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The Blue Velvet Project

Blue Velvet, 47 seconds at a time by Nicholas Rombes

The Blue Velvet Project, #22

Second #1034, 17:14

The beauty of hair in the mid-Eighties, curling ironed and a little bit feathered. Sandy’s friends are trapped somewhere between 1956 and 1986, in their long skirts and sweaters. “Don’t you guys dare say anything to Mike, okay?” Sandy warns them, as Jeffrey waits for her in his classic red Oldsmobile convertible. “It’s not what you think, okay? Promise?” For all its references to the past—especially in this scene—Blue Velvet resists the lure of nostalgia. In the best and most obscurely written book ever on postmodernism, Fredric Jameson argued that realism itself was the casualty of late capitalist postmodernity: “If there is any realism left here, it is a ‘realism’ that is meant to derive from the shock of becoming aware of a new and original historical situation in which we are condemned to seek History by way of our own pop images and simulacra of that history, which itself remains forever out of reach.”

For Jameson, this “crisis of historicity” makes it impossible for us to any longer organize “the past and future into a coherent experience.” This frame, at second #1034, evokes the Fifties, but only fleetingly. If in films like Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive Lynch experimented directly with temporal shifts, breaking the narratives into jigsaw puzzle time pieces, in Blue Velvet he does this in an even more radical way, creating these dislocations at the level of frame. A large measure of the strange, disorienting experience of the film lies in the very fact that it refuses to organize time coherently. Like the Overlook Hotel hallways in The Shining, the images in Blue Velvet add up to something far greater than their parts. The storyline proceeds chronologically, but not the individual frame-images that constitute the storyline. In fact, images like this one disrupt any sense of linear time at all. It is the feeling of being lost. It is the feeling of falling.

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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