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The Blue Velvet Project, #102


Second #4794, 79:54

The gap between Frank and Ben, and the more radical gap between the viewer and Blue Velvet. For whom does Ben sing? He begins by singing for Frank, but then he seems to lose himself in “In Dreams,” the same way that Dorothy loses herself in her rendition of “Blue Velvet.” Ben’s face at this moment registers a catastrophic loss, his secret loss, and in this frame he’s more humanized than perhaps any character in the film. His eyes look away from Frank and into something even darker.

In his book The Vital Illusion, Jean Baudrillard wrote:

For nothing is identical to itself. We are never identical to ourselves, except, perhaps, in sleep and in death. Language itself never signifies what it means; it always signifies something else. . . . The probability, in this world, for a total adequation of the same to the same, is equal to zero. Fortunately. For that would be the Perfect Crime—a crime that never happens. In relations between things there is always a hiatus, a distortion, a rift that precludes any reduction of the same to the same.

What Baudrillard describes is pure physics: we are always imperceptibly separate from what we see and experience because light itself does not reach us instantaneously. In terms of faraway objects, this is easy to measure: the sun’s light takes a little over eight minutes to reach us. And the light from a relatively close star—Proxima Centauri—takes approximately 4 years. So, as Baudrillard suggests, we are never entirely present in the world. There is always an infinitesimal lag time between it and us. We experience even what we call “real time” as the fractional past.

In this frame, Ben’s unarticulated loss is perhaps more real to him than the impossible-to-perceive time gap between the light leaving the lamp he holds and the light touching his face. “Nothing is identical to itself.” This is perhaps more true of us, who watch movies as spectator-versions of ourselves, than for the actors in the films. When we look at this frame, for instance, and witness Ben’s sorrow, who do we become, we who can open our hearts to such a monster?

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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