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The Blue Velvet Project

Blue Velvet, 47 seconds at a time by Nicholas Rombes

The Blue Velvet Project, #88

Second #4136, 68:56

After Jeffrey strikes Dorothy, a roar of flames fills the frame. The barely repressed brute logic of the film finally explodes on the screen, as Jeffrey has, at last, become a surrogate Frank. What’s remarkable about the scene is how it’s fashioned from some pretty regressive clichés about abuse, especially in how Dorothy literally “asks for it.” On one level, Blue Velvet’s depiction of women is deformed in the worst possible ways, as it balances Sandy as the objectified virginal “good” girl, full of nurturing love, and Dorothy as the madwoman whore. There’s nothing in between, and both Sandy and Dorothy exist solely to satisfy Jeffrey’s desires and fantasies.

In our post-post-everything era, it’s difficult to parse out the film’s moral quagmires. For one thing, Blue Velvet tells the story of a handful of specific characters and to draw conclusions about what it (or any story) “says” about women, or sex, or power is ultimately a reductive exercise. And yet, to deny the moral dimensions of Blue Velvet—or of any art form—is to deny the film’s real, materialist grounding in the moments of its historical creation. As with all memorable creations, it’s not just the story itself that anchors the film in our minds, but the way the story is told. And in this frame of flames, with its roaring sound, Lynch has mainlined us directly into hell.

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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