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The Blue Velvet Project

Blue Velvet, 47 seconds at a time by Nicholas Rombes

The Blue Velvet Project, #93

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Second #4371, 72:51

As they speed towards Ben’s, Frank’s police radio suddenly bursts forth with sound and Hunter—in the passenger’s seat—picks it up excitedly and says, like a lunatic with a swamp accent, “Po-lice call! Po-lice call!” until Frank snatches the radio from him. It’s perhaps the most slapstick part of the movie, and for a moment there’s the possibility that Frank and his crew are too incompetent to hurt Jeffrey. This is the second time that Frank has uncoiled so quickly (the first happened when he suddenly grabbed Jeffrey in the hallway of Dorothy’s apartment) and within a split second the screen explodes with movement. Here are the twelve frames following the one at the top of this page, comprising less than half a second of screen time:

In Cinema 2: The Time-Image (1985), Gilles Deleuze wrote:

There is no present which is not haunted by a past and a future, by a past which is not reducible to a former present, by a future which does not consist of a present to come. Simple succession affects the presents which pass, but each present coexists with a past and a future without which it would not itself pass on. It is characteristic of cinema to seize this past and this future that coexist within the present image

Each frame of Frank’s movement in this scene (a movement that obscures Dorothy’s face and erases her from the frames) expresses a truth that applies to all film frames. (And yet are there really “frames” in digital cinema?) Each one possesses a knowledge, a history, of what frames have come before it and what frames shall follow it. The film frame knows something that we don’t, and this secret knowledge is analogous to our sense that what we are watching is “just” a film but also a record, a transcription, of reality. Deleuze’s suggestion that it “is characteristic of cinema to seize this past and this future that coexist within the present image” reflects our own awareness that, in a film like Blue Velvet, the fictional and the real have collapsed into the very same thing.

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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