The esteemed British film journal “Sight and Sound” recently released their once-every-10-years international critics and directors poll of the greatest movies ever made. They have their idea of the greatest films ever made and I have mine. So, whether you like it or not, I will be including essays on my 10 favorite films of all time. These are not necessarily the 10 best films of all time, just the 10 that made the biggest impact on me personally. These are not necessarily in order:
10. “Blue Velvet” (1986) dir. David Lynch
I have an interesting history with David Lynch. Back when I was growing up, I heard about his first movie “Eraserhead” through the bi-monthly bulletin that the local arthouse put out and was consistently intrigued by the poster with Jack Nance with the weird hair. When “The Elephant Man” came out in 1980, it was the first movie I remember seeing that made me cry. I actually saw Lynch’s legendary big-budget sci-fi bomb “Dune” (1984) twice in the theater and loved it (even though, I was clearly in the minority at the time).
So, when I heard about “Blue Velvet” in the fall of 1986 and all the notoriety it had re: its dark violence and sexuality, I was very intrigued. Unfortunately, it didn’t come out in my hometown until November 1986 and it was likely only a fill-in feature until the Christmas blockbusters came out on Thanksgiving weekend. I was only one of three patrons in a theater that had a capacity for 500. And from the moment the curtains opened and the credits rolled over the blue velvet fabric, I was hooked. It was the perfect setting for seeing this film. I got completely sucked into Lynch’s nightmare that unfolded in front of me. I laughed in a few spots, but for the most part, I was positively frightened and mesmerized throughout. I walked out of the theater in a daze, convinced I had seen the greatest movie ever made.
I saw it a few months later at the local arthouse that used to show “Eraserhead.” Only this time, the place was packed, unfortunately with hipster d–kheads who laughed hysterically throughout the entire film. Yes, there are funny moments in the film and yes, because I was an insecure 17-year old, I laughed along with the audience. But I really cherish being able to see “Blue Velvet” that first time in a nearly empty audience and accept it non-ironically.
The scene I included here is one of the scenes I remember the hipsters losing their s–t over. And on the surface, you can see why because it totally seems completely dorky. However, as David Lynch noted to British film critic Mark Kermode when Kermode asked him about this scene.
“We all have this thing where we want to be very cool and when you see something like this, really kind of embarrassing, the tendency is to laugh, so that you are saying out loud that ‘This is embarrassing and not cool!’ and you’re hip to the scene. But we also always know that when we’re alone with this person that we’re falling in love with, we do say goofy things, but we don’t have a problem with it. It’s so beau-ti-ful. and the other person’s so forgiving of these beautiful, loving, goofy things. So there’s a lot of this swimming in this scene. A the same time, there’s something to that scene, a truth to it, in my book.”
I couldn’t have said it any better myself and I have to admit when I watched this scene in a nearly empty theater, I took this scene at face value and seriously got sucked into Laura Dern’s character’s description of her dream and, like Kyle MacLachlan’s character admitted, thought it was pretty “neat.”