The Blue Velvet Project

Blue Velvet, 47 seconds at a time by Nicholas Rombes

The Blue Velvet Project, #98

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Second #4606, 76:46

Frank has just hurt Jeffrey, and now it’s Ben’s turn. A casual sort of hurtfulness. The frame comes from second number 6 in a shot that lasts just over 53 seconds. In the background, staring back at the camera (at us) is the same Party Girl from earlier. The frame, cut vertically by the curtain and Dorothy’s right arm, is pulled apart by a clash of gazes and lines of vision: Dorothy’s and Frank’s leading our eyes toward Ben, and Ben’s and Hunter’s leading our eyes towards off-screen Jeffrey.

In Barry Gifford’s 1990 novel Wild at Heart (directed by Lynch that same year), Sailor and Lula stay at The Host of the Old South Hotel:

The room was small but cheap, sixteen dollars. The plaster on the walls and ceiling was cracked and there was an ancient Motorola TV with rabbit ears hulking in a corner. There was a card table with four plastic glasses and a pink ceramic pitcher on it. In another corner was a decrepit brown bureau and in the middle of the room was an enormous bed with a chipped black headboard.

Gifford’s prose is textured like burlap. A rug burn of words. The same sort of feeling is achieved at second number 4606, as if you could rub your fingers across the screen and actually feel the world on the other side. If mise-en-scène is the totality of the frame, and the composition of space within it, then this frame uses its space to convey one layer of Blue Velvet’s meaning: the potential lethality of being looked at. The crisscrossing gazes dissect the screen space in an epic, zigzagging stare down.

The depth and warmth of the image in Blue Velvet was an artifact of its time, a sort of cinematic sonic boom in the Reagan era. Lynch’s “Crazy Clown Time” video, from which the images below are taken, offers a different sort of boom. Its flat, depthless images appear and disappear so quickly and are so crammed with information that you feel as if you’re watching a secret channel on one of Barry Gifford’s TV sets. And then—back to Blue Velvet—Ben is just about to lip sync to Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams,” whose first, half-spoken lines are “A candy-colored clown they call the sandman.” The original Crazy Clown.

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.