, hidden in the closet with Jeffrey. The camera is always the invisible presence in a film, our own doppelganger.

The strict formalism of this moment, the moment of Dorothy’s arm, the image governed by, as Evenson says, “certain arbitrary but self-consistent rules.” A shot that Blue Velvet does not precisely need on a strictly narrative level. And yet the uncanniness of this image, the familiarity of reaching into a dark closet, is haunting in its own peculiar way, on the level of sheer image, beyond words, in the way that all darkness is beyond words.

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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