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The Blue Velvet Project

Blue Velvet, 47 seconds at a time by Nicholas Rombes

The Blue Velvet Project, #125

Second #5875, 97:55

André Bazin once wrote, in “The Life and Death of Superimposition” (1946), that

the fantastic in the cinema is possible only because of the irresistible realism of the photographic image. It is the image that can bring us face to face with the unreal, that can introduce the unreal into the world of the visible.

By this point in Blue Velvet, with only around 20 minutes left in the film, we might feel justified in thinking that we have figured out the geographic parameters of its narrative world. The hardware store. The hospital room. Jeffrey’s car. Jeffrey’s home. Dorothy’s apartment. Ben’s place. Arlene’s Diner. The Williams house. The police station. And now, the basement. One reading of the film suggests that it has all been Jeffrey’s dream: when Jeffrey wakes up in his lawn chair in his back yard, for instance, his recovered father seems to be played by Jack Nance (Paul, from Frank’s gang) who even wears a hat that resembles Paul’s.

In a sense it doesn’t matter whether or not Jeffrey dreamed up the entire adventure, because he experienced it as we experienced the movie: by losing himself in it. The basement scene offers a small reenactment of Blue Velvet’s book-ended transition from Jeffrey’s conscious life to his subconscious one. When he and Sandy first descend the stairs, the basement music seems to be coming from a “real” source in the basement; everyone there can hear it. But as they begin to dance, “Mysteries of Love” seems so out of place in that setting, so perfect, so idiosyncratic, so of-another-planet that it must be Jeffrey’s and Jeffrey’s alone, a dream within a dream within the dream that all films are.

Bazin’s notion that the image “can introduce the unreal into the world of the visible” is especially true of this frame, at second #5875, a classic two shot, depicting Sandy and Jeffrey from the impossible perspective (if we believe that he is dreaming right now) of Jeffrey himself.

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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