Blue Velvet ★★★½

Pricelessly naive, all-American Kyle MacLachlan courts a policeman's daughter (19 year-old Laura Dern) while willingly wrapping himself up in a bunch of local intrigue involving nightclub singers and sadistic mobsters in his hometown. Alternately bleak and colorful photography that absorbs -- with friendly Lumberton playing the role of Santa Rosa in Shadow of a Doubt -- plus a real sense of danger and lots of fun, weird ideas, sets and moments fail to mask the fact that this is a series of Lynch's fantasies and demons projected onscreen without compromise but also with nothing really stringing them together except an exceptionally hackneyed parody of film noir and some relatively benign psychosexual-awakening stuff. Luckily, said fantasies and demons aren't so alien to most of us -- who hasn't fantasized about solving a mystery or, well, being a voyeur? -- and it's not quite as egregious as Tarantino's tendency toward arbitrarily shoehorning his private tastes into large-scale film projects (and I can't raise a single objection to his nearly single-handed revival of Roy Orbison's career) but we're a long way from the film this most explicitly resembles, The Lady from Shanghai. Orson Welles got excited about stories and focused on how to make every element of them as interesting and unusual as possible; Lynch scours this scenario, which he conceived, for gaps in which he can insert himself, and those are both the most memorable parts of the film -- the enigamtic "joyride," for instance -- and the ones that barely serve any purpose except to underline Frank Booth's status as a menace, Dorothy Vallens' as a walking (and laying) tragedy. When we return to the standard narrative, he seems bored, and the actual story resolutions are all but backgrounded. Except for Dennis Hopper, who's a little too enthusiastic for my tastes, the serious-minded cast is saintly and game in their submission to their director's whims. Judging by the reviews on this website, so is a lot of the film's audience.

Good to have this crossed off the list at last; it's crazy I hadn't seen it, not only because of its status among cineastes but because it is one long flaunting of the many moods of Wilmington, NC, where I lived as a young child and then all through my twenties. My friend Sergio's former apartment figures prominently as the creepy building in which Isabella Rossellini lives; numerous scenes were shot on the street around the corner from where I lived, and there's a quick establishing shot of downtown where you can make out the Elk's Temple Building where I worked for a time. I've seen lots of movies shot here before, even good ones, but this is the first time that I really think the character of the town was captured. (There actually is a Lumberton, NC, btw, but it's nothing like what's depicted here.)