Back to selection

The Blue Velvet Project

Blue Velvet, 47 seconds at a time by Nicholas Rombes

The Blue Velvet Project, #115


Second #5405, 90:05

Detective Gordon (aka The Yellow Man, or The Man in Yellow, played by Fred Pickler) sits at his desk at police headquarters, where Jeffrey has gone to see Detective Williams. He spots Gordon in his office and, startled that this is the same man he’d seen earlier with Frank, takes a moment at a drinking fountain across from Gordon’s office to get a better look, which constitutes this shot. Gordon is a terrifying presence for reasons that are impossible to sort out. The fact is he shouldn’t be terrifying, sitting there in his yellow (yellow!) jacket, working studiously, the model of Reagan-era diligence.

Perhaps that’s it: he seems to be someone pretending to be someone he’s not. Who’s side is he on, Detective Williams’s, or Frank’s? On the wall behind him appears the lower portion of a poster with the word REVOLVERS. It may as well be the name of a band or a foreshadowing of how the film will end. There are objects on the desk that, in isolation, seem harmless enough, but for some reason when assembled as they are here take on a weird aura: the phone, the police walkie talkie, the tape dispenser. There is the pattern of yellow sweeping upwards from the legal pad to Gordon’s tie and jacket to the partial poster image above the word REVOLVERS. The inscrutability of Gordon, who seems as ageless as a dark figure from a fairy tale. He either knows about all the terrible secrets that Blue Velvet hides or he knows nothing at all. When—in a few seconds—he glances up at Jeffrey and catches his eyes, it will either be a terrible warning or nothing at all, simply a harmless glance.

In this fashion, Blue Velvet maintains its dark spell in the way that only certain films can. Maybe it has something to do with these quiet, in-between moments where the menace hums at a lower frequency than the super-charged scenes with Frank or Dorothy. There is so much to puzzle over in this image, and the frozen frame offers the chance to absorb small details such as REVOLVERS appearing just above the Yellow Man’s head, as if predicting that his head, indeed, will be destroyed by a bullet from a revolver.

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.

© 2016 Filmmaker Magazine
All Rights Reserved
A Publication of IPF