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The Blue Velvet Project

Blue Velvet, 47 seconds at a time by Nicholas Rombes

The Blue Velvet Project, #18

Second #846, 14:06

They have walked together in the night for several minutes now, delicately circling the topic of evil, as if talking in code. Finally, Jeffrey takes a gamble: “I, uh, guess you gotta get back home pretty soon, huh?” he asks Sandy. Her reply, as usual, takes the form of another question: “Not really—why?” And then she offers to show him Dorothy Vallens’s apartment, whose weak gravity has been slowly pulling them closer. This is a fiercely political stretch of the film, given the context of Ronald Reagan and his elevation of family to mythic status. In his 1985 State of the Union speech, he said: “Now, there’s another great heritage to speak of this evening. Of all the changes that have swept America the past 4 years, none brings greater promise than our rediscovery of the values of faith, freedom, family, work, and neighborhood.”

Several years earlier, Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari published A Thousand Plateaus:

What makes fascism dangerous is its molecular or micropolitical power, for it is a mass movement: a cancerous body rather than a totalitarian organism. American film has often depicted these molecular focal points; band, gang, sect, family, town, neighborhood, vehicle fascisms spare no one. Only microfascism provides an answer to the global question: Why does desire desire its own repression, how can it desire its own repression?

Why does desire desire its own repression? This is a question that Blue Velvet asks, and the answer can’t help but be political, in the sense that desire is political, as it comes into being and takes shape only as defined against that which represses it. Which is to say: Blue Velvet disguises Sandy and Jeffrey as Reagan Youth. The identity of their real, undisguised selves—hinted at in this frame—is the mystery that the film refuses, thankfully, to solve.

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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