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The Blue Velvet Project

Blue Velvet, 47 seconds at a time by Nicholas Rombes

The Blue Velvet Project, #130

Second #6110, 101:50

1. Jeffrey has his hands full. There is Mike (who, in one of Blue Velvet’s weird tonal shifts, has suddenly become apologetic and even Jeffrey’s ally), and there is Sandy helping the naked Dorothy into the backseat of Jeffrey’s car which will take them to Sandy’s house, where, stark naked in the living room, Dorothy will call Jeffrey “my secret lover” in front of Sandy and her mother, and where she will tell Sandy that Jeffrey “put his disease in me.”

2. The shot is so heavily coded with cinema’s past that it’s as if fragments of a frame from Rebel Without a Cause had somehow slipped

into the future and found their way into Blue Velvet. The saturated colors act as a sort of warning, a warning that time is collapsing in on itself. The tail lamps on Mike’s car reference the past, but also, impossibly, the red stop lights of the future in Twin Peaks, which was still four years off.

3. What if this shot appeared near the beginning of the film rather than the end? The rearranging of a film’s given scenes in alternative sequences is part of cinema’s history. In The Emergence of Cinema, Charles Musser suggests that it was common in the 1890’s for the film exhibitor to play the reels in different orders, depending on the audience at hand and the number of reels. Surviving program notes from this era suggest that variety, rather than continuity, guided the sequence of short films, which “encouraged spectators mentally to reorder scenes so as to form” their own connections.

4. In a sense, all films are not only about the stories they tell (plot, events) but also about the stories that slip through the film’s gaps, that escape the tyranny of meaning and interpretation. These stories resist the film’s own commands. The story of Dorothy and Sandy at the backseat of Jeffrey’s car might be one such untold story. The moment happens so quickly, while our attention is directed towards Mike and Jeffrey. We almost forget that it was Sandy who helped Dorothy into the car, and that it was Sandy who comforted her. Sandy’s relationship with Dorothy is never directly explored in the film but it is always there, just out of sight, until this frame.

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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