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Doc Corner: David Lynch and the Allure of 'Blue Velvet Revisited'

By Glenn Dunks

The massive DOC NYC festival continues this week in New York City until the 16th, showcasing over 250 films and events. We have one more capsule collection to go up the coming days to close out the festival, but today we're entering the wonderful and strange world of David Lynch in Blue Velvet Revisited, which screens tonight at Cinepolis Chelsea at 9.30pm.

I don’t know about you, but 2017 hasn’t been the strongest year for movies in my eyes. Part of that may have to do directly with the product itself. But a more significant part is that quite literally no movie I have seen this year has had quite the gravitational pull of Twin Peaks. The return of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s classic 1990s television series was maligned by many, but found a dedicated collection of fans for whom it was 18-hours of pure Lynchian madness, the likes of which have been frustratingly missing from our lives since the magically-coiffed master packed up his lawn chair on Sunset Boulevard after trying to milk a much-deserved Oscar campaign for Laura Dern’s performance in Inland Empire in 2006. The series was, simply put, working on a whole different level to every movie I’ve seen in the last 12 months.

Lynch’s mystique is almost as famous as his film and television projects...

His odd and uniquely special point of view is only enhanced by the likes of Dern and Naomi Watts constantly being asked what it is like to work with him even when selling products that have nothing to do with him. He’s an alluring figure and that’s partly why something like Blue Velvet Revisited can hold the sort of spell that it does. Despite being made up exclusively of photographs and scratchy super 8 footage compiled into an aloof and elusive collage, German filmmaker Peter Braatz has done something quietly remarkable. He has offered not just a behind-the-scenes documentary that is worthy of the film it’s about, but made something that feels uniquely in sync with a human subject as famously prickly as David Lynch.

Lynch has occasionally allowed filmmakers access into his inner world, most notably in Lynch and David Lynch: The Art Life from earlier this year. But while one may assume that Braatz’s film is just going to be another standard documentary about a film that has already been dissected and discussed to death – do you see the shade that I’m throwing at 78/52? – it couldn’t be anything of the sort. Viewers wanting a more traditional Blue Velvet making-of documentary should look no further than Mysteries of Love, the 2002 doc made for DVD release.

Blue Velvet Revisited, however, is something different. Constructed out of home movies filmed by Braatz in Wilmington, North Carolina, on the set of Lynch’s masterpiece (he’s had several, by the way). Granted permission after he remarkably asked by hand-written letter to Lynch personally, this documentary is the rare sort of film about Lynch that actually shares the director’s sense of cinematic passion and distinctly artistic heart. Allowing viewers a rare insight into the man thanks to one-on-one interviews that would surely be off limits today, as well as fascinating never-before-seen glimpses into the process of making an American classic, make this doc is a goldmine. And not just for Lynch fanatics, but for anybody who finds the intersection between all of these moving parts to be all-too rarely navigated.

It’s appropriate that Braatz filmed his footage on super 8. The condition of some of it is rough around the edges, sure, but it offers an eerily fitting voyeuristic quality that only adds to its power as a work of documentart filmmaker considering the original’s own play with the concept of watching and being watched. With much of the footage, culled from six hours of the stuff, having never seen the light of day – Braatz was creatively blocked on how to construct the material he had outside of a little-seen short film – it’s easy to forget that little light is shed on the film itself; the finished product an almost irrelevant by-product of Braatz’s capturing of cinematic lightning in a bottle.

Not that that really matters when Blue Velvet Revisited offers something altogether different and unexpected. Lynch has described Twin Peaks as something akin to Blue Velvet meets Knots Landing, so it’s appropriate then that while some of us are still on a high from that television coup d’etat, we go back to that ingenious kernel of inspiration. It’s not as good as Twin Peaks, but then again nothing really is.

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Reader Comments (3)

Thanks for vocalizing the Twin Peaks love. I keep being drawn back to it, with all its endless, empty, lovely, frustrating madness and mystery - it towers over the rest of this year’s entertainment landscape. I can’t adequately verbalize why - but I feel it deeper than my bone marrow. Lynch is firmly in my bloodstream.

November 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGabe

I stopped watching episodes after five.

November 14, 2017 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Gabe, I haven't been able to write about it or speak coherently about it, either. That's how great it is. It's too consuming.

November 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

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