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The Blue Velvet Project

Blue Velvet, 47 seconds at a time by Nicholas Rombes

The Blue Velvet Project, #75

Second #3525, #58:45

A classic two-shot, Jeffrey and Dorothy looking at each other across the open space of the screen. Dorothy is framed within the frame by the impossible closet (a sort of black screen) in the background. No longer dressed in black, Jeffrey’s character begins to separate itself from the hinted-at idea that he is somehow another, younger version of Frank. Although Blue Velvet is not alone in taking viewers into a sealed-off fictive world, it does so, strangely, by referring to the outside, “real” world (our world) not directly, but indirectly, through archetypes. There is a detective, a police station, an apartment building, a suburban home, a red car, a night club, a dangerous man, a hospital room, a high school. In Blue Velvet, these function as placeholders of things and objects and people rather than representations of “real” things and objects and people. They exist in a kind of second-order reality, detached just enough from the familiar that they take on the aura of the strange and unknown.

In Don DeLillo’s secret-coded 1982 novel The Names, a character says:

The world has become self-referring. You know this. This thing has seeped into the texture of the world. The world for thousands of years was our escape, was our refuge. Men hid from themselves in the world. We hid from God or death. The world was where we lived, the self was where we went mad and died. But now the world has made a self of its own. Why, how, never mind. What happens to us now that the world has a self? How do we say the simplest thing without falling into a trap? Where do we go, how do we live, and who do we believe? This is my vision, a self-referring world, a world in which there is no escape.

In the world of Blue Velvet, too, the flow of signs and signifiers is disrupted, and you can almost see it happening in the open space between Jeffrey and Dorothy in this frame, the actors having forgotten their real names, their names from the outside world, as if there was no Kyle and there was no Isabella, as if those were just strings of letters, empty signifiers.

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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