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The Blue Velvet Project

Blue Velvet, 47 seconds at a time by Nicholas Rombes

The Blue Velvet Project, #140


“I’m gonna let them find you on their own,” Jeffrey quietly says to himself, invoking Frank, who will appear again in a few minutes. Turning away from the camera, his ear might actually hear the song on the soundtrack, Ketty Lester’s version of “Love Letters,” released as a single in 1961:

The song was written in 1945 by Victor Young and Edward Heyman, and appeared in the film Love Letters, which starred Jennifer Jones and Joseph Cotten. Adapted by none other than Ayn Rand (“People should be able to build what they want to build, when they want to build it, how they want to build it,” Lynch said in 2001) from the novel Pity My Simplicity, the trailer suggests Freud Gone Wild: “Buried within these bleak, forbidding walls were haunting memories, memories of violence and disaster.” Of her adaptation of the film, Rand wrote to a friend:

You want me to explain Love Letters to you. […] The truth about Love Letters, as I see it, is this: it is essentially a very silly and meaningless story–by the mere fact that it revolves around so unnatural a thing as somebody’s amnesia. No, it has no moral lesson to teach, nor any kind of lesson whatever. So, if you look at it from the standpoint of content–it has none. But it has one valuable point as a story–a dramatic situation involving a conflict. This permits the creation of suspense. If the basic premise–amnesia–doesn’t interest you, then of course the rest of the story won’t interest you. A basic premise in a story is always like an axiom–you take it or you don’t. If you accept the premise, the rest will hold your interest. As for me, I accept the premise out of sheer curiosity–nothing more deep or important than that. That is, granting such a setup–let’s see what can be made of it. My only interest in that picture was purely technical–how to create a good construction that would be dramatic and suspenseful, out of practically nothing.

In Blue Velvet, the song’s lyrics—“Love letters straight from your heart”—coincide with the montage that depicts the police shoot-out at Frank’s place, which presumably occurs as Jeffrey stands in Dorothy’s apartment. They echo Frank’s earlier, hyper-sexed threat to Jeffrey:

Don’t be a good neighbor to her or I’m gonna send you a love letter. Straight from my heart, fucker. You know what a love letter is? It’s a bullet. Straight from my gun, fucker. Once you get a love letter from me, you’re fucked forever.

The grace and beauty of that song, the soft piano, the sentiment of eternal love and yearning.

And yet, still: fucked forever.

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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