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The Blue Velvet Project

Blue Velvet, 47 seconds at a time by Nicholas Rombes

The Blue Velvet Project, #107

Second #5029, 83:49

“Now it’s dark,” Frank has said previously, like some incantation, and now it really is dark. Jeffrey, his back to the camera, is practically swallowed up alive by the blackness, as Frank inhales whatever it is that unleashes his id. There is a flashlight, the dome light of the Charger, and the very small light in the distance that give shape and depth of space to the frame.

For the psychoanalyst and philosopher Jacques Lacan the coherent, unified self is an illusion, a fragile thing constructed gradually during an infant’s Mirror Stage, a stage when the ego or the “I” develops:

This illusion of unity, in which a human being is always looking forward to self-mastery, entails a constant danger of sliding back again into the chaos from which he started; it hangs over the abyss of a dizzy Assent in which one can perhaps see the very essence of Anxiety.

Frank is the id loosed upon the world, his desires uncontrolled by any sort of ego mastery. His rage seems incoherent and secretly coded. And yet Blue Velvet itself is a controlled work of art guided by a steady and sustained vision. Unlike, say, the Dogme 95 films, its depiction of moral chaos is not itself governed by tonal or stylistic chaos. The position of Blue Velvet—the territory it claims—is that of Order. The film is never with Frank aesthetically. Even this frame adopts the general perspective of Jeffrey, the perspective of someone who “is in danger of sliding back again into the chaos from which he started.”

But Blue Velvet never follows this path. Although the word “surreal” is often used to characterize it, the film operates fully within the realm of reason and order, a contradiction that produces a weird tension that makes Blue Velvet something even more disturbing than if it had adapted itself to the pre-ego chaos of Frank’s mind. In fact, only in Inland Empire does Lynch map the film’s aesthetics onto the faltering stream of consciousness mind of its protagonist, Nikki Grace (Laura Dern).

But that’s a story for another day.

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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