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« Cannes Glamour Finale ~ 23 Talents To Ogle | Main | Steven Spielberg Cuts to the Chase »
Saturday
May212011

Mix Tape: "In Dreams" in Blue Velvet

Andreas from Pussy Goes Grrr here, with one of the most disturbing cinematic uses of pop music.

From his controlled demolition of the nuclear family in Eraserhead to his grotesque send-up of Hollywood in Mulholland Drive, David Lynch has always delighted in savaging American institutions. Through the S&M-tinged surrealism of Blue Velvet, he pried the bland surface off of suburbia and illuminated the perverse secrets underneath.

The darkest of those secrets is Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), an abusive, foul-mouthed gangster who holds sultry chanteuse Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) in his thrall. Hopper is a villain unlike any other, snapping from relative calm to strung-out psychosis without warning. But Frank's most terrifying tendency isn't his hair-trigger temper or his torrents of profanity: it's the unexpected well of emotion festering inside him.

Read more about Dennis Hopper in David Lynch's America after the jump.

Midway through Blue Velvet, Frank and his posse take Dorothy and her would-be savior Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle McLachlan) on a joy ride. They end up at the tacky apartment of Frank's colleague, the suave, flamboyant Ben. He's played by Dean Stockwell in an understated, deeply disturbing one-scene performance and, at Frank's urging, he starts lip-synching to Roy Orbison's "In Dreams."

Up until now, this could have been a sequence from an especially bizarre James Cagney gangster movie—maybe White Heat meets Easy Rider. But in true Lynch fashion, everything stops for an out-of-nowhere, wildly incongruous musical interlude driven only by Frank's obsession with the song's "candy-colored clown."

Like much of Orbison's repertoire, "In Dreams" is a mawkish, plaintive ballad, a piece of 1960s kitsch. Thanks to Blue Velvet, though, it'll forever be associated with a gas-huffing psychopath's lip-biting reverie. As Ben lip-synchs along, Frank's face quivers and contorts; he's clearly in the throes of powerful emotions he's unable to articulate. Orbison's song is little more than pop fluff, but Frank reacts with anxiety, confusion, and arousal.

By incorporating this tormented sensitivity into an otherwise monstrous character, Lynch and Hopper make Frank that much scarier. If he was manically violent all the time, at least he'd be reliably villainous, but to have him jump from silent suffering to a deranged yawp of "Let's fuck! I'll fuck anything that moves!" keeps you on your toes. The addition of "In Dreams" increases the weirdness tenfold, and contaminates syrupy, Kennedy-era Americana with Hopper's erotic madness at the same time.

Andreas from Pussy Goes Grrr here, with one of the most disturbing cinematic uses of pop music.
From his controlled demolition of the nuclear family in Eraserhead to his grotesque send-up of Hollywood in Mulholland Drive, David Lynch has always delighted in savaging American institutions. Through the S&M-tinged surrealism of Blue Velvet, he pried the bland surface off of suburbia and illuminated the perverse secrets underneath.
The darkest of those secrets is Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), an abusive, foul-mouthed gangster who holds sultry chanteuse Dorothy Vallens (Isabella Rossellini) in his thrall. Hopper is a villain unlike any other, snapping from relative calm to strung-out psychosis without warning. But Frank's most terrifying tendency isn't his hair-trigger temper or his torrents of profanity: it's the unexpected well of emotion festering inside him.
Midway through Blue Velvet, Frank and his posse take Dorothy and her would-be savior Jeffrey Beaumont (Kyle McLachlan) on a joy ride. They end up at the tacky apartment of Frank's colleague, the suave, flamboyant Ben. He's played by Dean Stockwell in an understated, deeply disturbing one-scene performance and, at Frank's urging, he starts lip-synching to Roy Orbison's "In Dreams."
Up until now, this could have been a sequence from an especially bizarre James Cagney gangster movie—maybe White Heat meets Easy Rider. But in true Lynch fashion, everything stops for an out-of-nowhere, wildly incongruous musical interlude driven only by Frank's obsession with the song's "candy-colored clown."
Like much of Orbison's repertoire, "In Dreams" is a mawkish, plaintive ballad, a piece of kitschy 1960s Americana. Thanks to Blue Velvet, though, it'll forever be associated with a gas-huffing psychopath's lip-biting reverie. As Ben lip-synchs along, Frank's face quivers and contorts; he's clearly in the throes of powerful emotions he's unable to articulate. Orbison's song is little more than pop fluff, but Frank reacts with anxiety, confusion, and arousal.
By incorporating this tormented sensitivity into an otherwise monstrous character, Lynch and Hopper make Frank that much scarier. If he was manically violent all the time, at least he'd be reliably villainous, but to have him jump from silent suffering to a deranged yawp of "Let's fuck! I'll fuck anything that moves!" keeps you on your toes. The syrupy addition of "In Dreams" increases the weirdness tenfold.

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Reader Comments (1)

My favorite scene, and I love the follow-up at the car when Frank speaks along with the song. So unsettling. So masterful. Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing it up!

May 22, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWalter
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