You are on page 1of 131

Blue Velvet Project

#1 And so we begin our year-long journey through Blue Velvet, stopping every 47 seconds. Although released in the U.S. in September 1986, the film lingered at the dark edges of the imagination until the spring of the following year, when it was released on home video by Karl-Lorimar. The rapid ascendency of the VCR and the proliferation of rental stores (in 1980 there were only approximately 2,500 rental stores in the U.S.; by 1987 this had increased to over 27,000) meant that Blue Velvet found its way into the very same sort of leafy small towns as Lumberton. The titles (by Van Der Veer Photo Effects) in their cursive elegance recall a by-gone era, and echo the fluid titles of classical-era films such as George Cukors A Double Life (1947). Dennis Hoppers nameitself a tangle of associations serving as cultural knot points in American culture, ranging from his first film Rebel Without a Cause (1955) to Easy Rider (1969) to Apocalypse Now (1979) appears against the undulating blue velvet curtain that frames the films narrative. The same year as Blue Velvet he would star in Hoosiers playing Shooter, a reverse-image doppelgnger of Frank Booth.

Second #94: Lynch had been thinking about Blue Velvet since at least as early as 1973, and while his previous two films (Dune and Elephant Man) had been based on well-known stories, Blue Velvet was a return to the trembling, inner-psychic terrain of Eraserhead. In an earlier version of the script, Jeffreys mom and his Aunt Barbara pick him up from the airport after hes forced to leave college because of the financial burden of his stricken fathers medical bills. As they drive into town, there is this exchange: AUNT BARBARA: They tore down the A & P, Jeffrey. Did you see that? JEFFREY: Aunt Barbara that was five years ago. A sliver of that deadpan humorous tension between Jeffrey and his aunt remain in the shooting script. Seven months before the films release, Ronald Reagan, in his 1986 State of the Union address, said, Tonight I want to speak directly to Americas younger generation because you hold the destiny of our nation in your hands. . . . As they said in the film Back to the Future, Where were going, we dont need roads. Back to the Future had been released in 1985, near the symbolic zenith of the Reagan era (Lynch had been a Reagan admirer) and one wonders: if Reagan were to have quoted from Blue Velvet what lines would he have chosen? Probably not Franks incantation, Now its dark, but perhaps instead Sandys description of her dream where all of a sudden thousands of robins flew down and brought this blinding light of love.

Second #141 Some considerations:

Frederick Elmess lush, Freudian colors. The hyper-red STOP sign, a warning to the audience? The Eraserhead-like hair of the crossing guard. The second and fourth child, carrying the same sort of brown paper lunch bag that Jeffrey would use later to transport the scissored ear to Detective Williams. The cultishness of the film, already gathering in the open-furnace sky in the background. The fact of SCHOOL taking up the entire lower-third of the screen, and the fact that Jeffrey is home from school. The trust of children. The adult world, with its rules, and its broken rules. A town where Frank lives. Second #188 Jeffreys father has just suffered a stroke while watering his front yard, and has fallen to his back, writhing in pain, the hose that he still holdsin a sad and funny and helpless wayspraying water all around. That shot is followed by this one, as the camera pans slowly down, the background a blur, capturing the water in mid-air as Bobby Vinton sings Blue Velvet, which he had released in 1963, several months before the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The song, written by Bernie Wayne and Lee Morris, dates back to 1950. Wayne was a prolific composer, who wrote at least two other songs with Lynchian resonance: A Patch of Blue (with Jerry Goldsmith) from the movie of the same name and the jingle Chock Full ONuts is the Heavenly Coffee, which would have been right at home in Twin Peaks. This frame at second #188 is one of those transitional moments that you tend to forget about when you think of the movie later. Its subsumed by the power of the sequence itself, which ends with the ferocious images and roar of the deathlocked beetles in the grass. The shot lasts about 3 seconds, and although its not as shocking or memorable as others in the sequence, it provides a brief moment of respite from the intensity of what comes before and after. And its these quiet, in-between momentsas much as the shocking onesthat give the movie its spell-casting mystery. Second #235 What is this? Where are we? In a weird, dreamlike echo of the Amity Island billboard (defaced with the black shark fin) from Jaws, the Welcome to Lumberton billboard is a nest of contradictions. Instead of a shark fin, there should be a monster lurking in the background pine trees. The woman looks to be freeze-dried straight out of the Cold War, and brings to mind Shelley Winters as Charlotte Haze in Stanley Kubricks Lolita (1962). Could the awkward wave of her hand be any more artificial or uninviting? For a moment, we seem to have gone back in time, a feeling that will be echoed in small ways throughout the film. Logs, logs, logs! goes the WOOD radio station jingle blaringat first it seemsfrom the public emergency sirens on either side of the frame. (The small word at the bottom of the billboard is NAEGELE, which refers to the Naegele Outdoor Advertising Company.) Lumberton is a real name; there are many Lumbertons in America, Lynch has said, and this Lumberton is a simulacrum of a simulacrum: the blue sky and green trees in the billboard are framed by the blue sky and green trees of the real Lumberton (Wilmington, North Carolina). The shotcoming immediately after the extreme close-up of the beetlesfeels like both a relief and an omen: not everything (in fact perhaps nothing, except maybe for Sandy) is what it seems. 6 / Second # 282 An establishing shot of downtown Lumberton/Wilmington, showing the courthouse (from

the back) in the mid foreground. In the previous shot, we have just seen Jeffrey for the first time as he walks through the field, wearing black. He stops, picks up a stone, and throws it as some junk. He then keeps walking, his back to the camera. At this point, we dont know who he is or where hes going. That shot is followed by this, at second #282, a static shot that lasts three seconds. When I began this project I wondered how frequently frames with no people in them would be among the 154 images. This is the third in a row, and the second static shot, with nothing happening in the frame and no camera movement. There is the motion in motion pictures, yes, but also static photographic moments, like this, where time is stretched and enlarged, and although approximately 72 frames have whirred through the projector in these three seconds (assuming, if were lucky, that were watching Blue Velvet in a theater) we feel as if weve been watching a still image. In her book The Emergence of Cinematic Time, Mary Ann Doane writes that during the projection of a film, the spectator is sitting in an unperceived darkness for almost 40 percent of the running time. . . . Much of the movement or the time allegedly recorded by the camera is simply not there, lost in the interstices between frames. (Here is a good discussion about this.) This notion of lost time, of time spent in the undetectable dark spaces of film itself, seems just right for Blue Velvet.

7 /Second #329 Jeffreys father is in the hospital, from a scene whose unstable tone is a microcosm of the movie itself. On one level, this moment is almost painfully tender. Jeffreys father struggles to speak with him as Jeffrey looks on, helpless. Yet on another level, the scene feels almost like a parody of an As The World Turns hospital scene*, with the overdetermined nurse and doctor, who ushers Jeffrey into the room by the elbow. Its as if Lynch stuffed every hospital-like contraption into the frame; Jeffreys father seems beset by many illnesses. Lynch holds the shot of the father just long enough for us to notice the head brace, tubes, and bandages, but not long enough to figure out what they all mean. The point is hes been rendered immobile and unable to speak, and has become the Absent Father whose confinement to the hospital makes Jeffreys descent into darkness all the more possible. Or: Jeffreys journey into darkness and trouble somehow make his father whole again. *More on the connection between Blue Velvet and soap operas later, but for now, note the similarity between the swelling music from this clip of As The World Turns (from the :28 to the :30 second mark) and Angelo Badalamentis score at the heart-stopping moment that Sandy emerges from the shadows. 8/ Second # 376 (6:16) In his 1932 essay A Course in Treatment, Sergei Eisenstein wrote that only the soundfilm is capable of reconstructing all phases of the course of thought in the mind of a character. In many ways, Blue Velvets most radical experiments are in the realm of sound. In this frame, Jeffrey, having just discovered the severed ear, absorbs this fact, the fact of sound. And so: *During the 5:50s, as Jeffrey walks home through the field after visiting his ailing father, the noise is diagetic: the sound of Jeffrey walking, the birds, the insectsall these sounds seem to come from within the shot itself. *But at the 6:09 mark, just as he discovers the ear (although we dont know its an ear yet; we simply see that Jeffrey notices something in the field and crouches down to get a better look), a deep, bass undertow kicks in (this entire sequence really is worth listening

to with headphones) and sound begins to creep in from the world outside the film. *At 6:13, there is a shot of a pale, moldy, human ear with ants running over it, and at that moment a third level of sound is added . . . a faint ringing noise, not unlike tinnitus. *Later, when Jeffrey asks Sandy about the ear, shell say I dont know much but bits and pieces. I hear things. *The ringing continues. Tension builds. Jeffrey parts the grass and leans in closer to the ear. *Eisenstein struggled with sound in film. In 1928 in his collectively written manifesto A Statement (which begins with the sentence The dream of a sound-film has come true) he recognized the power of sound to commercialize cinema on an unprecedented scale: In the first place there will be commercial exploitation of the most saleable merchandise, TALKING FILMS. Those in which sound-recording will proceed on a naturalistic level, exactly corresponding with the movement on the screen, and providing a certain illusion of talking people, of audible objects, etc. *In her poem The Colonel, Carolyn Forch wrote The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this. *And there is Jeffrey, in the frame, contemplating the ear, lost in sound. There is the simple, brutal fact of the severed ear in the field, at this very moment, and the swirling levels of noise that the earimpossibly and horriblyis both sending and receiving. 9/ Second #423 / 7:03 FOUR ASIDES 1. Holding the brown paper bag with the human ear in his hand, Jeffrey enters the Lumberton Police Station and asks, Do you have a Detective Williams still working here? There is a small-town familiarity to this shot, but also a hard-to-define, wavering menace, something you can feel but cant quite detect. Some of this is generated from the stern, accusatory looks those in power give Jeffrey, as in this scene where the police officer behind the counter stareshis face unmovingat him as he turns to go to Detective Williams. The same sort of dynamic will play out when he tries to explain how he came across the ear. Its as if these figures of authority see and recognize Jeffreys voyeuristic tendencies and the crimes they will lead him to commit. They seem to understand what he plans to do before he does. 2. When Blue Velvet was first released, it lacked the context of Twin Peaks, which was still four years off, but watching it now, you see that its part of the same universe: the small town, the police station, even the odd mountain sculpture in the center of the frame. Its difficult to take a film like Blue Velvet on its own terms, stripped and freed of the weight of its own reputation and the context that has accumulated around it over the years. 3. Although its not uncommon nowadays for certain fiction to be described as Lynchian (the dreamlike quality of his work makes the film director David Lynch his nearest American counterpart, Laura Miller once wrote of Haruki Murakami), most of the time this applies to plot, not tone. There are a few writers, however, whose work evokes the same sense of accumulating, furnace-floor tonal dread thats found in the best moments of Lynchs films. One such writer is Roberto Bolao. Here is a passage from his novel The Skating Rink, first published in Spain in 1993 and in the U.S. in 2009:

All I can recall, but these two things I do recall with the utmost clarity, are the old womans laughter and the young womans flat eyes. Flat: as if she was looking inwards? Maybe. As if she was giving her eyes a rest? Maybe. And meanwhile the old woman kept talking and smiling, speaking enigmatically, as if in code, as if everything there, the trees, the irregular surface of the terrace, the vacant tables, the shifting reflections on the bars glass canopy, were being progressively erased, unbeknownst to everyone but them. 4. As I write these words, I do so with the frame in question from second #423 opened on my desktop. At some point as Im typing the words above from the Bolao novel I think I detect movement in the frame. Its deep into the night, and the world outside is quiet, and I feel like anything could happen. My eyes dart back and forth between the text and the image, as if I can somehow capture the movement unaware, like the old trick of staring into a mirror and then looking away quickly and back again to see if you can catch your eyes moving. But its simple, really: in studying the frame before writing about it, I hadnt noticed the partial image of the woman in black at the far right edge of the frame, probably because my eyes were always caught by the woman in red. Only now have I noticed her, as if she quietly backed into the frame when my eyes were diverted, but not quietly enough that I failed to notice her entrance. Of course, she was always there; I just failed to see her. There is no mystery. But how I wish there was. 10/ Second #470, 7:50 1. Detective Williams greets Jeffrey, who has come bearing an ear in a bag. He stands face to face with the archetypal detective, who wears his holster and gun in the office. He is either a man who has repressed a lot, or a man who is completely open and comfortable with the fact of evil in the world. His eyes are sad and knowing and also suspicious. Actually, Jeffrey is the detective, and he might as well be saying, I found the ear. This is my case. Stay far away. 2.Lynch has said that clues are beautiful because I believe were all detectives. We mull things over and we figure things out. Were always working this way. Peoples minds hold things and form conclusions with indications. 3. This frame at second #470 is the culmination of a subtle but doom-y and even menacing camera movement that Lynch uses periodically throughout the film. As Jeffrey leans into the room, he sees Detective Williams facing the map on the wall in the further room, which perhaps is his private office. The camera remains stationary as Williams walks forward, deliberately, after Jeffrey calls his name. As he crosses the doorway threshold, however, the camera begins moving slowly forward, and Jeffrey enters the frame from the right. This changes our perspective slightly, and brings us closer to the action, which is almost staged as a confrontation. Its the sort of camera movement that doesnt call attention to itself but that somehow, almost unconsciously, makes us feel as if we are a part of the darkening story, a story that we recognize as our own.

11 / Second #517, 8:37 Peter Carew, who plays the coroner and who appears onscreen for just under twenty seconds, delivers perhaps the most tilted line in the movie: Well check the morgue records but I dont recall anything coming in minus an ear. This either could be the punch line to the whole sordid blood-drenched twentieth century, or else a few words tossed off by a bald man who refuses to look at the characters on screen with him, as if he speaks to (into?) the ear and the ear alone. Blue Velvet was Carews first movie in twenty years. Previously, he had starred in the soft-core movie Teenage HitchHikers (1975) as Dick Daggard, a clothier of some sort. The scene from which second #517 is taken was shot in the New Hanover Memorial Hospital in Wilmington, North Carolina (now the New Hanover Regional Medical Center). In his sweeping and magisterial essay The Ontology of the Photographic Image (1945), Andr Bazin wrote: Perspective was the original sin of Western painting. It was redeemed from sin by Niepce and Lumire. In achieving the aims of baroque art, photography has freed the plastic arts from their obsession with likeness. Painting was forced, as it turned out, to offer us illusion and this illusion was reckoned sufficient unto art. Photography and the cinema on the other hand are discoveries that satisfy, once and for all and in its very essence, our obsession with realism. Here, as in the shot from the previous entry, realism is heightened to such a level that it approaches the archetypal, and almost turns around to become a parody of itself: the coroner in his coroner whites, the stainless steel examination table, the scale and other symbols of the profession in the background, as well as the enigmatic red object protruding from the garbage can at the lower right (the tied-off portion of a red plastic garbage bag)? If anything, Blue Velvet toys with our obsession with realism, rendering the real world just a beat off, like a record that (beyond all reason) keeps playing and making noise for a split second after the tone arm has lifted. In Bazins universe, photographic realism allowed art to burst free of realism into abstraction. And although there is nothing overtly surreal about this frame, something about it feels just wrong enough to serve as a warning. And an invitation. 12 / Second #564, 9:24 Jeffrey comes down the stairs of his home. Its night, and his mother (played by Priscilla Pointer, the real-life mother of Amy Irving) and Aunt Barbara (Frances Bay) sit on the sofa watching a black-and-white crime drama on the television. Positioned on opposite ends, the space between them opens up like some sort of haunted void where someone (or something) else should be. In Lynchs films, sofaswhich seem like the most

harmless piece of furniture possiblebecome uncanny objects, spooky places that are so familiar that they become unfamiliar. There is one more point of general application which I should like to add, though, strictly speaking, it has been included in what has already been said about animism and modes of working of the mental apparatus that have been surmounted; for I think it deserves special emphasis. This is that an uncanny effect is often and easily produced when the distinction between imagination and reality is effaced, as when something that we have hitherto regarded as imaginary appears before us in reality, or when a symbol takes over the full functions of the thing it symbolizes, and so on. (Sigmund Freud, from The Uncanny) From Eraserhead to Inland Empire sofas appear as haunted objects, practically characters in themselves. Jeffreys alienation from his mother and aunt seems natural and even necessary; there is no parody here. In fact, the movies tension depends on Jeffrey being fully and sincerely part of their world, which makes his gradual separation from it all the more terrifying. The show theyre watching on TVpicturing a man (legs only) creeping up the stairs (Jeffrey has just descended stairs) carrying a gunis a mystery within a mystery, for who knows what the man will find at the top of the stairs, or what he is planning to do, or whether he is a protector or a predator. There is actually a third pair of eyes watching Jeffrey: the small doll figure in red on the table beside Jeffreys mother. (In deleted scenes from the film, this appears to be a Lynch-crafted, bald, thin-necked creature.) Its a small detail, and yet it is out of such details that the dark visual spell of the story is cast. 13 / Second # 611, 10:11 This gliding shot, showing the underside of trees as Jeffrey walks the nighttime streets of his neighborhood, loomed large in my imagination after seeing the film for the first time in 1987. I wouldnt see Blue Velvet again for many years, and in that time these few seconds of footage assumed meaning and feeling wildly disproportionate to their importance in the film. I cant really account for this and, to be honest, when I set out to do this project I did it with the intention of not writing very much about my own personal stake in the film. But this is one of those moments that obliterates authorial intention. This moment (followed by the camera slowly tracking into the severed ear as sound builds, followed by Jeffrey suddenly at Sandys front door) is like a distillation of the entire film because, for me, Jeffreys sadness (not a depressive or morose or self-pitying sadness, but a sadness that lies at the heart of everything Jeffreys future will hold) is captured by the depthless underside of those trees, as if he was looking deep into some other world, and for many years after I saw the film I associated it the Dr. Fricke, an English professor at Bowling Green State University who (in his habitual denim shirt) introduced the film to our small creative writing class by daring us to see it, and with his

own sadness that he carried with him into that classroom in Williams Hall on Wednesday evenings, and I wondered how it was that a film, or a novel, or an album, or a painting, could mean so much to one person, and at the same time to another person, and to thousands of people, and how such a localized, specific thing (like the image of the underside of leafy old trees at night) could leap into the universal, like a virus, and as I watched Blue Velvet for the first time I wondered if the moments that moved Dr. Fricke were the same moments that moved me, and I was sure that this night-soaked shot of trees as Jeffrey walks alone was one of those very moments, and that that was why our professor recommended the film to us, for this shot alone which Im still convinced, holds the dark secret code to the entire film. 14 / Minute #658, 7:58 1. Jeffrey, entering the Williamss home, crossing a threshold that is a doorway. This is Sandys castle, guarded by her father the detective, who wears his gun holstered, even at home. Or is Jeffrey the detective? Ormore radicallyis Sandy? 2. Leaving the burning theater behind one begins to ease into a new perspective. The stairway leads to a doorway, the doorway to an alleyway, the alleyway to another door, more stairs, another amber room where one can forget again 3. He hacks desperately at the brambles and, as the hedge closes round him like the grasping flesh-raking claws of an old crone, imagines instead her dreams, sweet and hopeful and, above all, loving: loving him who is to come, slashing through the briars and scaling the castle walls to reach her bedside with his spellunbinding kiss. 4. Some people say that the girl detective is a natural blonde. Others say that shes a redhead, how could the girl detective be anything else? Her father just smiles and says she looks just like her mother. I myself am not even sure that the girl detective remembers the original color of her hair. She is a master of disguises. 5. My childhood: closed to me. Or is it under the mulchfertile. But very dark. Very hidden. Notes 2. From the poem Antepenultimate Conflict with Self, by Timothy Donnelly, in Cloud Corporation. Seattle: Wave Books, 2010. 3. From Briar Rose, by Robert Coover. New York: Grove Press, 1996. 4. From The Girl Detective, by Kelly Link, in Stranger Things Happen. Brooklyn: Small Beer Press, 2001. 5. From Averno: Poems, by Louise Glck. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2006.

15 / Second #705, 11:45 And so here you are, lost in a movie. It must be great, the young man says to the older man, referring to his job as a detective. The older man replies, Its horrible too. And you think: this is how life is. Great. And horrible. The detective is at work eradicating evil all the time, even at home where he has not changed out of his detective outfit, because evil does not sleep. You think about the seriousness with which Blue Velvet treats evil in a secular age, and how the most that the detective can say about evil is that it is horrible. That word opens up like an abyss. It could mean anything and thats why you are lost, and why you wish to remain lost, and why even in this image there are mysteries, like the red lamp and the way it injects some inscrutable meaning into the frame. You wish this scene could play out forever, the detective and the young man talking in widening circles about the problem of evil in the world, and where it comes from, and why it exists, and how to combat it, and who deserves saving and who does not. The young man is about to make a choice; perhaps he already has. The detective knows this and that is why he looks at him with such pity, such fatherly pity. The young mans own father, as it so happens, is ill, and so he has come here, to visit with the detective and to talk about evil. The red lamp hears everything, and the detective and the young man do not know this. And the young man does not know that the detectives daughter is outside, in the dark. Has she been waiting for him the entire time? Is she drawn to his sadness? Is he drawn to hers? No matter, because the more you the think and write about this film, the stranger things get and yesterday, you drank at a bar in the American Midwest where a lamp just like the one from second #705 glowed in the corner, like some sort of taunt. 16 / Second #752, 12:52 1. Jeffrey has just left the Williamss, when their daughter Sandy appears slowly out of the shadows, to the swelling of music and the sound of wind moving through the tree branches, in one of the most remarkable entrances in cinema history, asking him, Are you the one that found the ear? 2. How did you know? Jeffrey says. I just know. Thats all, Sandy replies, in her pink dress, with no bra. The frame is overheated with information about light, and Sandys face, the way it is turned to Jeffrey, its as if she wants him more than anything in the world, but knows she must wait until the awful journey they are about to embark on is finished. They are outside now, on their own and out of range from the listening ears of parents and detectives. Jeffrey stands tall and stiff with his arms to his side in an outfit and stance that foretells The Giant inTwin Peaks. 17 /Second #799, 13:19

Jeffrey can connect different worlds, David Lynch has said. He can look into Sandys world, he can look into Dorothys world, he can get into Franks world. The secret subtext to this scene is Life Begins for Andy Hardy(1941), starring Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, number 11 in the movie series, where Andy learns that adult life is dark and impure and trip-wired with temptation and so struggles mightily to gear-shift his life into reverse. Andy, in New York, away from his future wife Betsy Booth (Judy Garland), is tempted by the wolfess Jennifer Hicks (Patricia Dane) who gives him a dose of truth: Dont tell me. Ive known dozens of them. Youve gotta learn darling. A lot of people put on a big show about right thinking and right living and right this and right that. And youre youngyou believe them. Then when you grow up you find that they preach one thing and do another. The surprise of Life Begins for Andy Hardy isnt that Andy chooses against the cynical truth that Jennifer offers, in her black hair seductress soft-focus falling-off-a-cliff-intoecstasy beauty, but that the movie gives her radical ideology (the secret ideology of human nature which is the work of capitalism to convert into virtue) persuasive and powerful voice. Which is to say: Jennifer is right. In this Blue Velvet frame, their hands hidden in the universal sign of hands-off courtship, a gaze unmet by a gaze, Sandy and Jeffrey stroll the nighttime neighborhood, as if catching up on a past they never shared. The black-ink night for owls. The long-slow path of seduction. Sandy keeps her secret in her turned-away smile. They are moving toward Lincoln, where Dorothy lives. Where evil visits. If this moment had a soundtrack it might have been this, also from 1986, Dinosaur Jr., churning through Tarpit from the 1:32 mark to around 3:10. Well, all hell breaks loose, the very same hell beneath the feet of Sandy and Jeffrey. 3. What does a severed ear mean? What does sound sound like if the outer ear is missing? In The Ear: Its Diseases and their Treatment (1885) C. E. Shoemaker wrote: The author had, at one time, a man in his employ, who, through a railway accident, had the misfortune to have both ears closely severed from his headnot leaving a vestige (save the cicatrix) to indicate they ever existedbut whose hearing power, notwithstanding the loss, seemed unimpaired. 4. Openly hidden (like the document in Poes The Purloined Letter) in Sandys line Are you the one that found the ear? is the question Are you the one? Its as if Sandy has known, all her life, that this moment would come, and that Jeffrey went walking at night with the sole purpose of finding her, without even knowing why. Jeffrey, detective that he is, answers her question with another question (How did you know?) which gets at the epistemological heart of the matter because, we wonder, is it Sandy he desires or her knowledge? Jeffrey is interested in Innocence, it seems, only as a gateway to Experience, which in the world of Blue Velvet is corrupt. And it is this very momentwhen the rust of

corruption sets in as Sandy and Jeffrey stand illuminated in the devouring darkthat this frame captures. 18 /Second #846, 14:06 They have walked together in the night for several minutes now, delicately circling the topic of evil, as if talking in code. Finally, Jeffrey takes a gamble: I, uh, guess you gotta get back home pretty soon, huh? he asks Sandy. Her reply, as usual, takes the form of another question: Not reallywhy? And then she offers to show him Dorothy Vallenss apartment, whose weak gravity has been slowly pulling them closer. This is a fiercely political stretch of the film, given the context of Ronald Reagan and his elevation of family to mythic status. In his 1985 State of the Union speech, he said: Now, theres another great heritage to speak of this evening. Of all the changes that have swept America the past 4 years, none brings greater promise than our rediscovery of the values of faith, freedom, family, work, and neighborhood. Several years earlier, Gilles Deleuze and Flix Guattari published A Thousand Plateaus: What makes fascism dangerous is its molecular or micropolitical power, for it is a mass movement: a cancerous body rather than a totalitarian organism. American film has often depicted these molecular focal points; band, gang, sect, family, town, neighborhood, vehicle fascisms spare no one. Only microfascism provides an answer to the global question: Why does desire desire its own repression, how can it desire its own repression? Why does desire desire its own repression? This is a question that Blue Velvet asks, and the answer cant help but be political, in the sense that desire is political, as it comes into being and takes shape only as defined against that which represses it. Which is to say: Blue Velvet disguises Sandy and Jeffrey as Reagan Youth. The identity of their real, undisguised selveshinted at in this frameis the mystery that the film refuses, thankfully, to solve. 19 / Second #893, 14:53 In the early days of silent cinema, text and image coexisted, as intertitles directed viewers how to read a film, literally. In the best of these films, intertitles not only conveyed narrative information, but suggested possibilities of reading that allowed for the viewer to construct her own meaning from the relationship between text and image. In Blue Velvet, the LINCOLN street sign, which functions almost like an insert shot, is its own form of postmodern intertitle. [Christian Metz: When approaching cinema from the linguistic point of view, it is difficult to avoid shuttling back and forth between two positions: the cinema as a language; the cinema as infinitely different from verbal language.] LINCOLN appears suddenly and to Angelo Badalamentis Shostakovich-like pounding air-raid siren music (lifted directly from the first four seconds of Symphony No. 5, movement 4, right before the drums) so over-determined that it practically splits the

film in two. Read as an intertitle, LINCOLN tells us something, but what? The name of a street. And the name of an assassinated president. And a bad part of the town where the singer lives. But something more than that: a terrible signifier, floating free in ways that Monsieur Jacques Derrida could not imagine. Not Lincoln the hero, the man who saved the Union, but the one whose head-wound opened up a new channel in American history, a channel that its worst demonsnot better angelswould claim as their own. We have been tuned in to that dark-trembling frequency ever since. In the poem For John Clare by John Ashbery there is this line: There ought to be room for more things, for a spreading out, like. The LINCOLN intertitle does just that: it opens up room for more things, suddenly expanding the boundaries and dimensions of Blue Velvet and scattering its meanings across the screen. 20 / Second #940, 15:40 Thats kind of interesting, Sandy says, laughing, after Jeffrey hasout of the blue demonstrated the chicken walk. Blue Velvet was the last Lynch film on which Alan Splet designed sound and in this scene, like so many others, its as if we are enveloped in an auditory cocoon. Sound is very important, Lynch has said, because it really is half the film. With film, the whole can be greater than the parts if you have the sound, the image, and sequence of scenes right. At right around second #940, the film cuts to this shot, and the sound of Sandys and Jeffreys conversation nearly drops out, leaving the noise of the nightcrickets, the mournful wail of a distant trainto fill the auditory space. Suddenly, everything seems creaky and full of potential. Sandy and Jeffrey occupy only a small part of the frame space now, which is flooded with darkness. Their voices compete with the crickets. A strange unrest hovers over the nation, goes the first line of Robert Blys poem Unrest, and you can feel that, you can really feel it, and if all writing is autobiographical you have tried so hard to eliminate yourself from the equation, and to keep the focus on the image, the frame, and in fact you have practically run your mind into walls trying to absent yourself and yet here you are, right here, clanking up the first massive incline of the analog-era wooden roller coaster, with its overbanked turns, ready to plunge into the void of Blue Velvet. Sandys line Thats kind of interesting is more than a commentary on Jeffreys chicken walk, and more than some sort of metapostmodern-commentary on the film itself, because what shes saying, in all its flirtatious curiosity, is so exactly true that the film might as well end right here. 21 / Second #987, 16:27 1. Double Ed to Jeffrey: If you want to spray for bugs Jeffrey, it causes us no pain. 2. The black tradition is double-voiced. (Henry Louis Gates, Jr., from The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of African-American Literary Criticism) 3. Valvoline.

4. Comet. 5. A Danger sign. 6. The backroom of a hardware store might be said to be a particularly American place, one whose codes are so obvious they are practically inscrutable. 7. The image at second #987 exists on the level of folklore. 8. One of the Eds is blind; the other sees for him. 9. He drove into town and bought bread and milk and candles. At the hardware a butane camp stove. The supermarkets were full of people pushing overflowing baskets toward the checkout lines as if the countryside lay under siege. (William Gay, from the story The Lightpainter) 10. The two Eds startle us as a weird echo of Grant Woodss painting American Gothic. 11. But there remain important differences between verbal and cinematic story-space. Recall the frame. Images evoked in my mind by verbal descriptive passages are not contained by frames, but no matter how engrossed in a movie I become, I never lose the sense that what I see is bounded by the screens edges. (Seymour Chatman, from Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film) 12. . . . it causes us no pain. It could be a line from a song dropped into circulation by some mysterious band with no name, or a bland phrase hiding a secret meaning, as when spies meet to exchange information (I hear the weather in Paris is lovely this time of year) or a password, or the answer to a riddle, or, most likely, lines spoken to Jeffrey in the early blossoming of his dark-turning dream. 22 / Second #1034, 17:14 The beauty of hair in the mid-Eighties, curling ironed and a little bit feathered. Sandys friends are trapped somewhere between 1956 and 1986, in their long skirts and sweaters. Dont you guys dare say anything to Mike, okay? Sandy warns them, as Jeffrey waits for her in his classic red Oldsmobile convertible. Its not what you think, okay? Promise? For all its references to the pastespecially in this sceneBlue Velvet resists the lure of nostalgia. In the best and most obscurely written book ever on postmodernism, Fredric Jameson argued that realism itself was the casualty of late capitalist postmodernity: If there is any realism left here, it is a realism that is meant to derive from the shock of becoming aware of a new and original historical situation in which we are condemned to seek History by way of our own pop images and simulacra of that history, which itself remains forever out of reach.

23 / Second #1081, 18:01 There are opportunities in life for gaining knowledge and experience, Jeffrey has just said to Sandy as they sit in Arlenes. In 1844, two years after his eldest son died of scarlet fever, Ralph Waldo Emerson began his most radical essay, Experience, with these sentences: Where do we find ourselves? In a series of which we do not know the extremes, and believe that it has none. We wake and find ourselves on a stair; there are stairs below us, which we seem to have ascended; there are stairs above us, many a one, which go upward and out of sight. Later in the essay, he directly addressed the death of his son in ways that would seem to be unthinkable in todays culture of victim grief: In the death of my son, now more than two years ago, I seem to have lost a beautiful estate, no more. I cannot get it nearer to me. If tomorrow I should be informed of the bankruptcy of my principal debtors, the loss of my property would be a great inconvenience to me, perhaps, for many years; but it would leave me as it found me, neither better nor worse. So is it with this calamity: it does not touch me: some thing which I fancied was a part of me, which could not be torn away without tearing me, nor enlarged without enriching me, falls off from me, and leaves no scar. It was caducous. I grieve that grief can teach me nothing, nor carry me one step into real nature. Emersons reference to his son Waldos death is no lament, at least not for his son. He uses it instead to show that even thisthe loss of someone he fancied was a part of mecould not move him one step into real nature. Jeffreys desire in Blue Velvet to be seized by reality (experience), to be shaken awake, to see, to feel, is an echo of Emersons lament. Jeffrey wants to be hurt. In order for this to happen, he must find the ear, which will lead him to Detective Williams, and then to Sandy, and then to Dorothy Vallens, and then to Frank Booth, and then finally back not to Sandy, but to Little Donny, a version of his younger self. In the frame at second #1081, Jeffreyhands clasped togetherboth pleads and instructs. The narrative flow of the scene, from innocence to experience, is echoed in the frame: from light (Sandy) to dark (Jeffrey), and is just the sort of binary opposition that Blue Velvet establishes, only to destroy. For Jameson, this crisis of historicity makes it impossible for us to any longer organize the past and future into a coherent experience. This frame, at second #1034, evokes the Fifties, but only fleetingly. If in films like Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive Lynch experimented directly with temporal shifts, breaking the narratives into jigsaw puzzle time pieces, in Blue Velvet he does this in an even more radical way, creating these dislocations at the level of frame. A large measure of the strange, disorienting experience of the film lies in the very fact that it refuses to organize time coherently. Like the Overlook Hotel hallways in The Shining, the images in Blue Velvetadd up to something far greater than their parts. The storyline proceeds chronologically, but not the individual frame-images that constitute the storyline. In fact, images like this one disrupt any sense of linear time at all. It is the feeling of being lost. It is the feeling of falling.

24 / Second # 1128, 18:48 1. The first thing I need, Jeffrey tells Sandy, is to get into her apartment and open a window that I can crawl into later. As it turns out, this plot line never develops, as Jeffrey spots a key to Dorothys apartment which he takes instead. It seems like a minor point, the window, (although in the apartment in his bug overalls Jeffrey does glance twice at the window above Dorothys sink) and we soon forget about it. Its one of those moments in Blue Velvet that only obliquely and in the most obscure ways references Hollywoods past, in this case Rear Window, itself a movie about vision, about watching, about discovering oneself by looking at others, and which also features a protagonist named Jeff. (You look out the window. You see things you shouldnt, Stella tells Jeff, played by Jimmy Stewart.) 2. In his novel Suspicion, the great Swiss writer Friedrich Drrenmatt (best known in the U.S. for The Pledge, adapted into a film) puts into the mouth of his Inspector Barlach a theory of fighting evil that recognizes its terrible force in all its mystery and power and darkness, and which could serve as an epigraph for Blue Velvet: But were not up against windmills, my friend, like that shabby old knight [Don Quixote] in his suit of armor, we have dangerous giants to content with, monsters of brutality and cunning, and sometimes genuine dinosaurs, the kind who have always had brains like sparrows: these creatures exist, not in fairy tales or in our imagination, but in reality. 3. In this shot, Jeffreys earring is clearly visible. In the Eighties, there was still some nebulous sexual meaning attached to which ear was pierced, left or right (variations on left is right; right is wrong) and its at moments like this that we realize just how little we know about him. Is the earring an empty signifier, or overloaded with inscrutable meaning? Is Jeffreys spiel to Sandy endearing, or creepy? In one sense it doesnt matter, as Jeffrey seems not to be solving a mystery at all, but creating one, making it up as he goes along. 25 / Second #1175, 19:35 Confession: the first time I saw Blue Velvetand each subsequent viewing has only reinforced thisIve always felt that when Jeffrey pleads with Sandy at this moment (Sandy, lets just try the first part) hes talking about sex. What sort of plan is Jeffrey hatching, and is Sandy agreeing to? In their classic 1969 essay Cinema/Ideology/Criticism, Jean-Luc Comolli and Jean Narboni ask whether its possible for any film to escape the ideological boundaries of its making. While most films, they argue (Marxist cultural determinists that they were!), can never break free of the gravitational forces of ideology, there are a certain class of films that which seem at first sight to belong firmly within the ideology and to be completely under its sway, but which turn out to be so only in an ambiguous manner. . . . The films we are talking about throw up obstacles in the way of the ideology, causing it to swerve and get

off course. The cinematic framework lets us see it, but also shows it up and denounces it. Looking at the framework one can see two moments in it: one holding it back within certain limits, one transgressing them. An internal criticism is taking place which cracks the film apart at the seams. Blue Velvetin full mastery of Hollywoods stock detective-story tropesseems to be smashing against something, but what? The look on Sandys face offers a clue. Her gaze falls between Jeffrey and the camera, lost in the in-between spaces of the film, and it is a gaze that suggests a recognition and knowledge of the sort of experience that Jeffrey can only fantasize about. Its as if, in this very moment, she sees into the future and its ugly, creature-from-the-black-lagoon certainty, and you can see her already plotting how to pull herself free from the black hole that is sucking Jeffrey in, and its also at this moment that the needle skips, and Laura Derndaughter of Bruce Dern and Diane Laddseizes control of something more than just Blue Velvet. The power of this frame is not the question of how it breaks free from the forces of ideology, but rather how it somehow ignores the very question altogether. 26 / Second #1222, 20:22 A bug man, a Jehovahs Witness, and an anonymous cleaning man converge in the frame. It is near this point thatBlue Velvet begins trembling under the weight of its own narrative expectations: what will Jeffrey find in Dorothys apartment? Will he get caught? What does Sandy really think of whats happening? The framing follows the elegant horizontal lines of Jeffreys convertible, and the movement over the next few moments will follow the direction of the car, from right to left. Sandy holds copies of Awake! magazine, slipping into the role of Jeffreys accomplice and the religious overtones of this frame hint at the robins dream she will tell Jeffrey about outside a church later in the film. Jeffrey plays an exterminator. Sandy plays a crusader. In The Divine Plan of the Ages (1886) a biblical study tract by Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Bible study movement from which the Jehovahs Witnesses emerged, Russell imagines a world beset by evil: Hence, while making no attempt to excuse our rebel race, we can sympathize with its vain efforts to govern itself and to arrange for its own well-being. And something can be said of the success of the world in this direction; for, while recognizing the real character of these beastly governments, corrupt though they have been, they have been vastly superior to nonemuch better than lawlessness and anarchy. Though anarchy would probably have been quite acceptable to the prince of this world, it was not so to his subjects, and his power is not absolute: it is limited to the extent of his ability to operate through mankind; and his policy must conform in great measure to the ideas, passions, and prejudices of men. Mans idea was self-government independent of God; and when God permitted him to try the experiment, Satan embraced the opportunity to extend his influence and dominion. Thus it was by wishing to forget God that man exposed himself to the influence of this wily and powerful though unseen foe; and therefore he has ever

since been obliged to work against Satans machinations, as well as his own personal weaknesses. Blue Velvet assumes its shape against the hard facts of old-time good and evil (Why is there so much trouble in this world? Jeffrey will ask) and one of the films most radical gestures may be that it treats these forces with all seriousness. In this frame, just look at Sandy: she senses the coming black storm, a different sort of apocalypse than that foretold in the Awake! magazines she holds against her heart. 27 / Second #1269, 21:09 We dont know it yet, but the faint buzzing sound of static we hear at this point comes from the flickering red neon ELEVATOR sign that Jeffreyemerging from the far right side of the framewill encounter in a few moments. Ian Wattthe great deconstructor of the barely visible codes of narrative fictiononce described the actions of a character named Kayerts in Joseph Conrads short story The Outpost of Progress and in doing so introduced the phrase delayed decoding to describe how Conrad sometimes placed readers in the position of his characters, for whom events unfolded more quickly than their minds could decode: This narrative device may be termed delayed decoding, since it combines the forward temporal progression of the mind, as it receives messages from the outside world, with the much slower reflexive process of making out their meaning. Through this device . . . the reader participates in the instantaneous sensations of Kayerts. Over the course of the next 15 seconds we and Jeffrey will together, simultaneously: 1. hear the elevator sign buzzing, 2. discover the elevator is out of order, 3. locate the name VALLENS on the apartment tenant board Our identification with Jeffrey through delayed decoding grows ever stronger, and it is here that Blue Velvets tyrannical impulse begins to be felt. The fangs are gradually bared. You can see it herea glimmer of it at leastin Jeffreys face as it shape-shifts between Boy Scout and stalker. Here he is: the exterminator, climbing up the stairs to fake his way into a womans apartment. He ignores the cues warning him to stopthe defective elevator sign and the out-of-order elevatorand continues onward. The camera (and by extension us) follows. At this frozen moment Jeffrey is trapped in the stairwell space just before the doorway, with the spooky orange-ish circle on or behind the glass of the door (a light fixture on the stairwell wall?), like some flat bubble from another dimension that has been waiting forever there for Jeffrey.

The frame, which echoes a reverse-engineered Edward Hopper painting, is a wicked geometry of clean lines and squares and rectangles, a geometry which traps even the ghostly circle andjust a few frames laterJeffrey himself. 28 / Second #1316, 21:56 A stairway exposed / A monastic image / Deep River Apartments / The silence of the film / The sound of sound / Has come apart / Id like to think / In curved brick archways / The light / The 90 degree angles / Against that light / The Bug Man / Auden: The bug whose view is balked by grass / The steady climbing / Of the stairs / Then dark / Then Frank / What light will come of this? / The metal handrail across the door / A chance to stop the frame / Dorothy: there is a man at the door whose name / you will learn at the end / of a knife. 29 / Second #1363, 22:43 The fact that Dorothys frightened gaze fixes on the cameraon usmeans something, but what? The frame, bisected by the vertical gap that leads into her apartment, is given dark force by the accumulated black that collects behind Jeffrey. Hes not entering a dark world, but bringing a dark world into her apartment. A counter-reading of Blue Velvet, based on frames like this, suggests that it is Jeffreys presenceas much as Franksthat invokes the films dark angels. Laura Mulvey, in Death 24x a Second, wrote that: Now that films on DVD are indexed in chapters, the linearity associated with film projection begins to break down further. It is easier to perceive the lack of smoothness that has always been an aspect of film narrative, its resistance to that forward movement to which it has always been tied my the movement of celluloid through the projector. . . . To halt, to return and to repeat these images is to see cinematic meaning coming into being as an ordinary object becomes detached from its surroundings, taking on added cinematic and semiotic value. But delaying the image, extracting it from its narrative surroundings, also allows it to return to its context and to contribute something extra and unexpected, a deferred meaning, to the storys narration. The deferred meaning, traditionally unavailable to us as we watch a film unfold in real time, is now in the age of screen grabs no longer elusive. You would think that capturing a films individual frames for study would contribute to films demystification but, against all reason, the opposite has happened. As with the quantum worldas theoretical physicists like Lisa Randall and Brian Greene would attestthe closer and deeper you look, the less you know about what you thought you knew.

30 / Second #1410, 23:20 The sound. A low hum, like the over-filtered wail of a distant train or a collapsing carnival from some fevered dream. Within a few seconds of this shot that sound creeps into the film, and by the time the Yellow Man knocks at the door (roughly eight seconds after this frame) it will feel as if the sound is seeping out from the architecture of the room itself. Dorothy, in her red dress, pretends to attend to her fingernails, a sure sign that she already desires Jeffrey. The pink, plush, un-patterned carpeting. The lone chair, facing forward, waiting to hold a body. The couch, framed by the weird-deco quarter-circle of black on one side and the Oriental partition on the other. In Keith Ridgways novel Animals (2006), a character known as K tells the narrator: It just goes to show . . . that the most infectious thing of all is not anthrax or the plague or whatever, its paranoia, and theyve already released that. Its in all our conversations, in our private thoughts and our worries and our secret fears and our horror stories. And now its in our dreams. Its contagious. There is a contagion to this frame, which lodges itself unreasonably in the mind. Dorothy and Jeffrey, separated by the vast invisible void of the frame, split apart by time. She is a woman from another era, from classical Hollywoods unfilmed past, hinted at by the postwar appliances and even Dorothys dress itself. The strange world Jeffrey has entered is not so much one of moral decay as a world governed by worries and secret fears. Just look at that frame. Its an open space, waiting for blood to fill it. 31 /Second #1457, 24:17 The Yellow Man has come and gone. Dorothys full attention is on Jeffrey now. This first apartment scene is shot largely from Dorothys general angle of vision and in this frame she is dangerously close to the camera. In D.W. Griffith and the Origins of American Narrative Film, Tom Gunning explores the subtle but important changes in camera distance in the early 1900s: The basic camera distance for most shots in 1909 crept closer than the distant tableau found in some of Griffiths first films. The full shot of the character from head to toe predominates over shots with plenty of space above the head and six feet of boards below. Increasingly, characters stepped into the foreground, where they were framed between ankle and knee. The frame became an actors space rather than the extent of the set. A movie still like this one from second #1457 of Blue Velvet is an image from a fictional story but also a documentary image that captures the reality of the precise historical moment of the films making. It also is documentary evidence of an aesthetic moment, and a moment in the evolution of film technology. Is there something mid-1980s about this frames mise-en-scne? Not so much in terms of the dcor or the costumes but

rather in the placement of the camera and the relative distance from it of Dorothy and Jeffrey? Dorothys backIsabella Rossellinis backis close to the camera, and she fills the frame, directing our vision relentlessly in a sweeping motion from left to right, over and over again. There is a certain madness in the visual logic of the frozen frame. It is pure stopped motion in a medium designed for motion, and thus a sort of betrayal of cinema itself. It is frozen, yet still alive and moving somehow, by some strange attraction drawn to the frames immediately before and after it. It is dissection. The heretical sorrow of deconstruction. Of stopping the film, letting the frame melt in the heat of the lamp. Or, in the words of Sonic Youth: Kill Yr Idols. 32 / Second #1504, 25:04 The woman in the background carrying groceries has a story to tell. She has her own secrets, in that purse, and for approximately two seconds she becomes a part of Blue Velvet. Perhaps an unremembered part, called forth in the same way that Douglas Gordons 24 Hour Psychowhich slowed down Psycho to two frames per second, stretching the films duration to 24 hoursmade it possible to see details in a new way. In Point Omega, Don DeLillo captures the dislocating feeling of looking very, very closely at something, brought about by a character watching 24 Hour Psycho: It takes close attention to see what is happening in front of you. It takes work, pious effort, to see what you are looking at. He was mesmerized by this, the depths that were possible in the slowing of motion, the things to see, the depths of seeing so easy to miss in the shallow habit of seeing. . . . He began to think of one things relationship to another. This film had the same relationship to the original movie that the original movie had to real lived experience. This was the departure from the departure. The original movie was fiction, this was real. So: as Jeffrey and Sandy load the bug-spraying rig into the car, with the most important objectthe key to Dorothys apartment that Jeffrey has takenhidden from view, the anonymous woman passes by, further reinforcing the idea that all in the world is not as it seems, and that normalcy is an illusion, an illusion we all need, but an illusion nonetheless. Of all the furious currents that run through Blue Velvet, this is one: the eerie familiarity of images that seem so homegrown that they appear alien and unfamiliar. The unfolding distance between us and Jeffrey and Sandy, and the deeper distance between us and the unidentified woman. The thrilling, terrifying feeling that you are in on the secret.

33 / Second #1551, 25:51 Jeffrey: Im gonna try to sneak in tonight. Its Friday. Do you have a date? Sandy: Yeah. I do. Jeffrey: Well. (pause) That does that. * The historian of cinema faces an appalling problem. Seeking in his subject some principle of intelligibility, he is obliged to make himself responsible for every frame of film in existence. For the history of cinema consists precisely of every film that has ever been made, for any purpose whatever. Hollis Frampton * For a time, in the 1980s, it seemed as if Reagans victory would be permanent. There was comfort in this, as well as terror. Jeffreys car, in this frame, the soft easiness of its interior, offered a glimpse of that comfort. It was the job of Blue Velvet to portray that comfort and then to destroy it. * Music is important in Blue Velvet. What is the musical equivalent of a film frame? A single? And if so, the A-side or the B-side? Or is it the thread-like groove of a vinyl record? How many pieces, after all, constitute a whole? Perhaps the beauty and danger and allure of the frame is that it reminds us that the whole, after all, is nothing but pieces. 34 / Second #1598, 26:38 The open space surrounding the car. The feeling of freedom. The two car mirrors, one of them reflecting Jeffreys face. The pink barrette in Sandys hair, and the impossible beauty of the length of her arm. The light between the branches and leaves of the trees, and the way those trees fill most of the frame. The vanishing point near the middle of the screen, doubling back on us via the rear view mirror. Sandy and Jeffrey talk in a car, but not a moving car. The emergence of mechanical reproduction is accompanied by modernitys increasing understanding of temporality as assault, acceleration, speed. There is too much, too fast. . . . Time is no longer the benign phenomenon most easily grasped by the notion of flow but a troublesome and anxiety-producing entity. . . .One of the most important apparatuses for regulating and storing time was the cinema. Mary Ann Doane, The Emergence of Cinematic Time

The frame captures movement deferred, delayed, paused. It breaks one spell only to cast another. In this frame, the tension between Sandy and Jeffrey practically spills out of the borders (Just so the record is kept straight though, Sandy says just a few seconds prior to this frame, I love Mike.) The captured image, freed from the tyranny of time and motion, becomes its own object, operating by its own codes, some of them secret. 35 / Second #1645, 27:25 A slow dissolve, from Sandys house (she has just agreed to break her date with Mike and go to the Slow Club with Jeffrey) and the red neon sign of the Slow Club, in its elegant but somehow slightly off-kiltercursive. The dissolve, deriving from the pre-cinema technology of the magic lantern (theres a nice example of a magic lantern dissolve about half-way down the webpage) to create transitions or to suggest time-lapsed effects, and isnt there something magic in the very act of dissolving time? Two images: Sandys house, steady and unmoving, slowly overtaken by the Slow Club, which emerges as a slow crawl across the screen. The dark contours of Sandys house, like a ghostly presence, as the baroque, cursive letter S begins to accumulate in the far right of the frame. In the midst of a dissolve, where are we? What temporal zone? The dissolve somehow manages to capture a moment of time that doesnt really exist. We find ourselves somewhere uncharted between the just-past of Sandys house and the near-future of the Slow Club. The frame, fluttered with competing meanings: home, and leaving home. The dissolve is one of cinemas early experiments with psychological (rather than linear) time, an attempt to capture the fragmented ways in which we experience time, not in linear fashion from point A to point B to point C, but rather from A to C. Its there in Cinderella (1899) by George Mlis, an early example of a cinematic dissolve, at the 1:29, 2:34, and the 3:55-4:00 mark (the slowest dissolve). Transported from one temporal and spatial location to another, the dissolveunlike the cutemphasizes the improbable, in-between moment, and in the Blue Velvet frame at second #1645 we witness something impossible: two overlapping realities appearing at the same time. Cinemas own form of quantum entanglement. 36 / Second #1692, 28:12 Ladies and gentlemen, the Blue Lady. Miss Dorothy Vallens. And so Dorothy is introduced by the Master of Ceremonies, played by Jean-Pierre Viale, in what appears to be his only movie role. As one hand touches the vintage suspension-mount microphone, and one hand beckons Dorothy, the frame captures the tipping point of the film, as darkness is about to spill into Sandys and Jeffreys world as Dorothy takes the stage. Those curtains, otherworldly in the way they echo the blue velvet curtains from the films opening credits, signify a range of electrified meanings, none of them happy.

In Brian Evensons novel The Open Curtain, a character known as Rudd begins to lose his grip on reality, even as he gains access to a different order of reality: The whole of his life began to resemble a hallucination, dark and folded inward as if assembled from his mind. There was a falsity to it, as if he were acting, and often he found himself having to hold himself back from laughter because everything seemed contrived. All that really mattered were the blotted hours, but they were the only things he had no access to. In Blue Velvet, at this moment, Jeffrey, Sandy, and Dorothy will assemble together in a red room softly lit by blue light, each of them desiring something from each other, and each of them disguising that desire as mere curiosity. Everything in this framethe MCs hand, the open mouth of the piano, the faces of the drummer and the upright bass playercreates a visual current that flows from screen right to screen left, against the grain of the text and image logic of the West. We are forced to read the frame in the wrong direction. In a few moments, the Blue Lady will fill the gap, and become the center of gravity, and the unprepared will most certainly tumble into her collapsing star. 37 / Second #1739, 28:59 The lights on the stage, they illuminate Dorothy, whose talent in this frame to deny Jeffrey her gaze. She is Gildatransported from 1946 to 1986, the curtains behind her unanimated with the sort of predatory menace that the Production Code forbade Rita Hayworth from exploiting. Lynch must have recognized the power of restraint, of not showing, and so nearly the first one-third of Blue Velvet is as tame as an Andy Hardy movie. In this regard, the enduring power of Blue Velvet is that it meets a very specific need and desire: our desire for the archive. In his great (and sort of neglected) book Archive Fever, the postmodern enfant terrible Jacques Derrida wrote: We are en mal darchive: in need of archives. Listening to the French idiom, and in it the attribute en mal de, to be en mal darchive can mean something else that to suffer from sickness, from a trouble or from what the noun mal might name. It is to burn with a passion. It is never to rest, interminably, from searching for the archive right where it slips away. It is to run after the archive, even if theres too much of it, right where something in it anarchives itself. It is to have a compulsive, repetitive, and nostalgic desire for the archive, an irrepressible desire to return to the origin, a homesickness, a nostalgia for the return to the most archaic place of absolute commencement. In Blue Velvet, there is just such a return, not necessarily to innocence but to the entire archive of false innocence of classical cinema itself. But it is not just for the content of old cinema that Blue Velvet yearns; it is for classical cinemas formal structures and styles. In this sense, Dorothy is the ultimate remainder in the equation, the lost key to the archive. Her gaze, in this frame, is not into some obscure off-screen heaven, nor into the unknown room that holds her little son Donny, but rather into the cinematic archive itself, in all its fevered dreams.

38 / #1784, 29:46 In what is perhaps Haruki Murakamis best, most neglected novel, South of the Border, West of the Sun, the narrator recalls the effects of listening to a recording of a Liszt piano concerto: And the music itself was wonderful. At first it struck me as exaggerated, artificial, even incomprehensible. Little by little, though, with repeated listenings, a vague image formed in my mindan image that had meaning. When I closed my eyes and concentrated, the music came to me as a series of whirlpools. One whirlpool would form, and out of it another would take shape. . . . More than anything I wanted to tell Shimamoto about them. But they were beyond ordinary language. An entirely different set of words was needed, but I had no idea what these were. This frame at the 1784 second mark comes during a sequence with very little dialogue. Instead, there is, of course, Dorothys rendition of Blue Velvet, and the background noise in the Slow Club, and thenin just a few momentsa remarkable transition to the deepest, darkest moments of Angelo Badalamentis score (in this audio clip, from 1:311:48). Unlike the previous frame from 47 seconds earlier (post #37) Dorothy now shares the stage with only the man at the piano. The three other players have disappeared, even though the sound of the full band carries on. Their unexplained absence suggests the passage of deep, circular time: Dorothy sings the same song as earlier, and yet something has changed, something beyond ordinary language. Its one of those subtle temporal shifts in the film that give it the feeling and freedom of a dream, as if we had awoken to find thatwhat? how?the stage and the light and everything else in this tightly controlled universe has switched suddenly to try to accommodate the vortex that is Dorothy. 39 / Second #1833, 30:33 1. Jeffrey: Can you drive this car? Sandy: Yeah, but . . . Jeffrey: Leave it in front of my house for me, okay? 2. In Haruki Murakamis novel IQ84, a group of characters discuss the implications of an act they have committed: You throw a stone into a deep pond. Splash. The sound is big, and it reverberates around the surrounding area. What comes out of the pond after that? All we can do is stare at the pond, holding our breath. 3. One month after Blue Velvets U.S. release, another Davids movie was released, David Cronenbergs The Fly, produced by Mel Brookss studio Brooksfilms, which had also produced Lynchs Elephant Man in 1980.

4. Brundle (Jeff Goldblum): Youre jealous! Ive become free, Ive been released, and you cant stand it! Youll so anything to bring me down. Look at me. Does this look sick? Does this look like a sick man to you? 5. In this frame, at second #1833, Sandys face answers Brundles question, as if the question itself had leaped from one movie to another, and as if Jeffreys transformation was an internalized version of what happened to Brundle in The Fly, and as if, finally, we as viewers were somehow implicated in the telepathic gaze that connects Sandy/Jeffrey/Brundle. 6. The problem that all great disintegrative artlike The Fly, or Blue Velvet, or IQ84 addresses is not the evil that comes out of the pond once the stone has been thrown. Instead, these works recognize this terrifying fact: the evil was not in the pond, after all, but in the one who threw the rock.

40 / Second #1880, 31:20 A PLEA FOR LESS [This version of the Blue Velvet Project is published on the occasion of Blue Velvet's release on Blu-ray with deleted scenes on November 8th.] There are probably many more good and sound reasons to make available Blue Velvets deleted scenes than notIll concede that right from the beginning. For one thing, Lynch thankfully decided not to re-cut the film with the new scenes; this is not a directors cut. Since Lynch was under contract to deliver a two-hour cut in 1986, it would make sense that the scenes (part of a longer, nearly four-hour version) would be restored to fulfill his artistic vision of the film. And yet he has chosen not to alter the Blue Velvet edit that he delivered to De Laurentiis, the version that most of us are familiar with. So in one sense, the deleted scenes are not much different than the sorts of extra-textual materials we encounter all the time, akin to the restored text version of, say, William Burroughss Naked Lunch. Whats not to celebrate, especially for the cinephile, about these deleted scenes? Well, here are four laments, subjective and greedy and imperious as they may be, about the release of the deleted scenes: 1. Some movies become a part of who we are by dint of when weve seen them and how they accrue in our imaginations to the point where they are not just films that are out there but rather films that are inside us. To change (by the addition or subtraction of material) such films is to change historynot the history of the film, but our own personal, private histories. Its as if the past itself becomes different. We all have stories about movies like this. Mine happens to be about Blue Velvet, mentioned in passing in a creative writing class by Dr. Raymont (a man clearly suffering his own private demons

and practically disintegrating before our eyes) of the English Department at Bowling Green State University in 1987, and then me tracking it down at the local, family owned Kellys Video (which weirdly also sold mens retro ties) and watching it on a television whose failing color tube stripped Blue Velvet of all its blue. The reader-response theorist Wolfgang Iser once suggested that if a literary text does something to its readers, it also simultaneously reveals something about them. Thus literature turns into a divining rod, locating our dispositions, desires, inclinations, and eventually our overall makeup. The same holds true for movies: what they teach us is not about them, but about us. We remember ourselves in the original experience of watching certain movies, especially at a formative age, before we have become cynical, when we still looked to films and books and music and art as something that could validate, challenge, and even somehow transform our fundamental views about the world and our precarious place in it. Who I am now is too enmeshed in what Blue Velvet was then. I dont want it to change. I dont want to remember it differently. 2. Throughout the history of art, constraint has served as a form of creative liberation. The fact that Lynch was required to deliver a two-hour cut of Blue Velvet forced the movie into leaner, narrower narrative pathways, ratcheting up the claustrophobic, terroristic atmosphere. More importantly, the narrative gaps in the filmchunks of time spent in the Williamss home with Mike; the infamous flaming nipple sceneonly make explicit what we already know: that the Williamss are very nice, and that Frank is very bad. If the movie did not need these scenes to achieve its dark majesty in 1986, why does it need them now? 3. Does Blue Velvet require more meaning than it already has? 4. From Jacques Derrida to Mark Danielewskis House of Leaves to David Foster Wallaces Infinite Jest to the proliferation of extras/alternative endings/deleted scenes that are hallmarks of the digital postmodern, exploding the distinctions between so-called primary or master texts (i.e., the story itself) and supplementary texts (i.e., footnotes that are themselves part of the text) has become a commodity industry. Ours is an age of the remainder. The carried number. The internet is a detritus machine. In the mirrorhall logic of our time even capitalism eats itself. The relentless demystification of the past, which no doubt can be a form of liberation from the oppression of Myth, also serves to keep the past visible to such an extent that it becomes crippled and unable to fade into the crucial false remembering that is nostalgia. For nostalgia requires a radical separation from the past that allows for mis-remembering. As Fred Madison (Bill Pullman) says in Lost Highway: I like to remember things my own way. . . . Not necessarily the way they happened. 41 / Second #1927, 32:07 Jeffrey and Sandy have agreed on four honks of the car horn: this will warn Jeffrey to leave Dorothys apartment. Sandy waits in the car outside, in the night, in her own cocoon of nervous electricity. This is when Blue Velvetbegins to go very, very dark, as

Jeffrey makes his way through the India Ink of the screen into ever deeper and deeper blackness in what are perhaps the most psychologically violent moments in the film. Where has Blue Velvet taken you? When he woke up he thought hed dreamed about a movie hed seen the other day. But everything was different. The characters were black, so the movie in the dream was like a negative of the real movie. And different things happened, too. The plot was the same, but the ending was different or at some moment took an unexpected turn and became something completely different. Most terrible of all, though, was that as he was dreaming . . . (from 2666, by Roberto Bolao). This frame, from second #1927 is a synecdoche for the entire whole damned movie which has slowed to a primordial crawl at this point, as if Jeffreys movement across the screen and closer to Dorothys apartment is eternity compressed into a few moments, and the whole wasted history of cinema is expressed there in his profile, determined to make right out of this tangled narrative, more Frank than Frank, and there is that momentmaybe this momentwhen you wish that the whole film devolved to this pinprick instant, because once Jeffrey enters that apartment the tilt is on and the dark carnival gears start churning (And its sure been a cold, cold Winter, and the wind aint been blowin from the South sings Mick Jagger in Winter in 1973 in some sort of weird premonition of your soul after first watching Blue Velvet) and there you are, your very self on that screen, pushing into new territory, Frank already waiting down one of the dark corridors, the dark, dark, dark corridors, as if Sandy (outside) was a remainder from the 1982 R.E.M. demo Gardening at Night in all its creeping, interminable, menacing slowness, as if warning you: dont rush headlong, dont rush headlong into your future, Jeffrey. 42 /Second #1974, 32:54 What does it mean to speak of the cinematic image in the age of cinematic images? This frame, captured from the 2002 DVD edition of Blue Velvet, isnt really even a frame; its relationship to the 35 mm source film is ambiguously fraught with the complications of digital coding. For one thing, if the film has been MPEG-2 compressed, what has been lost? The information in the frame leaks in and out, depending on our viewing medium of choice, so that we experience the digital image not so much through presence, but through absence. Spatial and temporal compression: the door to Dorothys apartment, the carved-out rectangle beneath #710 like a movie screen within the frame. In The Vision Machine, Paul Virilio writes that sight comes from a long way off. It is a kind of dolly in, a perceptual sctivity that starts in the past in order to illuminate the present, to focus on the object of our immediate perception. The space of sight is accordingly not Newtons space, absolute space, but Minkowskian event-space, relative space. And it is not only the dim brightness of these stars that comes to us from out of the distant past, out of the mists of time. The

weak light that allows us to apprehend the real, to see and understand our present environment, itself comes from a distant visual memory without which there would be no act of looking. What to do with the terrifying and beautiful fact that the very light that allows us to observe the present is itself from the past? On one level, Lynchs filmsespecially Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, Mulholland Drive, and most radically Inland Empirepresent their own special theories of relativity, where time and space fold together, and enfold us. 43 / Second #2021, 33:41 The tension in this sequenceas Jeffrey sneaks around alone in Dorothys apartment while half-listening for Sandys warning car hornis sustained by carefully modulated shifts in what we as the audience know in comparison to what Jeffrey knows. While our knowledge of what is happening sometimes equals Jeffreys (those moments when we know nothing more or less than he does), at other times we are suddenly thrust ahead of his limited omniscience. In the previous scene, as Jeffrey explores the darkness of Dorothys apartment, we know what he knows, and nothing more. But once the film cuts to the moment of this frame, as Sandy sees that Dorothy has just arrived, we suddenly know something more than Jeffrey, something very important. We, share, with Sandy, secret knowledge: that Jeffrey is in potential danger. This epistemological see-sawing throughout the film echoes the shifts between surprise and suspense. In a famous exchange with Truffaut, Hitchcock discussed the differences between surprise (which he considered a narrative and emotional cheat) and suspense (which, he felt, engaged the viewer emotionally and psychologically: We are now having a very innocent little chat. Let us suppose that there is a bomb underneath this table between us. Nothing happens, and then all of a sudden, Boom! There is an explosion. The public is surprised, but prior to this surprise, it has seen an absolutely ordinary scene, of no special consequence. Now, let us take a suspense situation. The bomb is underneath the table, and the public knows it, probably because they have seen the anarchist place it there. The public is aware that the bomb is going to explode at one oclock and there is a clock in the dcor. The public can see that it is a quarter to one. In these conditions this same innocuous conversation becomes fascinating because the public is participating in the scene. In this way, we have been sutured into the film itself. No longer outside observers watching the screen, we are thrust into Blue Velvet. We lurk somewhere between Jeffreys ignorance and Sandys knowledge, still unaware of the coming storm that is Frank.

44 / Second #2068, 34:28 I hope youre careful, Jeffrey, Sandy whispers to herself, gazing up at Dorothys apartment, where Jeffrey has just not-heard her car horn warning becauseand there is a strange, haunted reference to Psycho somewhere in this scenehe is in Dorothys bathroom and has just flushed the toilet. Laura Derns face is made-up in a way that hearkens back to her role in 1982s Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains,

a film which teetered so delicately between the sweet danger of punk and the even sweeter danger of new wave pop that it practically imploded. Lines upon lines could be written about Laura Derns face, especially in Blue Velvet, as it registers not just the whole range of human emotion, but something darker: fate. John Cassavetes once said this of acting: Its a very hard job, being an actor. Because the camera comes down in your face, and someone says to you, in essence, Be big, now! Because after they finish powdering you, and dusting you, and messing with your hair, and throwing you in front of the camera, then theres this tension: QUIET now! Its a long scene! And youre standing there with a bunch of strangers that you have nothing in common with, whom youre supposed to love or hate, and with a bunch of words you dont really want to say. An acknowledgment of fate: that is what registers in Sandys eyes at second #2068. The understanding that Jeffrey is now slip-streamed into his own dark dream. Its true: Laura

Dern has been powdered, dusted, and messed with, to be sure. And yet the only thing that really matters are her eyes, untouched. 45 / Second #2115, 35:15 Jeffrey, startled by Dorothys return, hides in the closet. She undresses, and comes toward the closet and, just as Jeffrey is about to be discovered, the phone rings. It has not rung yet at the moment of this frame, which captures Jeffreys fantasy-dream at its edges: what are the chances that the woman of his dreams would strip to her underwear and approach him? The angle of vision is not directly from Jeffreys point of view, slightly dissociating us from his gaze. But that phone ring, as if dialed in from the stock sounds of classic Hollywood itself, such a well-timed ring, designed to a) alert us to the coming storm of Frank, and b) delay the moment of Dorothys discovery of Jeffrey in the closet. The vulnerability of Dorothy at this pointin all her imperfect human beauty, which makes her even more beautifulis perhaps just as shocking as the coming violence, and perhaps accounts for Ebertsnotorious anger about the films treatment of Isabella Rossellini (rather than Dorothy) in the film. Like Chris in Charles Burnss Black Hole, Dorothy exerts her own black-hole gravity, bending light, bending our gaze, toward the center that is her.

46 / Second #2162, 36:02 Frank? Frank! Whats the matter with him? Dorothy pleads on the phone about her kidnapped husband and son, Don and little Donny. There are facts, and there are facts of the frame: 1. This shot of Dorothy completely breaks with Jeffreys implied point-of view from the closet. 2. Dorothy is a woman in trouble. 3. This is the first instance of Frank in the film, invisible over the phone line, somewhere else, an implied presence and absence at the same time. 4. Dorothys maternal vulnerability, the fact of it, and the way that Jeffrey will sense and exploit this. 5. If this were a science-fiction film, the alarm that Dorothy sounds in this phone exchange would result in the calling in of forces that, even if not on the side of good, would have at least come to some sort of annihilating rescue. In his book Theory of Film (1960), Siegfried Kracauer (the great film theorist whom Pauline Kael mocked) wrote that [what] accounts for the cinematic quality of films, however, is not so much their truth to our experience of reality or even to reality in a general sense as their absorption in camera-realityvisible physical existence. And thats it: the total absorption of Dorothy into Blue Velvets camera-reality, a reality so intense and textured at this moment that it erases the conditions of its own existence: it just is. At times like this, Blue Velvet demands such an intense loyalty to the details of the momentwho is at the other end of the phone? why does Dorothy call him sir?that the fact that what we are watching is just a film is beside the point. We are really in it now. Whats inside the film is as real as whats outside. 47 / Second #2209, 36:49 The seconds tick down. Dorothy crawls, in anguish across the floor, coming dangerously close to the closet that hides Jeffrey. She is abject, and also strangely free, the sort of freedom that comes from knowing that the worst is yet to happen, yet again. The sharp expectation of pain that gives life meaning, but that can also carve out what was best in you and wound and warp it forever. It is like a scene from a silent movie, as Dorothys body conveys a meaning beyond words. Isabella Rossellini is the star of a hidden drama

within the drama that is Blue Velvet, which is to say that she is doing things that her mother, Ingrid Bergman, could never have done on the screen, even had she wanted to. In fact, Bergman also had played a woman tormented in Europa 51,

which was released just a few months after Isabellas birth. (Dino De Laurentiis was a producer for both Europa 51and Blue Velvet.) Dorothy crawls, childlike, abject. She is soon to have a terrible violence visited upon her, and since she will be unable to fight back, the movie itself must. In her remarkable forthcoming book The Severed Head: Capital Visions, Julia Kristeva writes: Death defeats me, nullifies me. But violence possesses me: the hold of an active pleasure over a victim object, it wagers on my passive pleasure. If I refuse to be victim, I begin by exposing the violence directed at me and I take the liberty of saying so. You made the choice to be a minimalist, to say as little as possible about it? You will inevitably come to maximum grief one day. You will choose paroxysms, you will select images of slit throats that preceded yours, you will figure forth victims that you have sensed. Tormented by violence, Dorothy chooses to possess it, and then so does Jeffrey, and then so, ultimately, does Blue Velvet itself. And Dorothys actions, in this second, are inscrutable, half-dark, ritualistic, and are based on codes that remain, mercifully, secret. 48 / Second #2256, 37:36 When not to look?

A fragment: Dorothys arm, reaching into the closet where Jeffrey hides, to fetch the blue velvet gown in preparation for Franks arrival. A confession: Ive never watchedcompletely watchedthis upcoming section of the film, out of sheer fear of what I can hear unfolding on the screen. Or if I have watched it, I have done so using the Travis Bickle method.

What is it that we need to protect ourselves from in the most brutal moments of Blue Velvet? In an interview with the writer Ben Marcus, Brian Evenson said that to render a violent act in language is not at all the same as committing a violent act. The writing itself is not violent, but rather precise, measured, controlled, in the grip of certain arbitrary but self-consistent rules. Only rarely does real violence become endowed with aesthetic qualities. The violence of the image, the moving image. The sad poetry of violence. The tenderness, in this frame at second #2256, of Dorothys arm, her flesh reaching in to the dark space that shelters Jeffrey. The implied camera, hidden in the closet with Jeffrey. The camera is always the invisible presence in a film, our own doppelganger.

The strict formalism of this moment, the moment of Dorothys arm, the image governed by, as Evenson says, certain arbitrary but self-consistent rules. A shot that Blue Velvet does not precisely need on a strictly narrative level. And yet the uncanniness of this image, the familiarity of reaching into a dark closet, is haunting in its own peculiar way, on the level of sheer image, beyond words, in the way that all darkness is beyond words. 49 / Second #2303, 38:23 In Roberto Bolao newly published story The Colonels Son, the narrator describes a zombie movie hes recently seen on TV. In fact, the entire story is a sordid summary of the movie, introduced like this: I swear it was the most democratic, the most revolutionary film Id seen in ages, and I dont say that because the film in itself revolutionized anything; not at all, it was pathetic really, full of clichs and tired devices, yet every frame was infused with and gave off a revolutionary atmosphere . . . At the moment of this frame, second #2303, Dorothy with her kitchen-drawer knife commands Jeffrey: Get out of there! Get out! Put your hands up! On your head! Do it! Get on your knees! Do it! The frame abounds in Hollywood myths and reversals of myth: the woman with the phallic knife, turning the tables on the whole history of who is stabbing who. In Psycho, the knife wielder was a man dressed as a woman in a scene so violent that the films editing corresponded to the rapid stabbing. In Blue Velvet, the violence unfolds in a languid long take that humanizes both Dorothy (whose terror and rage at Frank is displaced onto Jeffrey) and Jeffrey (who sees in Dorothy the expression of his own desires), and if the work of the film is anything it is this: to render us somehow less (not more) human, in a way that only movies and books and art can, offering a temporary escape from the relentless identification with ourselves, or in the words of the poet Dana Levin: this is what we must strive for, / to be the snipers asleep above the insomniac town. And so there it is: Blue Velvet, separated from us only by the thin membrane of the screen, something that Dorothys gleaming knife, in this frame, threatens to pierce. 50 / Second #2350, 39:10 1. Dorothy, the knife dangerously close to Jeffreys nose, perhaps unintentionally recalling the infamous nose-slicing moment in Roman Polanskis Chinatown. 2. Has Jeffrey caused her to act like this, or has Frank? Jeffrey is not Frank, although Dorothy treats him like she might were she to find him hiding, unarmed, in her closet. 3. In the fevered dream of Blue Velvet, what causes what is impossible to untangle, as if concepts like before and after dont mean a thing.

4. In Steve Ericksons novel Zeroville, Vikarwho becomes an editor not just of film but of a version of reality itselfsays this: The scenes of a movie . . . can be shot out of sequence not because its more convenient, but because all the scenes of a movie are really happening at the same time. No scene really leads to the next, all scenes lead to each other. No scene is really shot out of order. Its a false concern that a scene must anticipate another scene that follows, even if its not been shot yet, or that a scene must reflect a scene that precedes it, even if its not been shot yet, because all scenes anticipate and reflect each other. Scenes reflect what has not yet happened, scenes anticipate what has already happened. 5. On March 3, 1947, Albert Einsteinskeptical of the emerging field of quantum entanglement and uncertaintywrote this in a letter to his friend Max Born: I cannot seriously believe in it because the theory cannot be reconciled with the idea that physics should represent a reality in time and space, free from spooky actions at a distance. 6. In 1929, the actress Anny Ondra appeared in Hitchcocks Blackmail, wielding a knife, having stabbed not westward, but forward in time. These are not still images at all.

51 / Second #51, 39:57 What is this world? Like piecing together a puzzle over an abyss, we are witnessing the scene of a crime conveyed in secret code. We know, of course, that Dorothy will not kill Jeffrey, but somehow this fact only makes matters worse. The murderers and the murdered. In her never-out-of-date book Window Shopping: Cinema and the Postmodern, Anne Friedberg writes that as soon as the photographic negative made possible a standardized image, photography and then cinematography made possible the seeing of exactly the same image(s) over time. Film experiences had an unprecedented repeatability. . . This notion of repeatability, it haunts films like Blue Velvet, which dives so deeply into the cold green waters of Hollywoods past only to bring to the surface new and strange and alien configurations of the familiar stories. Is there such a thing as a memory-film? Does it matter if our stories are really stories, or just stories? Is there a difference? Dorothy holds that knife like a gladiator, full of right-to-left-screen confidence, defusing every bomb in Jeffreys mind. The frame is all angles and lines of vision: the invisible line between Dorothys and Jeffreys eyes, interrupted by the tip of the knife, which bisects the screen at a right angle from their connected line of vision, and for just one moment (between blinks) the frame becomes a snapshot of figures in a wax museum: what story do they tell that we havent already told ourselves? Which is to say: Blue Velvet is the most familiarand hence most terrifyingfilm ever made. Second #2444, 40:44 The still frame, so much like a photograph that it takes a violent deformation of reality to make it move. Jeffrey and Dorothy, frozen eternally in a film that has stuttered to a stop. In John Ashberys long poem Girls on the Run, there are these lines: Ill go you one better, Fred chimed in, heres a diver, lets call her Josephine, who dives and dives, further and downward, all our lives span, to the basis of that bridge. Dorothy and Jeffrey have taken the dive that trembles us into fear, and prevents us from following. So we are left with their film images, finally, beautiful and detached and always on the verge of slipping back into motion, the illusion of motion.

The photographer Gregory Crewdson comes at the same problem from a different angle, a Hasselblad Sinar 810 camera that allows for a dive into the image that locates the viewer in some haunted space just at the membrane between this world and that.

Crewdson himself was a member of The Speedies, the late-1970s power-pop-post-punk group whose handful of tunes constitute a genre of their own. In their song Time, the lyrics go When Im with you its oh so fast / time, time, time / when Im alone its oh so slow. The imagewhether still (a photograph or screen grab) or moving (a motion picture)is always on the move. Just take a moment to look upon the Blue Velvet frame from second #2444: cant you detect its sly movement, the way it shifts impossibly beneath your gaze, the way it recalls the before and after of its moment? There is no stillness in the still image because we are not still: fast time or slow, it is still time that carries usand the imageforward into dark futures. 53 / Second #2491, 41:31 Get over there on that couch, Dorothy says, and then follows Jeffrey (naked except for his black socks), knife raised, as if she would plunge it into his back were he to hesitate. The frame practically vibrates in anticipation of the coming of some dark force against which this tableau is nothing but a pale rehearsal. In Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, Gilles Deleuze writes that the frame is related to an angle of framing. This is because the closed set is itself an optical system which refers to a point of view on the set of parts. Of course the point of

view can beor appear to bebizarre or paradoxical: the cinema shows extraordinary points of viewat ground level, or from high to low, from low to high, etc. But they seem to be subject to a pragmatic rule which is not just valid for the narrative cinema: to avoid falling into an empty aestheticism they must be explained, they must be revealed as normal and regular. In this regard, is there any such thing as an unmotivated camera point of view in narrative cinema? (If anything, the freer the camera in the digital age, the more locked it is in the prison-house of signs, relentlessly first person.) And yet, even within the contours and limits of the frame there is freedom in the illusion of depth and space. In this frame, the floor model record player, its top open like a secret signal or warning, flanks the hallway that leads to the bathroom, its narrow space set off in vertical lines that confound depth perception. The hallway is a space the camera is reluctant to enter, like the hidden dimension of The Black Lodge in Twin Peaks.

If, as Deleuze suggests, the movie set is an optical system in its own right, then in this frame the system collapses somewhere just beyond the record player. Indeed, thats the space where the action in the frame is really happening; we just cant see it. 54 / Second #2538, 42:18 Frank has arrived, banging on the door. The fact that we anticipated his arrival makes it no less terrifying. Jeffreynakedhas been shuttled into the closet, while Dorothy

ditches the knife behind the radiator, in one of Blue Velvets many sly, tension-breaking references to Eraserhead. In Art and Fear, Paul Virilio reminds us that the coming of sound in film in the late 1920s effectively transformed silence into something alien, almost a special effect: Yet one crucial aspect of this mutation of the seventh art has been too long ignored and that is the arrival of the talkies. From the end of the 1920s onwards, the idea of accepting the absence of words or phrases, of some kind of dialogue, became unthinkable. The so-called listening comfort of darkened cinema halls required that hearing and vision by synchronized. In a universe just one Higgs boson particle different from ours, Blue Velvet could well be a dialogue-free movie (operating in the same secret wavelengths as Godards Band parte), the clash of archetypal characters whose facial expressions, tics, dress, and body language suggest a totalitarianism of signs. For this brief moment, the levels of knowledge work something like this: 1. Dorothy knows that Jeffrey is in the closet (and that he does not know Frank or the meaning of Frank) and that Frank is at the door (and that Frank does not know that Jeffrey is in the closet). 2. Jeffrey knows that someone is at the door, probably the person whose voice he could not hear (from the closet, earlier) Dorothy talking to (yes, sir) on the phone. 3. Frank, when he enters, does not know that Jeffrey is in the closet. 4. So, at this point, the audiences knowledge is, for the most part, as restricted as Jeffreys. And more on silence: the differences between the sounds emitted by the VHS player and the DVD player, and our associations with those sounds, our connections with the technologies of viewing make the silence of the film never completely silent. At this moment in Blue Velvet, there is no soundtrack, and no dialogue. There is only the metallic sound of the knife tumbling behind the radiator, the pounding on the apartment door, and the swoosh of Dorothys movement across the room. (And there is the sound of terror, which cannot be measured.) And yet if you watch this scene, wherever you are, you inevitably will bring your own soundtrack to the unfolding images: the rain outside your window, the noise of traffic in the distance, the hum of a furnace, a song coming from another room, your very own blood, dear reader, coursing through your body. 55 / Second #2585, 43:05 Frank has, as they say, arrived. And he is one suave motherfucker.

Bourbon in hand, he commands the room. He is Sinatra minus the musical talent. He barks at Dorothy, as if he himself was the director of Blue Velvet: he orders her to light the set and arrange the props. Then he directs her in her performance, forcing her into a brutalizing form of Method acting. For Dorothy is clearly acting for Frank, in the same was that Isabella Rosselleni is acting for Lynch, and for us. Her apartment suddenly has been transformedwith the entrance of Frankinto a rehearsal space, the aspiring actress playing the part of the one-who-is-directed. And yet in some inscrutable universe, Dorothy and Frank seem to have lost their way, and there is a sense of improvisation to the moment. Worse yet, this unguarded moment has allowed a sense of the terrifying unknown into the proceedings. The closest analogy I can think of comes from the play Bug, by Tracy Letts, which features this exchange: AGNES: I think were safe. PETER: No, not really. Youre never really safe. One time, maybe, a long time ago, people were safe, but thats all over. Not any more, not on this planet. Well never really be safe again. We cant be, not with all the technology, and the chemicals, and the information. AGNES: I dont even like to think about it. PETER: Sometimes, though, when youre lying in bed at night, you can feel it. All the machines, all the people working their machines, their works, humming. Except that in Blue Velvet, the invisible machines are inside the room, this very room, where Dorothy and Frank sit across from each other, playing out their roles, speaking words to each other that make bad things happen. 56 / Second 43:52 The implied violence before the explicit violence, as the patterns and objects of Dorothys apartment have settled into a merciless, strict formalism. The fact of Dorothys bare leg, the tenderness of her foot upon the carpeting, sets a machine in motion somewhere. In his monumental, multi-volume work Rising Up and Rising Down, William T. Vollmann explains his reasons for exploring violence in such calculus-like detail: I wanted to find a base point beneath which we couldnt gothe floor of evil. I could then note that the fall would not be bottomless. I might hit it and die from the distance but at least I wouldnt fall forever (Vol. 1, p. 292). Like a painted-over painting, something lurks behind the image of Frank and Dorothy. It is, perhaps, an act of time-reversed violence, like findingbeneath a baroque pastoral oil

painting with soft clouds and gentle hillsthis electrifying portrayal of savagery:

Judith Slaying Holofernes (1614-20) by one of the only female painters of that era, Artemisia Gentileschi, whose brush strokes capture a terrible thought come true, in the same sort of doomed light as the frame from Blue Velvet. Perhaps Dorothys secret thoughtsbased on what Frank is about to do to her and what he has been doing to her, ritualisticallytend toward the frozen-in-time beheading in the Gentileschi painting. For now, though, all Dorothy can do is look away. She is, in fact, commanded by Frank not to look. A thousand gazes are upon her: Franks, Lynchs, the cameras, ours. Everything, here, is still falling, down and down. The floor of evil is not yet in sight. 57 / Second #2679, 44:39 The full and furious roar of Frank. The camera has just completed a somehow menacing lateral tracking shot passing very close behind Dorothys back. Frank, having deeply inhaled from the mask (as if to prepare himself for the performance that heDennis Hopper, not Frankis about to deliver) is now contorted with fury and sorrow. And something else: terror. Terror, perhaps, for something he has summoned. Poem #259, stanzas two and three, from The Dream Songs, by John Berryman, goes like this: When worst it got, you went away I charge you and we will wonder over this in Hell

if the circles communicate. I stayed here. Its changing from blue to blue but you would be rapt with the gold hues, well, you went like Pier to another fate, I never changed. My desire for death was strong but not strong enough. I thought: this is my chance, I can bear it. Im not a Buddhist. I studied the systems long, the High Systems. Come hunt me, ancient friend, and tell me I am wrong. The fact that John Berryman killed himself by jumping from a bridge in Minneapolis in 1972 (the same year that David Lynch began working seriously on Eraserhead and also the year that he began to meditate in a way that made his rage evaporate) is probably as irrelevant to understanding The Dream Songs as this photograph (by Helmut Newton) of Lynch and Rossellini on the set of Blue Velvet in 1986 is to understanding the frame from second #2679.

Perhaps Frank, having somehow caused things to change from blue to blue, has reactivated the fifth circle of hell, which now slowly, eternally moves upward, upward, passing through the clayness of this earth, and through Frank himself. The monster, the ancient friend that Frank has unleashed, is something that no thoughtand certainly no High Systemscan stop.

58 / Second #2726, 45:26 1. The danger of the close-up, bringing the viewer ever nearer to the rage of Franks face. Its almost clinical: a portrait of a madman and of an actor playing a madman. Reaching out to part Dorothys robe, Franks hand occupies nearly as much screen space as his face. And almost half the screen is in darkness, as if leaking in from some extra dimension. 2. Sergei Eisenstein, in his 1944 essay Dickens, Griffith, and the Film Today, wrote: We know from whence the cinema appeared first as a world-wide phenomenon. We know the inseparable link between the cinema and the industrial development of America. We know how production, art and literature reflect the capitalist breadth and construction of the United States of America. And we also know that American capitalism finds its sharpest and most expressive reflection in the American cinema. 3. In what sense is a film like Blue Velvet distinctly American, not so much in terms of its pop culture references, but in terms of how it thinks of itself? The slowness of the film at this pointthe way it shows more and more of Franks ritualistic assault on Dorothy seems to suggest the excavation of something far darker than one mans perverted desires, or one womans complicity in her own brutalization. Some have claimed that Blue Velvet is about exposing the underside of the myth of an idyllic, small-town America (behind the white picket fences, etc.). And yet Frank seems so otherwordly, so schizophrenically disjointed from natural time, so uniquely characterized as someone (or thing) from another place entirely, that the film might just as well be critiquing an alien civilization as an American one. 59 / Second #2773, 46:13 There is a tendency, with the passage of time, to soften the edges. If Blue Velvet is remembered as notorious, it is notorious in a faintly wholesome, Frank Capra, nostalgic way. The danger of nostalgia is that it drains away the extremes, and leaves you with a comfortablebut inauthenticmiddle ground. Blue Velvet earns its tender glow only because that glow has had its origins in the black evil furnace of Frank. The frame brings to mind Walton Fords painting Malmaison (2008), and the momentary gap it suggests between victim and prey.

That gap, that space . . . it somehow means everything. For in this terrifying moment there is always the chance of reversal, the chance that the victim will rise up suddenly and strike back, that the defensive claws will come out, from the bird on the ground, or Dorothy on the floor, on her back, her arms above her head, upside down in the frame, the space around her empty, no weapons at hand, and Frank momentarily outside the frame, so that Dorothy seems almost at peace, in repose, and we could almost be lulled into thinking this was an image of a willing victim, if only we could ignore Franks repurposed oxygen mask and its slender plastic tube leading up and out of the frame, a simple prop in a movie that has somehow dropped itself so deeply into our minds, as if we ourselves, like deep sea divers, had followed that plastic tube down and down, to the very bottom of the ocean floor, to the very basement of our imagination. 60 / Second #2820, 47:00 Throughout this entire sequence, we never once see Dorothy from Franks point of view. In fact, the camera stays positioned entirely on Jeffreys side of the room, adopting, if not his precise point of view from within the closet, then at least his general angle of vision throughout. Even when we see Dorothys face close up, it is not from Franks point of view; we are never permitted to cross the invisible line that divides the room to see things from Franks side. On one level, this increases our identification with Jeffrey; for the most part, we see what he sees. But more fundamentally, the refusal of the camera to adopt Franks perspective makes his actions both more terrifying and more banal. It is the specific, fetishistic details of his assault that propel him deep into the imagination, where he burns like a hot ember. In 1959the year Kyle MacLachlan was bornDennis Hopper appeared in The Young Land, a strange, off-kilter movie that in some ways predicted the more sweeping critiques

of America that would lie at the heart of Easy Rider, released ten years later. In one of the stills from The Young Land, there is Frank, reaching out, while a figure dressed in blue sits in the background, bisected by the screen, offering a momentary glimpse of the future.

61 / Second #2867, 47:47 For the first time since Franks prolonged assault on Dorothy, the camera has shifted perspective, freeing us from Jeffreys gaze. A new space opens up, one that has not been revealed entirely before, with the kitchen in the implied space behind the camera, and the dark, cave-like shadow of the apartment door area occupying the frames center. Jeffreystill in his black socks, humanizedcrawls toward Dorothy who will, when he caresses her head, jolt as if bitten by a snake. The implication is that she is still enmeshed in Franks world, even though he is no longer physically present. This is the dark magic of Frank, the dark magic of abuse. Its always there, even when its not. Its after effects are hyper-coded into the frame: in Dorothys body, hugging itself, in the television antenna (slightly crooked as if warped by the power of Franks signal), the green radiator (a silent witness to human drama in several Lynch films), the chair rail molding running parallel to Dorothys and Jeffreys bodies, and most of all in the absent (now haunted) space on the screen that moments ago held Franks body. In Inland Empire, Nikki (Laura Dern) glimpsesin moments of pure transcendencethe

shapes that linger in the haunted spaces of the frame.

You get the sense in the frame from Blue Velvet that there is also something there, besides Jeffrey and Dorothy, that cant be seen. A third presence, made known to us in the wide open spaces of the frame. How to detect something that is absent? How to feel your way into a world of darkness so that you can emerge back into the light, uncontaminated? The dream of Blue Velvet is that question. The answer is a nightmare. 62 / Second #2914, 48:34 1. In the aftermath of the assault, Dorothy calls Jeffrey Don, her kidnapped husbands name. Jeffrey tenderly corrects her. No, he says. She doesnt seem to hear him: Oh Don. Hold me. Frank, Jeffrey, and Don, the three men circulating in Dorothys imagination. Don. Donny. Little Donny. The largely off-camera presence of the Donnys governs the logic of the film. 2. In David Mamets 1994 play The Cryptogram, Donny (a woman in her late thirties) has this exchange with Del (a man of the same age), in which she tells him that sometimes she wishes she was a Monk: DEL: And what does this man do? DONNY: The monk. DEL: Yes. DONNY: Nothing. (Pause.) He sits; and gazes out at his . . . DEL: Mm. Well, thats a form of meditation . . .

DONNY: Gazes out at his domain. DEL: Well, Im sure youd be very good at it. DONNY: Youre very kind. DEL: What? Im very kind, yes. (Pause.) For its. A form. Of meditation. (Pause.) As are they all. 3. DOROTHY, on the phone with Frank: Is little Donny OK? Is he there? 4. From Donnie Darko: Where is Donnie?

5. The Blue Velvet screen at second #2914, split vertically in the mode of early Brian De Palma. Two screens sharing the same space. On the left, the active narrative which draws our attention. On the right, the latent narrative, hibernating. The looming danger of the hall, the illusion of the bathroom doorway slightly tilted, like the strobe-lit hallways that Pete (Balthazar Getty) traverses in Lost Highway. There is the implied space of the back bedroom down the hall, which lies dormant like a hot trap. It is, later, where Jeffrey will lay his trap for Frank. There is almost a present and future in the division of the frame, with the present unfolding on the left side and the sleeping future on the right, the space there waiting for the films characters to awaken it. Waiting for Dorothy, for Jeffrey. Waiting for Frank. Waiting to destroy Frank.

63 / Second #2961, 49:21 Do you like me? Dorothy asks. Yes, says Jeffrey. Do you like the way I feel? These are simple, almost childlike questions and answers, tender, quiet exchanges of whispered words as if to replace the previous horrors with a new hope. In John Banvilles 1997 novel The Untouchable, Victor Maskell narrates the story of his transformation into and life as a double agent for the Soviet Union during the 1930s, 40s, and 50s in England: We were latter-day Gnostics, keepers of a secret knowledge, for whom the world of appearances was only a gross manifestation of an infinitely subtler, more real reality known only to the chosen few. . . . This gnosis was, on the material level, the equivalent of the Freudian conception of the unconscious, that unacknowledged and irresistible legislator, the spy in the heart. Thus, for us, everything was itself and at the same time something else. In Blue Velvet, its not any of the characters in particular who appear to be one thing while secretly being another, but rather the entire film itself. Blue Velvet is a double agent, a postmodern film disguised as an artifact from the era of classic Hollywood or, more radically, a movie from the classic Hollywood era disguised as a postmodern film. There are only a handful of such double-agent films (whose titles are unprintable; that would be a betrayal), films so ideologically and aesthetically incoherent its as if the answer print and the internegative are in pitched battle on the screen. In some untraceable way, the frame at second #2961 is in covert communication with David

Godliss photograph of Blondie on stage at CBGB in 1977:

Debbie and Dorothy, separated by nine years that seemed an eternity, facing screen left and screen right, holding and being held, whispering a code into a microphone and into an ear. A photographer named David, and a director named David. A black and white photograph capturing a moment of cultural espionage, and a color movie still acting as an informant. Both images exist, as Victor Maskell says, as themselves and at the same time something else. 64 / Second #3008, 50:08 Dorothys face fills the screen, leaving no room for thought. At this moment, there is no possibility of anything outside the frame. This may seem an odd moment, an odd frame, to re-introduce the power of ideology, for there seems to be nothing overtly political about this frame. And yet, Dorothys suffering hererendered in a fashion-photography aestheticis utterly reactionary and in tune with a certain mid-1980s, Ronald Reagan wave of nostalgia. In their toxic, neural pathway altering chapter from Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944) entitled The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception (an essay which remains the ultimate handbook for the cynic who wants to live within truth), Max Horkheimer and Thodor Adorno wrote: Culture has always played its part in taming revolutionary and barbaric instincts. Industrial culture adds its contribution. It shows the condition under which merciless lie can be lived at all. . . . In films, those permanently desperate situations which crush the

spectator in ordinary life somehow become a promise that one can go on living. One has only to become aware of ones own nothingness, only to recognize defeat and one is one with it all. Those are tough sentences, and I can see how they might serve as bait for the same sort of attacks on the slyly great film critic J. Hoberman on the occasion of his being let go from The Village Voice. (My very first glimpses of images from Eraserhead came from the cover of Midnight Movies, by Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum, a book which was passed unseen like a rare feather from persons unknown to persons unknown in college, and which caused the break-up of more than one friendship and the forming of new alliances and late-night writing sessions where we tried to detour our fledgling film criticism into super-charged chambers that were lit, we hoped, by the same flashes that illuminated the frames of our favorite films.)

And you learn, painfully, to Kill Yr Idols, all of them. A regular scorched earth policy, not out of hate, but love, or rather that fear of love that motivates you to return Blue Velvet to the realm of ideology, where all art originates. Dorothy, brutalized. And that brutality rendered beautiful on the screen. The Hollywood dream factory. Her face madeup by experts, a gorgeous victim who has learned to recognize defeat and turn it around into a love so big that even the screen (that iron cage of images) cant hold it.

65 / Second #3055, 50:55 Im leaving now, says Jeffrey. Dorothy, her back to the camera, stands in the bathroom, facing the mirror, her red shoes on the tiled floor beside her. Another radiator, like an iron spy from another world. The screen, divided against itself. Crowded by darkness, Dorothys space is a like a music track awaiting the vocals. The open toilet some sort of joke. A zombie film: Dorothy dead and not knowing she is dead, hungry for Jeffreys flesh, or the way hallways always lead to bad ends. In a room across the city, her son held hostage. The fullness of despair, in ripe bloom, and you wonder: what if Blue Velvet is the most restrained document of evil ever put across the screen? A completely pressured-down version of the chaos of Survival Research Laboratories (SRL), founded in 1978 by Mark Pauline, which created, staged, and filmed the dark subterranean passageways of the great American subconscious, in a way that Hollywood cinema could only hint at: All the new thinking is about loss. / In this it resembles all the old thinking, the poet Robert Hass wrote in 1979, in his poem Meditation at Lagunitas. Dorothys back to the camera evokes a switch from second to first person, I tell you, because there I am, stranded in hallway somewhere between Jeffrey and Dorothy, in one of the very saddest moments in Blue Velvet. And if you loved this movie, perhaps that was because you only wanted to destroy it, literally. For real, man. To crush it beneath your heel (in the spirit of the SRL video) to wipe out the terrible truths it whispered in your ear, and when you found yourself at the unmarked Alley Bar in Ann Arbor, with an old friend, and the lights cut out suddenly in an electrical storm for just a few seconds and then when they came back on everyones face, bathed in red light, had changed slightly, but enough for you to notice. Shit, you said to your friend, look whats happened! But of course his face had been transformed too (is that why he pretended not to notice, because he was one of them now?) and who knows, maybe even your face too was altered now. You needed a mirror, to see for yourself, to hold it up to the room like some sort of act from the myths and legends of vampire and zombie films, to see if all the faces had changed, had reversed themselvesin those few moments of darknessinto the image of Frank. 66 / Second #3102, 51:42 The frame within the frame. Jeffrey, on his way out of Dorothys apartment, stops and retrieves from beneath the couch the framed black and white photo of Don and Donny that Dorothy had gazed at immediately after Franks call. A fury of angles and lines, rectangles within rectangles. The frozen image captures a moment in time, while what transpires on the screen (no matter how many years have passed since Blue Velvet was filmed) happens right now. Seymour Chatman, in Story and Discourse, writes about still time and moving time on the screen:

The effect of pure description only seems to occur when the film actually stops, in the so-called freeze-frame effect (the projector continues, but all the frames show exactly the same image. An example in Joseph Mankiewiczs All About Eve: at the moment that Eve (Anne Baxter) is offered a coveted theatrical award, the image freezes as her hand reaches out to receive it. Story-time stops, while the cynical drama critic (George Sanders), speaking as narrator off-screen, hints at the dark side of Eves rise to fame . . . The different time zones are even more complicated in Blue Velvets frame #3102, because the Don/Donny photograph isnt technically a flashback, yet neither is it fully of the now-moment of whats happening on the screen. Rather, its something in between: the film recoils backwards in time in the object that Jeffrey holds in his hands, while still moving forward in time. At this moment, as Jeffrey holds the past in his hands, he comes to realize whats at stake for Dorothy, and once again the audiences knowledge is reinforced around Jeffreys point of view. We know that he has seen the framed photo and begun to piece together the tragedy of Dorothys predicament, but Dorothy does not. Like all photographs, the image is an instant in timewe see neither what happened immediately before the photo was taken nor after. But what if we could? This is a question thats asked in Blade Runner, in the sly and beautiful moment when Deckard holding a black and white photograph of (supposedly) Rachael and her mothersees it move, flutter. (A moment which itself recalls the precious few seconds of moving image as a woman blinks her eyes in Chris Markers still-image 1962 film La Jete.) For one moment as Deckard looks at the photo, the still image becomes a moving image, a reminder of the fragility of memory, of the past, and how remembering itself is really an act of storytelling. In Blade Runner, the still image moves: In La Jete, at 7:58, the still image of the sleeping woman suddenly moves: she blinks: But for Jeffrey, the flashback is something he holds in his hands, and its not even his. Not his past, not his memories. They belong to Dorothy. And at this momentwherever this moment finds you, dear readerthey belong to you, too. 67 / Second #3149, 52:29 1. After leaving Dorothys apartment, Jeffrey walks home in the dark, in one of Blue Velvets furiously abstracted montage sequences, where sound and image come together to convey a doomsday atmosphere so totalizing and intent on destruction (the destruction of innocence) that to try to convey it in anything less than one long sentence would be a betrayal, not only of the fact of black in this frame, but of the blackness of Jeffreys heart and his realization of this blackness in his face, in that askance look, as if he was the one ravaged instead of Dorothy, or as if the ringing in his head were the words of Hecuba in Euripidess The Trojan Womenevil vies for evil in the struggle to be firstwhich perhaps he read in college just weeks ago, before being called home, and

whose lines turn over and over in his mind, refusing to go away or settle down into any sort of comfortable meaning. 2. Jeffreys face against a field of black gradually overexposes as the film slips out of external realism into something like psychological realism. Its one of the few perfectly balanced frame compositions in Blue Velvet. 3. The fact of Jeffreys tie, on a warm night, and all its associations: a Norman Rockwellian nostalgia, a post-punk/new wave gesture, a lounge-singers outfit better suited to the stage at the Slow Club, an early 1960s-era sharkskin jacket. 4. But most of all, the sheer blackness that fills the frame out of which Jeffrey emerges and then disappears, and the way its like space itself, or the night skya voidand a moral void, too. 68 / Second #3196, 53:16 At the hardware store (in a scene that doesnt appear in an earlier draft of the script) a moment of frontier humor staged so fundamentally close to truth as to approach the surreal. A customer (as if a future character from Twin Peaks who has slipped back in time four years) holds an axe up to Double Ed, who reads the number to the blind Double Ed: New axe, 48721. Its a welcome bit of humor in light of the previous scenes in Dorothys apartment, right down to the awkward stance of the axe man (pipe in mouth), as if hes in the midst of some cryptic roman salute. Or . . . Paul Bunyan. An association of images:

Lumberjack with pipe, undated:

From Tall Tales of America, 1958:

Pine Man and Ax, 1962:

Paul Bunyan, 1968:

Paul (2006 sculpture) at Governors State University:

Big (not Double) Ed, Twin Peaks, 1990:

69 / Second #3243, 54:03 Its a strange world, Sandy. *** Frank is a . . . a very dangerous man. *** You saw a lot in one night. *** It is a strange world. These lines from around the moment of this frame collapse into one meaning, one meaning obvious to Sandy: that Jeffrey has fallen in love with Dorothy. Outside the church, Sandy is about to deliver her robins monologue, a monologue that securely nails Blue Velvet to the wall of sincerity. The shot itself is full of menace and beauty: the night, the soft illumination of the cars interior, the troubling tree shadows on the church walls, the light coming through the stained glass windows. In Roberto Bolaos The Savage Detectives, a character named Arturo (a stand-in for Bolao) describes The Shining to another character: Do you remember the novel that Torrance was writing? Arturo said suddenly. Torrance who? I said. The guy in the movie, The Shining, Jack Nicholson . . . Hed written more than five hundred pages and all hed done was endlessly copy a single sentence, in every possible way: capitalized, lowercase, double-columned, underlined, always the same sentence, nothing else. . . . It might have been a good novel. Theres a truth here, in the absurd way that only truth can be: what if Torrances manuscript pages in The Shiningreally were a novel, and not just pages with repeated lines? What if the meaning was embodied in the repetition, so that the manuscript became a sort of minimalist, experimental novel? And what if in Blue Velvet, this moment outside the church wasnt just one singular instance of an event, but in fact the event that constitutes the whole of the movie? All the petty and mammoth fixations of the movie are right here on the screen at this very moment, contained in the double-framing (framed by the car windows, and framed by the screen frame) of Sandy and Jeffrey. The vertical lines of the church windows, and the horizontal lines of the car. The way that the light on their faces (neither of them looking at each other) suggests an affinity from the light inside the church, a place where they have found temporary sanctuary from the evil that Jeffrey has witnessed. 70 / Second #3290, 54:50 Sandys reaction, as she listens to Jeffreys theory about the significance of the severed ear. I think she [Dorothy] wants to die, he says. I think Frank cut the ear I found off her husband as a warning to stay alive. Thats a key sentence, almost lost in the films narrative momentum. The severed ear isnt intended simply to secure a ransom, as might

be expected, but rather as a message to Dorothy not to die. As the object of Franks furious desire, Dorothy is just another one of his addictions, his fascinations. Sandys face, softly lit and framed by the murky glow of the churchs stained glass windows, registers shock not so much at the content of what Jeffrey is telling her, but at how swiftly and deeply he cares about a woman he barely knows. Like a silent film actress, Laura Dern conveys high altitudes and low valleys of emotion with her face, and in Blue Velvet and Inland Empire especially, she performs with her face in ways unmatched in contemporary cinema. She is the slow-burning fuel of the film, the hot ember that never goes away, even when its not there. Lillian Gish. Barbara Kent. Laura Dern.

In her essay The Eye of Horror, Carol Clover writes that certainly horror plays repeatedly and overtly on the equation between the plight of the victim and the plight of the audience. In Blue Velvet, we are over and over again caught in the triangulated terror that runs like electric currency between Frank and Dorothy and Jeffrey and Sandy. Sandys face at second #3290 captures our own plight, our own astonishment at what Jeffrey is saying. The difference is, we as the audience have seen what Jeffrey has seen, while Sandy has not. So we have the double pleasures (we are all voyeurs) of experiencing Sandys shock as well as recalling the brutal images that Jeffrey describes, images that Sandy has no access to. In a dream you had, Sandys eyes moved. The still frame came alive for one second, long enough for her eyes to address the camera directly. And in her eyes was an accusation: I know youre watching. 71 / Second #3337, 55:37 1. Jeffrey, struggling. Working through over and over again the evil equation that is Frank. 2. The sound of sound has come apart. Everything that matters is between his ears. 3. His ear; the fact of his non-severed ear. 4. The haircut to reveal the ear.

5. An actor, preparing to say his next line, or has he forgotten the presence of the camera? 6. The fullness of night, and its comfort. 7. To be drowned in the blackness of introspection. 8. A terrible thought: is Frank supernatural, beyond human agency, beyond human Law? 9. Look out / The symbols are collapsing. [Ben Lerner, from Mean Free Path.] 10. As if Jeffrey could weave in and out of darkness without each time losing bits of his soul. 11. The historical weight of the church outside Sandys drivers side window, forcing Jeffreys head down, down, into prayer mode. 12. If she could just catch the Creature by its ugly invisible tail. But then what? Shed just die of fright and disgust. You couldnt kill It, after all. You couldnt crush It with your heel. So there wasnt any point to catching It, really. [Ludmilla Petrrushevskaya, from There Once Lived a Woman Who Tried to Kill Her Neighbors Baby.] 13. Trapped between the opening and closing credits, Jeffrey suffers. 72 / Second #3384, 56:24 1. Sandys dream, recounted to Jeffrey: In the dream, there was our world, and the world was dark because there werent any robins. And the robins represented love. And for the longest time there was just this darkness, and all of a sudden thousands of robins were set free and they flew down and brought this blinding light of love. And it seemed like that love would be the only thing that would make any difference. And it did. 2. A few moments earlier, Jeffrey said to Sandy: Frank is a . . . a very dangerous man. 3. From The Flame Alphabet, by Ben Marcus: Rabbi Burke never used the word devil. The universal coinage was worthless, in his view. Words that mask what we dont know. But he spoke about dangerous people who orbited the moral world, building speed around us, rendering themselves so blurred, they looked gorgeous. Burke spoke of refusing dizziness, latching on to these satellite monsters . . . so we could travel at their velocity, see them for what they were.

4. A lighter note: in the Blue Velvet Blu-ray interview, Kyle MacLachlan says that the chicken walk sequence was a stunt he used to pull on the set and was probably inspired by Steve Martin or John Cleese. 5. From Dear Reynolds, as last night I lay in bed, (with the gentle robin) by John Keats: The greater on the less feeds evermore: But I saw too distinct into the core Of an eternal fierce destruction, And so from happiness I far was gone. Still am I sick of it: and though to-day Ive gathered young spring leaves, and flowers gay Of periwinkle and wild strawberry, Still do I that most fierce destruction see, The shark at savage preythe hawk at pounce, The gentle robin, like pard or ounce, Ravening a worm. 73 / Second #3431, 57:11 Outside of church (St. Pauls Evangelical Lutheran Church, in Wilmington, North Carolina), Jeffrey and Sandy prepare to leave. The scene in question is a fulcrum point in postmodern cinema: are Jeffreys lament about the presence of evil in the world, Sandys monologue about the robins bringing light, and the church itself, shaded with sincerity or irony? For many contemporary reviewers, the hokey, melodramatic acting was the sign of a cold tactician at work. In his Washington Post review, Paul Attanasio wrote that Lynch likes to use wooden acting as a distancing technique, or a kind of joke. Perhaps Blue Velvet is an uncomfortable film to watch not because of its depictions of violence, but because it asks us to hold our in our gaze for long periods of time characters faces as they work through moral tangles that they happen to view in terms of good and evil, right and wrong. What happens in Blue Velvet is precisely the opposite of that Attanasio called a distancing technique; if anything, the film brings audiences very, very close to its characters. The initial uncertainty about Blue Velvets tone probably has a lot to do with the 1980s itself, which modulated between the flat, affectless responses to depravity in novels like Bret Easton Elliss Less Than Zero(1985) and the moral severity of the Reagan era. (Reagan had referred to the Soviet Union as the evil empire ina 1983 speech, a speech which also contains a serious contemplation of the place of people like Frank in the world. How many presidents have ever used the word phenomenology before? We know that living in this world means dealing with what philosophers would call the phenomenology of evil or, as theologians would put it, the doctrine of sin.)

But there is the undeniable fact of beauty in the world, too, Blue Velvet whispers to us. The beauty of the outside of that church at second #3431, the tree shadows on its walls and the way the windows hold colors in their secret-code shapes, and the bare skin of Sandys arm (her eyes temporarily black-barred out by the rearview mirror) and the light on Jeffreys face. Its as if the film had become scrambled in time, fractured in such a way that in the thinnest of gaps between its frames another face, another song, in grainy black and white, hides there, waiting to be activated from future-hibernation. When does it happen? When do you realize that youve fallen so deeply, so deeply into something that even the sky at its widest is not wide enough? Is it around the 1:35 mark, below, when Julianna Barwick (thank you, Believer) lowers her voice and opens her eyes, as if she suddenly recognizes a dark, dark thought? 74 / Second #3478, 57:58 Jeffreys return to Dorothys apartment is framed in a shot radically segmented by top-tobottom of screen vertical lines, such as the door itself, the doorway, the protruding wall, the closet doors. This lends a certain crazy dimensionality to the scene, with Dorothy occupying the foreground, Jeffrey the middle ground, and the hallway wall behind him the background. And yet all this appears on a flat screen. Gerald Mast, in Film/Cinema/Movie(1977) asked whether we perceive the projected image as two-dimensional at all? The very fact that we call one object in the projected image apparently close to or far away from another implies that there is some kind of mental translation of the two-dimensional image into threedimensional terms. In the cinema, when we see large and small, we translate our perception into either close and far (based on our awareness of relative distances and the sizes of objects in life) or into not so close or far . . . There is the small red chair: little Donnys? The plants that seem to have multiplied, in pots the same color as the radiator. Jeffrey stands in a quadrant that occupies roughly the same amount of screen space as the closet, which he had hidden inside of earlier. The menace of the doorway, like a threshold from one dream into another. The sense that there is someone in the hallway with Jeffrey, just out of Dorothys line of vision. The impossible space inside the closet, which is on a wall whose other side is presumably the hallway where Jeffrey now stands. There is no closet space within the closet, no room for a person to hide.

75 / Second #3525, #58:45 A classic two-shot, Jeffrey and Dorothy looking at each other across the open space of the screen. Dorothy is framed within the frame by the impossible closet (a sort of black screen) in the background. No longer dressed in black, Jeffreys character begins to separate itself from the hinted-at idea that he is somehow another, younger version of Frank. Although Blue Velvet is not alone in taking viewers into a sealed-off fictive world, it does so, strangely, by referring to the outside, real world (our world) not directly, but indirectly, through archetypes. There is a detective, a police station, an apartment building, a suburban home, a red car, a night club, a dangerous man, a hospital room, a high school. In Blue Velvet, these function as placeholders of things and objects and people rather than representations of real things and objects and people. They exist in a kind of second-order reality, detached just enough from the familiar that they take on the aura of the strange and unknown. In Don DeLillos secret-coded 1982 novel The Names, a character says: The world has become self-referring. You know this. This thing has seeped into the texture of the world. The world for thousands of years was our escape, was our refuge. Men hid from themselves in the world. We hid from God or death. The world was where we lived, the self was where we went mad and died. But now the world has made a self of its own. Why, how, never mind. What happens to us now that the world has a self? How do we say the simplest thing without falling into a trap? Where do we go, how do we live, and who do we believe? This is my vision, a self-referring world, a world in which there is no escape. In the world of Blue Velvet, too, the flow of signs and signifiers is disrupted, and you can almost see it happening in the open space between Jeffrey and Dorothy in this frame, the actors having forgotten their real names, their names from the outside world, as if there was no Kyle and there was no Isabella, as if those were just strings of letters, empty signifiers. 76 / Second #3572, 59:32 Back at the Slow Club, Jeffrey has just poured himself a Heineken, and Dorothy has noticed something that has caused a shadow of fear to cross her face. In a subtle relay of looks captured in nine shots that last just over one minute, this happens: Shot 1: Jeffrey, having poured a Heineken, watches Dorothy perform Blue Velvet. Shot 2: (second #3572, the frame above) Dorothy sees something in the audience that spooks her. Shot 3: Jeffrey notices Dorothys fear, and turns his head to where she is looking.

Shot 4: We see Frank, the object of Dorothys gaze, from roughly Jeffreys point of view. He sits in the audience bathed in pale blue light. Shot 5: Jeffrey again, whose eyes move from Frank to Dorothy, in a way that suggests he has just understood something. Shot 6: A medium shot of Frank, in rapture to Dorothys performance, his eyes slowly shutting and then opening, as if moving in and out of a dream. Shot 7: Back to Jeffrey, who slowly leans forward with concern. Shot 8: Back to Dorothy, who finishes her rendition, shooting Frank a defiant look as she puts emphasis on the word tears in And I still can see blue velvet through . . . my . . . tears. Shot 9: Frank, as the camera slowly pans down to reveal him holding a swatch of blue velvet in his hands, rubbing it gently with his thumbs. Unlike the first time at the Slow Club, Jeffrey is alone now, without Sandy. Dorothy is alone, too, but watched: by Jeffrey, by Frank, by the anonymous audience, and by the piano player, his face bathed in a kind of monstrous, carnivalesque blue. Its as if we have slipped into a horror film, and in this regard Blue Velvet is perhaps closest to Lynchs other great (though underrated) horror film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992). In her fine bookRecreational Terror, Isabel Cristina Pinedo suggests that in the postmodern horror film the boundary between living and dead, normal and abnormal, human and alien, good and evil, is blurred, sometimes indistinguishable. In contrast to the classical horror film, the postmodern film locates horror in the contemporary everyday world, where the efficacious male expert is supplanted by the ordinary victim who is subjected to high levels of explicit, sexualized violence, especially if female. And so here, at second #3572, Dorothy holds Frank in her gaze, reversing the roles in an open acknowledgement of her own power, the momentary power than any stage star has over the dumb awe of a fawning audience member which, at this moment, is all that Frank is. 77 / Second #3619, 60:19 See shot 9 from the previous post (#76). Frank, here, is someone caught between the hipsterism of the 1940s and the 1990s, his Pabst Blue Ribbon signifying the working mans authenticity as opposed to the soft, foreign Heineken, the baby-faced college boys beer. And yet Frank aspires to suaveness in his soft nightclub shirt and beer poured into a glass, not drunk out of a bottle.

Frank is a slave to a fixed idea. When he watches Dorothy on the stage, what does he really see? What if theres something in Dorothy thats only available to him, and what if Dorothys fear of Frank is not based on what he has done or is capable of doing, but rather on her knowledge that Frank can see this part of her that is invisible to everyone else? Its a heretical reading of the film, I know, to suggest that Frank and Dorothy share a secret, invisible bond, a recognition that makes their relationship the most authentic and significant in the film. He holds in his hands a piece of blue velvet, but it might just as well be a human ear or a chunk of flesh or a blue key or a weapon aimed at Dorothy. He is a leader of men. He has a gang. He commands loyalty through fear and, perhaps, magic. His face in this frame is a measure of his longing and sorrow. He cant be saved because he doesnt have a soul. 78 / Second #3666, 61:06 After Frank and his gang leave the Slow Club, Jeffrey follows them. He is a detective, now. The scene is bathed in hellish red. The slow rumble of thunder ratchets up the tension. There is no one for Jeffrey, neither Dorothy nor Sandy. Not now, in the silence of his car. In fact, the movie has carried itself forward without functional dialogue for a while; its become pure cinema, where the images and sounds render dialogue obsolete, because of what use is dialogue in the bloodlands? In 2666, by Roberto Bolao, a character, Norton, repeated, in German, theres no turning back. And, paradoxically, she turned and walked off away from the pool and was lost in a forest that could barely be seen through the fog, a forest that gave off a red glow, and it was into this red glow that Norton disappeared. The lighted phone booth beneath and between the cursive The Slow Club sign. A person standing there: perhaps David Lynch? Jeffreys car, its headlights like an animals eyes at night. The awful familiarity of a dirt parking lot, the soft purr of cars across the surface. It is the night, after all, when a different sort of order compels the kingdom, and a different sort of blackness fills Jeffreys mind and car. The Slow Club, spooling out in linked letters from left to right, as if chronology itself slowed down inside its doors, a sort of parallel path of time, a clock that runs not thirty minutes but thirty years slow. Jeffrey, in the red glow of some light source implied by the neon sign but not emanating from it, speeds off after Frank into the black hole that stretches and elongates the sense of time in Blue Velvet, driving from right to left across the screen rather than the chronological left to right, as if the film is asking us to accept what we always-already knew: that time itself orbits around those in power, those dictators and megalomaniacs whose force of will bends the will of others, those Franks who lure the victims and wouldbe victims, the powerless and the would-be powerless, into moments (like Jeffrey will face soon, at Bens) when suddenly the urge to survive blasts and burns away the Old Morality, the old dictators, to make way for a new hope.

The hope of robins. 79 / Second #3713, 61:53 Jeffrey, having followed Frank to a building, sneaks inside at night to confirm that it is, indeed, where Frank lives. The shot only lasts a few seconds, and serves as a bridge between what has just come before (Jeffreys cloaked, nighttime pursuit of Frank) and what will come after (the scene at Arlenes Diner with Sandy as he recalls to her witnessing the actions of the Yellow Man, the Well-Dressed Man, and Frank). The frame is pure Expressionism as Jeffrey finds himself searching for Franks name on the mailboxes in a low-angle shot whose shadows and lines run in a weirdly menacing way from left to right. The black door, the oblong bank of mailboxes, the shadows on the wall, the window above Jeffreys head with its faintly frosted panes, the fluorescent light; all of this adds up to a moment of quiet turmoil. It is one of Blue Velvets fearful, haunted places, a corporeal expression of inner violence and darkness. In his 1966 essay Typology of Detective Fiction, Tzvetan Todorov wrote this about literature, which also can be applied to film: one might say that every great book establishes the existence of two genres, the reality of two norms: that of the genre it transgresses, which dominated the preceding literature, and that of the genre it creates. Blue Velvet, as it shape-shifts between an array of genres and moods, becomes a mystery not so much for Jeffrey, but for us, who struggle with our collective desires as they unfold on the screen. The power of Blue Velvet in shots like this is how it offers us a glimpse of a spacean apartment building lobbythat is familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. The world is a stranger, less familiar place in the dark, when we must bring forces other than our sight to bear upon our understanding. Which is to stay: the real story of this frame is not that Jeffrey discovers Franks name on one of the mailboxes, but rather that the frame itself discovers Jeffrey. The distorted, confused angles and violent geometric shadows are an X-ray glimpse of his consciousness at this very moment. 80 / Second #3760, 62:40 Jeffrey, having arrived later than expected to pick up Sandy after school, has just been spotted by Sandys boyfriend Mike, who is doing a variation of jumping jack exercises with the football team (in full uniform, including helmets) on a tennis court across the street in a scene that oddly predicts the Do the Locomotion scene inInland Empire. We are back in the sunlight now, the deeply coded normalcy of high school, the girls in their long skirts recalling the teenage rebel movies of the 1950s. The frame captures no one looking at anyone. Dead gazes. A frame filled with people and trees and grass and a building and a car. The end of spring. The beginning of summer.

Sandy. The fact of Sandy. In her classic 1974 book From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies, Molly Haskell wrote: In the penumbral world of the detective story, based on the virile and existentially skeptical work of writers like Hammett, Chandler, Cain, and David Goodis (which found its way into crime films like Dark Passage, The Blue Dahlia, Farewell My Lovely, Double Indemnity, I Wake Up Screaming, and The Big Sleep), the proliferation of women broads, dames, and ladies in as many shapes and flavors, hard and soft centers as a Whitmans samplerwas a way of not having to concentrate on a single woman, and again, of reducing womans stature by siphoning her qualities off into separate women. In Blue Velvet, Sandys Dorothy is matched by Jeffreys Frank. Which is to say: the film is a carefully constructed two-hours of tension which threatens to snap but never does. The movie seems to be about Jeffreys fascination with darkness, but what if its really about Sandys role as the gatekeeper between darkness and light? After all, she supplies the initial information and clues that Jeffrey needs to take his plunge. In any case, this is one of Blue Velvets most visually diverse frames, regressing from right to left into the green, green natural world, the same world that existed within the thick grass of Jeffreys front lawn at the beginning. Sandy, her body from the chest down viewed through the double glass of the film camera and the car windshield, is a Molly Haskell woman and something more. Of all the characters in the film, she bears the burdens of the signs of the past more than anyone else, a repository of the very nostalgia that fuels Blue Velvet and that, ultimately, it renounces. 81 / Second #3807, 63:27 1. Today, Jeffrey tells Sandy at Arlenes, as we see a flashback of what hes describing, I staked out Franks place with a camera. Now, theres another man involved in all this. I call him The Yellow Man. These shots, in the bright of day, are some of the most quietly beautiful in the film with their burnt-orange 1940s-era Allied Vans, as if Walker Evans photographs had switched to color. 2. In Derek Raymonds novel The Devils Home On Leave, the nameless Detective Sergeant recalls a terrible dream: But in the night I dreamed that two figures appeared at the foot of my bed in Earlsfield. The one in front was a thickset, middle-aged man, heavy-featured and dressed in a cap and a thick grey coat. He made as if to chop at me with his hand. Black matter seeped out of his mouth and nose and he had been dead for years. The figure behind was so evil that one glance was all I could stomach. It was very small, a collection of what looked like old peeled sticks wrapped in a sack; it radiated hells own malice and groaned to get at me. 3. The frame at second #3807, too, has its own malice, in the form of the black window to the right of the gas pump, its upper pane boarded over, the irrational sense (in the

way that nightmares are) that there may be someone inside watching Jeffrey, who is himself watching Frank. The window recalls, as imperfectly as memory, the Man in the Planet at the window in Eraserhead.

4. A few moments after this frame, once Jeffrey has described more of what he saw, he asks, Now the trouble is, what does that prove? Sandys response is Nothing, really, but its interesting. Just like a dream, or a nightmare. 82 / Second #3854, 64:14 I saw The Yellow Man come out and meet up with a well-dressed man carrying an alligator briefcase, Jeffrey tells Sandy, as we see him snapping a picture with his riggedup camera-in-a-shoebox, a strange, analog echo of the Lumire brothers early motion picture camera. The sequence is reminiscent of a similar one (also involving doubles) in Brian De Palmas Dressed to Kill, when Kates (Angie Dickinsons) son Peter (Keith Gordon) has suspicions about Dr. Elliott (Michael Caine) and concocts a camera set-up to photograph the entry to his office. The whole operation is so dead-on: the detectives determination in Jeffreys face, the elaborate string contraption he uses to snap the pictures, the hushed seriousness of his voice as the narrates to Sandy what hes seen. Whats easy to forget during this sequence is that what were being shown in this frame isnt what Jeffrey saw, but what the camera filming Blue Velvet saw, as opposed to the shot from the previous post, which actually depicts Jeffreys flashback from his point of view. This shot at second #3854 is what we might call implied memory information; it

reflects how Jeffreyas he retells the story to Sandy at Arlenes later that daymight have imagined himself as he took the photos. Its interesting: Sandy cant see these flashbacks. She simply hears what Jeffrey says. But is it implied that Jeffrey can see them? Are we to understand that, as hes talking to Sandy about what happened, hes picturing what we, as the audience, are seeing? Or is this visual information outside of both Jeffrey and Sandy, existing for our sake alone, to help give a settled shape and form to the narrative? In a sense, what does it matter? We are woven so tightly into the narrative fabric of the film that that whether this is an image of Jeffrey remembering and picturing himself or simply a shot originating outside his psychological world (or some combination of both) seems to be a meaningless distinction. And yet, in a film about what lies beneath the surface of things and the shifting meaning of archetypal signs (i.e., The Blue Lady, The Yellow Man, The Well-Dressed Man, the ear, the word Lincoln, etc.) the question about the knowledge of the camera versus the knowledge of the characters is fundamental to the epistemological architecture of Blue Velvet itself. Which is to say: in a movie about the pleasures of the dark unknown, the ambiguous knowledge of the camera is yet another layer of mystery. 83 part 1 / Second #3901, 65:01 1. Jeffrey: Im seeing something that was always hidden. 2. J. G. Ballard, from Concrete Island, 1974: When he reached the embankment and searched for the message he had scrawled on the white flank of the caisson, he found that all the letters had been obliterated. 3. Andr Breton, from Manifesto of Surrealism, 1924: Under the pretense of civilization an progress, we have managed to banish from the mind everything that may rightly or wrongly be termed superstition, or fancy . . . It was, apparently, by pure chance that a part of our mental world which we pretended not to be concerned with any longer . . . has been brought back to light. For this we must give thanks to the discoveries of Sigmund Freud. On the basis of these discoveries a current of opinion is finally forming by means of which the human explorer will be able to carry his investigations much further, authorized as he will henceforth be not to confine himself to the summary realities. 4. Jeffrey: Im involved in a mystery. Im in the middle of a mystery, and its all secret. 5. Robert Rays first sentence to his book The Avant-Garde Finds Andy Hardy, 1995: This book proposes using the avant-garde arts as models for new ways of writing and thinking about the movies.

6. Julia Kristeva, from Powers of Horror, 1980: Is it the quiet shore of contemplation that I set aside for myself, as I lay bare, under the cunning, orderly surface of civilizations, the nurturing horror that they attend to pushing aside by purifying, systematizing, and thinking; the horror that they seize on the build themselves up and function? 7. Sandy: You like mysteries that much? 83 part 2 / Second #3901, 65:01 (pt. 2) And so, for the first time in this project, two posts on the same frame. Why? Most of all, its because of the brown, paneled wall to Sandys left. A wall where you think a window ought to be. Why do you think this? What gives rise to the suspicion that a wall artificially covers (hides) a window? Probably because its linked to the first time Sandy and Jeffrey were together at Arlenes (covered in post #25).

Even though its possible that they are simply at a different booth, one framed by a wall and not a window, I prefer to believe this is the same booth. (In a 1986 interview on Canadian television, Lynch said that Blue Velvet is . . . a trip into a world that you can only go to in the movies.) But maybe its more than that. Its the sense that the paneled wall is somehow of the movies.

The angle of their vision travels nearly across the horizontal metal strip of the booth partition. The first time you saw this film, on VHS in 1987, you didnt realize that these small, quiet moments at Arlenes would become lodged in your memory of the film as the most significant parts, the closest the film gets to unraveling its own knotted mystery. In a few seconds, Jeffrey will come over to Sandys side and kiss her gently on the lips, and she will let him, and you wondered and still wonder how much of Jeffreys seduction is calculated to keep Sandy on his side, or to remind himself that although he and Frank in fact share certain desires he is fundamentally different because he has Sandy. Is she just balance for Jeffrey? Is she just an anchor for him, securing him to the moral code bedrock so that he doesnt drift too far away? There is a hint of desperation and uncertainty in Jeffreys face in this shot at second #3901, a hint of weakness, as if the film itself at this very moment could have gone in an entirely different direction, perhaps one in which we learn something about Sandy beyond what we know of her, which is practically nothing. But thats not entirely true: earlier, in the dream-of-robins scene, she espoused a philosophy (until the robins come there is trouble) thats both adolescent and profound. Sandy seems already to have crossed to the other side of darkness (is it because her fathers a detective, and shes heard things, perhaps terrible things?) and is waiting there for Jeffrey. Although it appears in this shot that only a few feet of space separates them, in truth they are so distant from each other its remarkable they can see each other at all. 84 / Second #3948, 65:48 Can a photograph be lonely? is a question asked in Don DeLillos novel Libra. Another version of the question might go, Can a photograph make a person lonely? How about a movie frame? How deep can loneliness get, at 24 frames per second? What follows, below, is a visual descent into loneliness, just under two seconds in movie time. It happens so quickly in movies, moments like this. We remember them not frame-byframe, but decompressed, stretching out and out, a kiss that lasts forever. A kiss that, in our memory, takes up more film time than it actually does, as if we dont want to let go of it, as if we want this kiss and the fragile moments that lead up to it to last and to survive beyond reason. Is it really possible that a few moments of a movielike these momentscan somehow alter the course of a persons life? Give hope just when we needed hope? Can a kiss between actors on a screen mean something more than a mere kiss between actors on a screen? How is it possible that we are still moved, even though we know that its just a movie? So here it is: 41 sequential frames leading up to a kiss. Just under two seconds of screen time, slowed down into a vertical flip book.

85 / Second #3995, 66:35 1. Jeffrey, just after the kiss with Sandy, is on his way up the dark, industrially-vibed staircase to Dorothys apartment. He has had his chaste kiss; new he wants more. He is hungry for Dorothy, who dispenses with shy-girl playfulness and gives Jeffrey the Real Thing. 2. The blackness of the frame. The amount of screen space dedicated to the experience of no visible light. There is light, of coursejust enoughbut Jeffrey travels in these moments mostly through the dark. 3. In He Died with His Eyes Open, the first of Derek Raymonds British crime noir Factory series novels, the unnamed Detective Sergeant has a terrible dream that remotely echoes Jonathan Edwardss famous 1741 sermon Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. He is prone to such dreams, which seem somehow to clear the way for him to face the brutalities of the waking world:

I dreamed that far below me, under the walls of a ruined fortress, there was a field faded brown by drought with rocks lying in it. I was abroad somewheresomewhere that smelledand sitting on a terrace that I suddenly found was made of rotten canvas. My legs dangled over the edge and my feet were so far from the ground that my soles tingled. . . . Then the whole structure yawed, swayed and fell devastatingly away; I screamed as I feel toward the field with the rocks in it. 4. The steel and concrete passageway that Jeffrey takes to Dorothys apartment is one of the recurring spaces in the film where he is truly alone. A sanctuary, of sorts. A place for him to think. 5. The blackness, also, in the frames of Lynchs short film from 1968, The Alphabet.

The letters appear, individually, as free-floating signifiers, in the dark, out of reach of The Girl (Lynchs then-wife Peggy). In her own way, The Girl is also a detective, trying to solve some existential problem that has to do with language. The real horror in the frame may be not that The Girl is trying the grasp the letter M, but that she is trying to keep it away. Both meanings are possible. In Blue Velvet, the terrible truth that Jeffrey seeks is also just out of reach, and also just close enough to destroy him. 86 / Second #4042, 67:22 In a 1964 interview Orson Welles talked about the relationship between the visual and the spoken word in film. He said that

I couldnt arrive at [the visual] without the solidity of the word taken as a basic for constructing the images. What happens is that when the visual components are shot the words are obscured. The most classical example is Lady from Shanghai. The scene in the aquarium was so gripping visually that no one heard what was being said. And what was said was, for all that, the marrow of the film.

Could Lady from Shanghai have been a silent film? Could Blue Velvet? This swirl of Hayworths. Dorothy in her own aquarium, the walls of her apartment painted-over glass, as The Yellow Man and Frank and the other sharks swim outside. She meets Jeffrey, who in cinematic time has just kissed Sandy. Come to my bedroom, she will say. Jeffrey trails darkness behind himbig, inky blocks of it. Its as if, at this moment, Dorothy and Jeffrey were photographed in front of an incomplete Francis Bacon painting, waiting for it to come alive. This frame at second #4042 is a trigger-hair away from becoming a moving painting, the kind that sweeps you into its silent, hinted-at narrative that shifts with a sort of immaculate precision between depictions of innocence and experience. In his State of the Union speech delivered the year Blue Velvet was released, Ronald Reagan said that Americans are striving forward to embrace the future. We see it not only in our recovery but in three straight years of falling crime rates, as families and communities band together to fight pornography, drugs, and lawlessness and to give back to their children the safe and, yes, innocent childhood they deserve. Was Reagan the first and only president to use the words pornography and innocent in the same sentence? Perhaps. As an actor, maybe Reagan could have identified with Kyle MacLachlans performance on the screen, a performance whose achievement lies in

letting go of this terrible secret: that innocence only has meaning in relation to its opposite. 87 / Second #4089, 68:09 1. Dorothy to Jeffrey: Do you want to do bad things? / Anything . . . anything. / I want you to hurt me. 2. Ralph Waldo Emerson, from Experience (1844): It is very unhappy, but too late to be helped, the discovery we have made that we exist. . . . Ever afterwards we suspect our instruments. We have learned that we do not see directly, but mediately, and that we have no means of correcting these colored and distorting lenses which we are, or of computing the amount of their errors. Perhaps these subject-lenses have a creative power; perhaps there are no objects. 3. Jeffrey, in Dorothys arms, is in some sort of zone, confined by the frame of the screen but unmapped nonetheless. He ventures, but where to? Dorothy calls to him, beckons him, from some other place, which grows more distant the closer he gets to it. Dorothy: she is someones daughter. 4. Emily Dickinson, from her first (of three) letters to someone called Master, Spring 1858: I wish that I were great, like Mr Michael Angelo, and could paint for you. You ask me what my Flowers saidthen they were disobedient-I gave them messages5. Robert Coover, from Stepmother (2004): She is led now, blind and naked, toward the nothingness to come, able to stagger along on her own only because a friendly soul has tipped a cruet of laudanum down her throat. 6. Julia Kristeva, from The Severed Head: Capital Visions (2012): Suffering is not the most human of experiences, as Dostoyevsky believed, nor the most animal because hardest to master, as Georges Bataille would have it. Between judgments vigilance and cellular immersion, the dark underside of pleasure, there exists a transition.

7. Dorothy has suffered. She is Freuds masochist (It can often be shown that masochism is nothing more than an extension of sadism turned round upon the subjects own self, he wrote in 1905 in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality) but also something beyond that. In fact, she recedes from Jeffrey the closer he gets. Even if he wanted to hurt her (to make her feel, to wake her from her nightmare) he couldnt. 88 / Second #4136, 68:56 After Jeffrey strikes Dorothy, a roar of flames fills the frame. The barely repressed brute logic of the film finally explodes on the screen, as Jeffrey has, at last, become a surrogate Frank. Whats remarkable about the scene is how its fashioned from some pretty regressive clichs about abuse, especially in how Dorothy literally asks for it. On one level, Blue Velvets depiction of women is deformed in the worst possible ways, as it balances Sandy as the objectified virginal good girl, full of nurturing love, and Dorothy as the madwoman whore. Theres nothing in between, and both Sandy and Dorothy exist solely to satisfy Jeffreys desires and fantasies. In our post-post-everything era, its difficult to parse out the films moral quagmires. For one thing, Blue Velvettells the story of a handful of specific characters and to draw conclusions about what it (or any story) says about women, or sex, or power is ultimately a reductive exercise. And yet, to deny the moral dimensions of Blue Velvetor of any art formis to deny the films real, materialist grounding in the moments of its historical creation. As with all memorable creations, its not just the story itself that anchors the film in our minds, but the way the story is told. And in this frame of flames, with its roaring sound, Lynch has mainlined us directly into hell. 89 / Second #4183, 69:43 In a passage from his 1952 essay In Defense of Mixed Cinema, Andr Bazin seems to predict the future, a future of watching movies in an age of interruptions and distractions. Bazin writes about watching Les Vampires (Louise Feuillade, 1915) during a night full of technical mishaps: That night only one of the two projectors was working. In addition, the print had no subtitles and I imagine that Feuillade would have had difficulty in trying to recognize the murderers. It was even money as to which were the good guys and which the bad. So difficult was it to tell who was which that the apparent villains of one reel turned out to be the victims in the next. The fact that the lights were turned on ever ten minutes to change reels seemed to multiply the episodes. . . . Every interruption evoked an ah of disappointment and every fresh start a sigh of hope for a solution. And yet, there is a charm and humor to this, and perhaps something more: a sense of release. Release from the tyranny of meaning imposed by the very conditions of watching a film in silence in the dark under a spell false reverence. Blue Velvet, extended beyond all reason over the period of one year, though still the same movie, is now experienced

through chance. And yet perhaps chance is an inescapable (subversive) part of seeing movies in the first place. So much, after all, is dependent on our state of mind as were watching, the conditions of our surroundings, our predisposition toward the film itself, our feelings about those around us. And so here we are, at frame number 4183, as Dorothy has just snatched from Jeffreys hand her son Donnys propeller hat, a hat which, at the end of the movie, will signify so much happiness for Dorothy. And it just so happens that the trailer for Blue Velvet uses a few seconds of footage from this scene, taken from just moments before the frame in question:

You arrive on a page with two images, taken from the same film, separated by nothing more than a few inches on the screen. And yet they couldnt be more distant. 90 / Second #4230, 70:30 In Roberto Bolaos short story Days of 1978 (from the collection Last Evenings on Earth) one of the characters, upon hearing the voice of another character, suddenly and frightfully develops an unsettling and inexplicable image in his mind: It [the voice] conjures up a silent black-and-white film in which, all of a sudden, the characters start shouting incomprehensibly at the top of their voices, while a red line appears in the middle of the screen and begins to widen and spread. What to make of this? Its nightmarish, but why? Perhaps its because whats described is difficult to visualize: a line appears in the middle of the screen. Is it a vertical or horizontal line? Lets imagine that the line is vertical, and that it divides two characters on the screen, and that as the line widens and spreads, it pushes the characters apart from each other. It divides them, these characters (who happen to appear in color, and not black-and-white). I know the difference between right and wrong, one of them says. In fact, it is the woman who says this, and in speaking these words she introduces yet another division, that between right and wrong, good and evil.

The male character has sensed all along that this red line was coming, and worse yet he knows what lies outside the door, in the hallway. In Death 24x a Second, Laura Mulvey writes that the aesthetics of delay revolve around the process of stilling the film but also repetition, the return to certain moments or sequences, as well as slowing down the illusion of natural movement. And if we find ourselves here, at second #4230, we see that, of course, there is no widening red line, and that the framecapturing the moment just before Jeffrey goes out into the hallway, only to be confronted by Frank and his gangis pure Lynch. There is no Bolao here. (Although, collected in Between Parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003, Bolao notes that, with his friend Rodrigo Fresn, he talked about many things, including David Lynch and the prolixity of David Foster Wallace.) So maybe Bolao is there after all and, by way of a single line in an obscure short story, carves out yet another haunted image in your imagination. That image is simple, yet terrifying: a red line that you project, now, onto second #4230. 91 / Second #4277, 71:17 1. This is the first time that Frank, Dorothy, and Jeffrey appear together in the same frame. 2. Oh, youre from the neighborhood, Frank says. Youre a neighbor. Well whats your name neighbor? 3. The ratings for Mister Rogers Neighborhood peaked in 1985, the year before Blue Velvet was released. 4. Its not only Franks eyes that terrify, but his voice, tinged with sarcasm, delivered in Dennis Hoppers flat, Midwestern accent. And then, buried in the soundtrack, theres a low, faint rumbling, like the sound of thunder arriving from hundreds of miles away, having crossed vast, empty fields. 5. John Belton, from his essay Technology and Aesthetics of Film Sound: What the sound track seeks to duplicate is the sound of an image, not that of the world. The evolution of sound technology and, again, that of studio recording, editing, and mixing practice illustrate, to some degree, the quest for a sound track that captures an idealized reality, a world carefully filtered to eliminate sounds that fall outside of understanding or significance; every sound must signify. 6. Its as if the three of them are standing around a soft light, emanating from the floor. 7. Life is made of slowly composed horrors. From the novel How the Dead Live, by Derek Raymond.

8. Moments after the this frame, Raymond (Brad Dourif, who played Billy Bibbit in One Few Over the Cuckoos Nest) is summoned by Frank to stand watch at Dorothys apartment door as she retrieves her robe to go to Bens. 9. In 1971, Andy Warhol made this portrait Dennis Hopper, his face shaded with blue:

10. Frank constitutes the frame. His presence disrupts the concept of the vanishing point, as he deforms perspective so that all lines of sight tend toward him. 11. The ending of Louise Glcks poem Witchgrass suggests a totalitarian vision that may as well be Franks: I was not meant to last forever in the real world. But why admit that, when you can go on doing what you always do, mourning and laying blame, always the two together. I dont need your praise to survive. I was here first, before you were here, before you ever planted a garden.

And Ill be here when only the sun and moon are left, and the sea, and the wide field. I will constitute the field. 92 / Second #4324, 72:04 Franks 1968 Dodge Charger with pop-up headlamps, stretching the screen horizontally as far as it will go. There are three in the front of the car, and three in the back including Jeffrey, who is riding bitch. They are tearing through the night, towards Bens, where, in an act of dark magic, Frank will literally disappear from the screen. But before that, theres the journey that begins with a cut that takes us from the hallway of Dorothys apartment to the frame above, at second #4324. The shot breakdown over the next roughly 30 seconds proceeds like this: * shot of Charger grill and headlamps / 3 seconds * Charger tearing down empty main street / 4 seconds * close-up of Jeffrey, in back seat / 2 seconds * Jeffreys pov, looking outside car / 2 seconds * close-up of Jeffrey / 3 seconds * medium shot of characters in front seat / 2 seconds * medium shot of characters in back seat / 3 seconds * close-up of Frank / 2 seconds Sergei Eisenstein, from his 1929 essay The Filmic Fourth Dimension, commented on how the combination of filmic sound and image creates something that transcends both sound and image (italics are Eisensteins): And yet we cannot reduce aural and visual perceptions to a common denominator. They are values of different dimensions. But the visual overtone and the sound overtone are values of a singly measuredsubstance. Because, if the frame is a visual perception, and the tone is an aural perception, visual as well as aural overtones are a totally physiological sensation. And, consequently, they are of one and the same kind, outside the sound or aural categories that serve as guides, conductors to its achievements. For the musical overtone (a throb) it is not strictly fitting to say: I hear. Nor for the visual overtone: I see.

For both, a new uniform formula must enter our vocabulary: I feel. The carefully modulated shot sequence in the Chargereach one lasting approximately 2-3 secondscreates a sense of well-ordered dread thats fueled by the underlying roar of the car, as if they all are riding the Devils back. They are, as Jeffrey realizes too late, going straight to hell. Which is to say: they are going to Bens place. 93 / Second #4371, 72:51 As they speed towards Bens, Franks police radio suddenly bursts forth with sound and Hunterin the passengers seatpicks it up excitedly and says, like a lunatic with a swamp accent, Po-lice call! Po-lice call! until Frank snatches the radio from him. Its perhaps the most slapstick part of the movie, and for a moment theres the possibility that Frank and his crew are too incompetent to hurt Jeffrey. This is the second time that Frank has uncoiled so quickly (the first happened when he suddenly grabbed Jeffrey in the hallway of Dorothys apartment) and within a split second the screen explodes with movement. Here are the twelve frames following the one at the top of this page, comprising less than half a second of screen time:

In Cinema 2: The Time-Image (1985), Gilles Deleuze wrote: There is no present which is not haunted by a past and a future, by a past which is not reducible to a former present, by a future which does not consist of a present to come. Simple succession affects the presents which pass, but each present coexists with a past and a future without which it would not itself pass on. It is characteristic of cinema to seize this past and this future that coexist within the present image Each frame of Franks movement in this scene (a movement that obscures Dorothys face and erases her from the frames) expresses a truth that applies to all film frames. (And yet are there really frames in digital cinema?) Each one possesses a knowledge, a history, of what frames have come before it and what frames shall follow it. The film frame knows something that we dont, and this secret knowledge is analogous to our sense that what we are watching is just a film but also a record, a transcription, of reality. Deleuzes suggestion that it is characteristic of cinema to seize this past and this future that coexist within the present image reflects our own awareness that, in a film like Blue Velvet, the fictional and the real have collapsed into the very same thing. 94 / Second #4418, 73:38 At Bens, at last. The woman, the doll, and the painting above themframed by the green (velvet?) curtainstelegraph Franks entrance. They are a tightly composed grouping in an open frame, whose curtains anticipate the vaudeville show which is about to unfold, complete with Bens lip-synched performance of In Dreams, some stock violence, and a running gag that features Jeffrey as the butt of a joke he does not understand. Bens apartment is an anarchy of crossed signals and mental jump cuts. The year after Blue Velvets release, Robert Coovers story collection A Night at the Movies, or, You Must Remember This was published. It includes a story, Lap Dissolves, that uses the idea of cinematic transitions as an organizing principle at the sentence level, and begins:

She clings to the edge of the cliff, her feet kicking in the wind, the earth breaking away beneath her fingertips. There is a faint roar, as of crashing waves, far below. He struggles against his bonds, chewing at the ropes, throwing himself against the cabin door. She screams as the cliff edge crumbles, a scream swept away by the rushing wind. At last the door splinters and he smashes through, tumbling forward in his bonds, rolling and pitching toward the edge of the cliff. Her hand disappears, then reappears, snatching desperately for a fresh purchase. He staggers to his knees, his feet, plunges ahead, the ropes slipping away like a discarded newspaper as he hails the approaching bus. She lets go, takes the empty seat. Their eyes meet. There is a continuity of place in Bens apartment, but not a continuity of psyche. The tone shape-shifts between horror and menace and the absurd, as if Bens place was not of the external world at all, but rather a projection of Franks mind. If we are to speak of the perseverance of the image in the digital age (it is only necessary to copy those numbers accurately . . . in order to produce a clone or perfect reproduction of the original, totally free of imperfections, Leo Enticknap notes in his book Moving Image Technology: From Zoetrope to Digital) then we must also anticipate the beautiful and humane imperfections we bring to the cleansed digital image. The frame at second number 4418 is perfectly reproducible digitally without any generation loss, and yet when we recall the image in our minds, it changes. Perhaps we remember it like this, the image a little rougher, a little brighter:

Over and against the totalitarian perfection of the digital image, we disintegrate. In our minds, the image can never be perfectly recalled. As Fred Madison says in Lost Highway, I like to remember things my own way. . . . How I remembered them. Not necessarily the way they happened. 95 / Second #4465, 74:25 1. Dorothy and Frank split their angles of vision; everyone is watching everyone. But it is Dorothy who suggests and defines the off-screen space, the space where Donny is kept behind a closed door. 2. Ben has just said, to one of the Party Girls, Darling, could you bring some glasses, and well have a beer with Frank. Please, sit down. 3. Bens quiet formalism is not at all ironic. Rather, his decorum (which Frank calls suave) suggests that there is a proper and an improper way to conduct matters of evil in this world, and his way is proper. Glasses shall be provided. Beer shall be poured. 4. In the Hungarian writer Lszl Krasznahorkais novel Satantango (1985; translated in 2012), a character fascinated with magazine photo spreads on the wars in Asia becomes absorbed by one photograph in particular, an aerial shot, that greatly appealed to him: an enormous, ragged procession winding over a desertlike terrain leaving behind them the ruins of an embattled town billowing smoke and flames, while ahead, waiting for them, there was only a large, spreading dark area like an admonitory blot. And what made the photograph particularly worthy of note was the equipment appropriate to a military observation post thatredundant at first sightwas just about visible in the bottom left-hand corner. He felt the picture was important enough to deserve close attention because it demonstrated with great confidence, in real depth, the all but heroic history of a perfectly conducted piece of research focused on essentials, research in which observer and observed were at an optimal distance from each other and where minuteness of observation was given particular emphasis, to the extent that he often imagined himself behind the lens, waiting for the precise moment when he might press the button on the camera with utmost certainty. . . . Every time he looked at it [the picture] he lived in hope of discovering something he hadnt yet noticed. 5. The moving image, stilled, offers the thrill of exploration and the hope of discovery. But discovery of what? Like the character in Satantango, perhaps it is nothing more than an unnoticed detail, a detail that derails the ruthless accumulated meanings of the film and which in fact undermines the entire enterprise of interpretation. Franks fingers, perhaps, on Dorothys right shoulder, a gesture of control masked as affection, a detail so insignificant that it just so happens to tell us everything we need to know about Frank.

96 / Second #4512, 75:12 Dean Stockwell has said that he based his character Ben on a Carol Burnett sketch: You know that thing that I do with my eyes? Carol Burnett had a character of this super snooty woman and she was always like this. I stole it and I told her one time and she laughed her head off when I told her. And in an alternate-universe sort of way, this entire sequence at Bens is like one of the extended Carol Burnett Show sketches from the mind 1970s, with Harvey Korman and Tim Conway. The awkward pauses, the physical comedy violence, the feeling of improvisation. (In Rabbits [2002] Lynch added a laugh track to a similarly high voltage scenario, and when, at the 2:40 mark, Jack the male rabbit enters the apartment, the audience laughter and applause is reminiscent of any sitcomCarol Burnett or otherwisewhere a favorite character, such as Tim Conway or Harvey Korman, steps into the frame. Bens earlier lineFranks herealmost calls out for applause.)

At the moment of this frame, at second number 4512, Frank has just remembered that the glasses have not yet been brought over for the beer. Wheres the glasses? he shouts. The beers gonna get warm. One thing I cant fuckin stand is warm beerit makes me fuckin puke! Bens demeanor during this tirade is calm, patient, and perhaps even bored, as if hes thinking, This is typical Frank; Ive seen and heard this before. And of course we are not really looking at Bens face, but Dean Stockwells, which carries a range of associations going back to his work as a child actor in the post-war era. In his book The World in a Frame, Leo Braudy writes that films add what is impossible in the group situation of the stage or the omniscient world of the novel: a sense of the mystery inside character, the strange core of connection with the face and body the audience comes to know so well, the sense of an individuality that can never be totally expressed in words or action.

What Braudy seems to be getting at here is the double identity projected by actors who are known to audiences from previous roles in other movies. With some namesMarlon Brando, Faye Dunaway, Dean Stockwell (perhaps)the force of who they were as X in X movie precedes them, creating layers of meaning and expectation around their characters, an aura or spell that can only be broken if their performance in the film at hand shatters all the expectations about them that we ourselves bring to the screen. Second #4559, 75:59 Could it be that Dorothy is gazing not at Frank, but at Ben, the one who holds her son hostage in his apartment? If so, its not a meaning that registers upon watching the movie in real time. But at this momentthe moment of the isolated framea different layer of information is revealed. Separated from the frames that come immediately before and after it, does the solitary frame mean something different when studied as an image in its own right? Is a single film frame from a movie with over 170,000 frames the equivalent to a single word in a novel? A single letter? A single sentence? The frame captures a moment just after these lines have been spoken: FRANK: Lets drink to fucking. Lets say, heres to your fuck, Frank. BEN: If you like, Frank. (pause) Heres to your fuck. Cheers. How much context would it possibly take to make sense of those lines? Or to make sense of Dorothys piercing gaze, at this very moment? Who speaks for Dorothy, other than Dorothy? She has no allies except for Jeffrey, who stands a mute witness to her suffering. Christian Hawkeys poem Up Here in the Rafters Everything is Clear (from The Book of Funnels) begins like this: Night, night was a quick-thrash from the gator-pond, the silence, just after, widened out in rings, even the fire ants in the dry grass held still. Hold still said the branch, lifting in the absence of an owl, hold still. And perhaps, after all, thats it. Not presence, but absence. The draining out of meaning from frame #4559, not the putting in. The heroic, delusional effort to pull the plug on the whole machine and, after tens of thousands of years of advancing civilization, to simply drink to . . . 98 / Second #4606, 76:46 Frank has just hurt Jeffrey, and now its Bens turn. A casual sort of hurtfulness. The frame comes from second number 6 in a shot that lasts just over 53 seconds. In the background, staring back at the camera (at us) is the same Party Girl from earlier. The

frame, cut vertically by the curtain and Dorothys right arm, is pulled apart by a clash of gazes and lines of vision: Dorothys and Franks leading our eyes toward Ben, and Bens and Hunters leading our eyes towards off-screen Jeffrey. In Barry Giffords 1990 novel Wild at Heart (directed by Lynch that same year), Sailor and Lula stay at The Host of the Old South Hotel: The room was small but cheap, sixteen dollars. The plaster on the walls and ceiling was cracked and there was an ancient Motorola TV with rabbit ears hulking in a corner. There was a card table with four plastic glasses and a pink ceramic pitcher on it. In another corner was a decrepit brown bureau and in the middle of the room was an enormous bed with a chipped black headboard. Giffords prose is textured like burlap. A rug burn of words. The same sort of feeling is achieved at second number 4606, as if you could rub your fingers across the screen and actually feel the world on the other side. If mise-en-scne is the totality of the frame, and the composition of space within it, then this frame uses its space to convey one layer of Blue Velvets meaning: the potential lethality of being looked at. The crisscrossing gazes dissect the screen space in an epic, zigzagging stare down. The depth and warmth of the image in Blue Velvet was an artifact of its time, a sort of cinematic sonic boom in the Reagan era. Lynchs Crazy Clown Time video, from which the images below are taken, offers a different sort of boom. Its flat, depthless images appear and disappear so quickly and are so crammed with information that you feel as if youre watching a secret channel on one of Barry Giffords TV sets. And thenback to Blue VelvetBen is just about to lip sync to Roy Orbisons In Dreams, whose first, half-spoken lines are A candy-colored clown they call the sandman. The original Crazy Clown.

99 / Second #4653, 77:33 The sidebar exchange between Frank and Ben, and an exchange of money, too, and a mysterious slip of paper. Ben drops a pill into Franks mouth. Frank, in return, says something cryptic about Detective Gordon (Fred Pickler). Another frame-within-a-frame, as the doorframe moldings serve as movie screen curtains. In his essay Theater and Cinema, Part II, Andr Bazin wrote that a screen is not a frame like that of a picture but a mask which allows only part of the action to be seen. When a character moves off screen, we accept the fact that he is out of sight, but he continues to exist in his own capacity at some other place in the dcor which is hidden from us. There are no [theater] wings to the screen. There could not be without destroying its very specific illusion, which is to make of a revolver or of a face the very center of the universe. At second #4653, the center of the universe of the frameand the moment of frozen actionis the exchange of money between Ben and Frank. This is one of the relatively quiet, calm reprieves in the sequence that takes place in Bens apartment, the sort of

wet-moss moment we are not as likely to remember as the famous In Dreams performance, which will begin within a few minutes. Jeffrey catches part of this exchange (there is an insert of a close-up of his face, listening) and, like Sandy, he hears bits and pieces. The sound of Blue Velvet in this scene: the hushed voices of secret doorway exchanges, the sound of paper money moving from one hand to another, the rattling of Franks In Dreams cassette tape, the swallowing of beer to wash down the pill that Ben drops into Franks mouth. These sounds accumulate and contribute as much to the psychological tension of Bens place as the physical environment. Three years before Blue Velvet, Dennis Hopper (looking as haunted as Jackson Browne from the same period) gave a television interview. In it, he spoke about the art of acting, and he has the mixture of fear and confidence as you might find in a cornered man who nonetheless knows where the lever to the secret escape hatch that will save him is located. From around the 3:00 to 4:00-minute mark, Hopper demonstrates a memory recall technique as an aid to acting that weirdly corresponds to the the scene in Mulholland Drive where Betty (Naomi Watts) auditions for a role in such a supercharged, soul-moving way that we forget she is only acting, just as Watts is only acting the part of Betty. 100 / Second #4700, 78:20 Donny! Donny! Donny, no! No! Donny mommy loves you! This is moments after Frank has said, in reference to Dorothy, Let Tits see her kid. The tenderness of her hand upon the door molding. A glimpse of a woman in pink in the room with Donny. What the real world is: that is a very difficult problem (Haruki Murakami, IQ84). The two lamps in the corner of the room. Who puts two lamps in the same space? Dorothys hand, again, the elegant length of her fingers, and the hands of the woman sitting beneath the light switches. Donnys home is not his home. Bens place is not a home, although its interior architecture is familiar. Donny is hidden in a home that is not his own. Freuds discussion of the uncanny initially focuses on two meanings of the German word heimlich. The first has various associations with the homely, the familiar; the second has associations with the secret, something that must be concealed and kept out of public sight. The two, while apparently unconnected in meaning, are connected by topography: the home encloses and thus gives comfort while the secret isenclosed and thus hidden. (Laura Mulvey, from Death 24x a Second) The pea-green leather couch, pushed too far in front of the door molding. The empty space of the frame pulling all thoughts to the rooms overlit corner. A thousand reasons for Dorothy to hate Frank. The soft-colored feel achieved by cinematographer Frederick Elmes to contrast with the horror of Dorothys reaction to seeing her son Donny. Dorothys thoughts, what are they? What atrocities has she seen, has she yet to see? I did not believe one word of it. I knew I had behaved exactly according to his desires; had he not bought me so that I should do so? I had been tricked into my own betrayal to

that illimitable darkness whose source I had been compelled to seek in his absence and, now that I had met that shadowed reality of his that came to life only in the presence of its own atrocities, I must pay the price of my new knowledge. (Angela Carter, from The Bloody Chamber) The film frame. A fraction of a second. Here, then, is the approximately one-second of film timein 24 consecutive framesfrom which the frame above is taken. Dorothys hand disappears in frame #20:

101 / Second #4747, 79:07 You, in one part of your brain, know that Ben is not really singing at this moment. But then, Roy Orbison is not singing, either. He is dead, although he was alive at the time of Blue Velvet (and credited the use of In Dreams in the film to helping revive his career). You know its lip-synched, and yet somehow its not. It cant be. If this seems like a contradiction, then consider that the entire scene is a special case of black magic, culminating in Franks literal disappearance from the screen in a few minutes in a radical edit. There is a stanza in Ben Lerners poem Mean Free Path (from the book of the same name) that goes like this: Applause: Speak plainly. Keep your hands On the table. Do not flee into procedure Do not wait for a surpassing disaster To look your brother in the eye and speak Of love. Make no mistake: the disjunction The disjunction stays. Do not hesitate To cut the most beautiful line in the name

Of form. The bread of words. Look for me At genres edge. Im going there on foot Those linesDo not hesitate / To cut the most beautiful line in the name / Of form may as well be the dark secret to Blue Velvet. There is something beautiful and terrifying and severe about Ben singing into the garage light, as his own, one-man garage band. From Bens voiceless throat, Orbisons words become an incantation as frightening as anything real or imagined in Nathaniel Hawthornes story Young Goodman Brown, as Brown and his wife, at a witchs ritual in the night forest hesitate on the verge of wickedness in this dark world. It becomes a moment so super-loaded with information that its binary code spills out of the screen. There are not enough zeros and ones to express its meaning. 102/ Second #4794, 79:54 The gap between Frank and Ben, and the more radical gap between the viewer and Blue Velvet. For whom does Ben sing? He begins by singing for Frank, but then he seems to lose himself in In Dreams, the same way that Dorothy loses herself in her rendition of Blue Velvet. Bens face at this moment registers a catastrophic loss, his secret loss, and in this frame hes more humanized than perhaps any character in the film. His eyes look away from Frank and into something even darker. In his book The Vital Illusion, Jean Baudrillard wrote: For nothing is identical to itself. We are never identical to ourselves, except, perhaps, in sleep and in death. Language itself never signifies what it means; it always signifies something else. . . . The probability, in this world, for a total adequation of the same to the same, is equal to zero. Fortunately. For that would be the Perfect Crimea crime that never happens. In relations between things there is always a hiatus, a distortion, a rift that precludes any reduction of the same to the same. What Baudrillard describes is pure physics: we are always imperceptibly separate from what we see and experience because light itself does not reach us instantaneously. In terms of faraway objects, this is easy to measure: the suns light takes a little over eight minutes to reach us. And the light from a relatively close starProxima Centauritakes approximately 4 years. So, as Baudrillard suggests, we are never entirely present in the world. There is always an infinitesimal lag time between it and us. We experience even what we call real time as the fractional past. In this frame, Bens unarticulated loss is perhaps more real to him than the impossibleto-perceive time gap between the light leaving the lamp he holds and the light touching his face. Nothing is identical to itself. This is perhaps more true of us, who watch

movies as spectator-versions of ourselves, than for the actors in the films. When we look at this frame, for instance, and witness Bens sorrow, who do we become, we who can open our hearts to such a monster? 103 / Second #4841, 80:41 1. The spell is broken. Frank has shut off the song. Ben seems insulted, and punishes Frank with silence. Dorothy refuses to smile. A joy ride is suggested. Pauls (Jack Nances) shadow offers evidence of a hidden light. There is also a folded newspaper or magazine in his jacket pocket. 2. In October 1986, the month after Blue Velvets release, Ronald Regan delivered a speech at the Republican Governors Association Dinner. He used the word revolution numerous times, and spoke of permanently alteringthe balance of power: But if I could, tonight, Id like to take a moment or two to consider the theme taken up by this years RGA idea book: the second stage of the revolution. Of course, first we need to be as clear as we can about just what it is thats taken place in the first stage of the revolution. There are the many changes weve been able to effect in policy themselves tremendously important changes like the lower tax rates and the more limited role of the Federal Government that have led to some 46 months now of economic growth and to the creation of more than 11 1/2 million new jobs, and changes like the rebuilding of our national defenses and the firm reassertion of Americas world role on behalf of human freedom. . . . Even though this change is already underway, most of stage one of our revolution has taken place here in Washington, as weve continued to limit the scope of the Federal Government. Now its time for resources, initiatives, and public attention to shift back to the States still more definitely, still more dramatically in other words, to alter the balance of power permanently in favor of levels of government that are closer to the people. This is stage two of our revolution. . . . Now, this year we have an historic chance to win back a majority of statehouses for the first time since 1968, to carry the revolution more decisively out of Washington and into the country. 3. In a 1985 interview, David Lynch said: If Dune becomes a success, Ill shoot the sequel. Ive also written two screenplays, and Id love to film one of them in the near future. The first one is a thriller called Blue Velvet, the other one is a strange comedy entitled Ronnie Rocket. 4. Ben has not yet switched off his lamp microphone. At least four of the characters are looking at Dorothy. Frank holds the audio cassette with In Dreams in his right hand. The woman in the painting on the wall in the space between Dorothy and Ben constitutes

the seventh character in the frame. Everyone is standing still. Frank is about to say the words that will empty him from the screen in a radical cut, that will alter the balance of power, that will shift the Blue Velvet into magic realism for a split second, throwing into turmoil the realism of the film. 104 / Second #4888, 81:28 The red, terrifying beauty of the bridge truss as Frank and his gang take Dorothy and Jeffrey on a joy ride out to the fuckin country. These shots of the truss underside, bathed in light that may as well emanate from hell, are a sort of reverse-universe visual analogy of the earlier nighttime shots of the underside of trees as Jeffrey walks down his street. In Robert Bolaos novel 2666, in the section The Part about the Critics, each of the three main characters has a different and disturbing dream on the same night: Espinoza dreamed about the painting of the desert. In the dream Espinoza sat up in bed, and from there, as if watching TV on a screen more than five feet square, he could see the still bright desert, such a solar yellow it hurt his eyes, and the figures on horseback, whose movementsthe movements of horses and riderswere barely perceptible, as if they were living in a different world from ours, where speed was different, a kind of speed that looked to Espinoza like slowness, although he knew it was only the slowness that kept whoever was watching the painting from losing his mind. There is a palpable sense of evil to the image here at second #4888. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that the shot presents a point of view thats unavailable to any of the characters. This is an unusual thing, this thing that film can do with perspective. In literature, even third-person narration (which is roughly analogous to the narrative prism of most films, with notable exceptions such as Lady in the Lake [1947], The Blair Witch Project [1999], most of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly [2007] and others) often sets the scene from the general, if not literal, perspective of a specific character. Cinema, however, can jar us with a sudden break in narrative mode, which happens in this fleeting, two-second shot of the bridge truss, and which suddenly breaks the spell of the perspective in the car and in the previous sequence at Bens, which if not from Jeffreys literal point of view nonetheless captures the basics of what he sees and hears. But in the bridge shot, we are suddenly outside all the characters point of view. Its the sort of small but jarring shift that contributes to the disorienting violence of Blue Velvet where the characters, as Bolao might say, were living in a different world from ours, speeding through the night in a black car with after-shock images of hell not below them but above them, in the blurred, abstract, red violence of that bridge truss.

105 / Second #4935, 82:15 1. The car has come to a halt. Jeffreys crime has been to look at Frank, just as we also have been looking at the film itself. 2. I shoot when I see the whites of the eyes, Frank says at this moment, almost directing his stare at us, but not quite. This is either the statement of a psychopath or of a film director. 3. In Don DeLillos 1997 novel Underworld, there are these sentences: There is no space or time out here, or in here, or wherever she is. There are only connections. Everything is connected. All human knowledge gathered and linked, hyperlinked, this site leading to that, this fact referenced to that, a keystroke, a mouseclick, a passwordworld without end, amen. But she is in cyberspace, not heaven, and she feels the grip of systems. This is why shes so uneasy. There is a presence here, a thing implied, something vast and bright. She senses the paranoia of the web, the net. 4. Blue Velvet on the Web, in frozen frames that course through the information system as a fraction of the blood of the thing. 5. Dorothyout here, or in here, or wherever she isher face turned away from us. 6. The cars implied dome light giving sculptural depth and shadow to Franks face. 7. And finally: the sliver of light on the dashboard between Frank and Dorothy. Is this small object the In Dreams cassette tape from earlier, the equivalent of the blue key in Mulholland Drive? A small, fractured piece of horror, the brightest, most glowing object in the frame. 106 / Second #4982, 83:02 This frame comes from perhaps the most difficult scene to watchwithout flinching or looking awayin Blue Velvet. Frank, getting warmed up for his violent gender-bending abuse of Jeffrey, assaults what is beneath Dorothys robe. The viewer is trapped in the backseat with Jeffrey, sutured into his point of view. Jeffrey, who is unable to decipher the meaning of Frank. On one level, Blue Velvet is a post-apocalyptic film, where what has been destroyed is not just buildings but meaning itself. In Brian Evensons new novel Immobility, the main charactera paralyzed-from-the-waste-down man named Horkaiconsiders the devastated landscape as he is being carried to a destination he does not know:

An old rest area, rusty metal rail still in place, the building itself having fallen off its foundations to spill into the parking lot. A sudden unbroken run of telephone poles, most snapped off partway down but a few still relatively intact. And then a few more houses, these almost unpleasantly big, at least if their rubble was any indication. Perhaps condos rather than individual houses, impossible now to say. A triangular sign with the silhouette of an animala deer, perhapscrudely painted on it. If we look at Blue Velvet slightly askance, and tune into its low frequencies, we can detect the contours of a different genre, a sort of apocalyptic retro-futurism. The apartment buildings and warehouses devoid of residents except for Dorothy and Frank. The odd feeling that the film is not set in any specific historical moment. Franks radical disappearing act at Bens apartment. The impossibility of Sandy. Her father, Detective Williams, dressed in his work outfitgun holster and allat night at home when hes offduty. The mechanical robin at the films end (echoed, perhaps, in Haruki Murakamis The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, published roughly a decade after Blue Velvet). But in this frame, it all comes down to Franks face, his set-jaw determinism. Although his profile is illuminated it may as well be a void, an absence. At this moment, more than any other, he is the black hole at the core of the film, evacuating all love, all tenderness from the frame. 107 / Second #5029, 83:49 Now its dark, Frank has said previously, like some incantation, and now it really is dark. Jeffrey, his back to the camera, is practically swallowed up alive by the blackness, as Frank inhales whatever it is that unleashes his id. There is a flashlight, the dome light of the Charger, and the very small light in the distance that give shape and depth of space to the frame. For the psychoanalyst and philosopher Jacques Lacan the coherent, unified self is an illusion, a fragile thing constructed gradually during an infants Mirror Stage, a stage when the ego or the I develops: This illusion of unity, in which a human being is always looking forward to self-mastery, entails a constant danger of sliding back again into the chaos from which he started; it hangs over the abyss of a dizzy Assent in which one can perhaps see the very essence of Anxiety. Frank is the id loosed upon the world, his desires uncontrolled by any sort of ego mastery. His rage seems incoherent and secretly coded. And yet Blue Velvet itself is a controlled work of art guided by a steady and sustained vision. Unlike, say, the Dogme 95 films, its depiction of moral chaos is not itself governed by tonal or stylistic chaos. The position of Blue Velvetthe territory it claimsis that of Order. The film is never with Frank aesthetically. Even this frame adopts the general perspective of Jeffrey,

the perspective of someone who is in danger of sliding back again into the chaos from which he started. But Blue Velvet never follows this path. Although the word surreal is often used to characterize it, the film operates fully within the realm of reason and order, a contradiction that produces a weird tension that makes Blue Velvet something even more disturbing than if it had adapted itself to the pre-ego chaos of Franks mind. In fact, only in Inland Empire does Lynch map the films aesthetics onto the faltering stream of consciousness mind of its protagonist, Nikki Grace (Laura Dern). But thats a story for another day. 108 / Second #5076, #84:36 The car has stopped. Jeffrey and Frank and his gang are outside. Dorothy is going nuts inside the car, pleading for Frank not to hurt Jeffrey. Franks orders In Dreams to be played. One of the women from Bens apartment whos come along for the ride, climbs on top of Franks black Charger and dances on the roof. In a few seconds, Frank will say to Jeffrey: Dont be a good neighbor to her [Dorothy]. Ill send you a love letter straight from my heart fucker! You know what a love letter is? Its a bullet from a fuckin gun, fucker! You receive a love letter from me, youre fucked forever! But back to that woman swaying to Orbsion on the car top. Judged by Blue Velvets own tonal boundaries, this moment is a failure. It is a failure because it veers more severely into Camp than any scene that comes before or after it. Susan Sontags 1964 essay Notes on Camp is still the most supercharged articulation of the Camp sensibility: Camp is a vision of the world in terms of stylebut a particular kind of style. It is a love of the exaggerated, of the off, of things-being-what-they-are-not. and This is why so many of the objects prized by Camp taste are old-fashioned, out-of-date, dmod. Its not a love of the old as such. Its simply that the process of aging or deterioration provides the necessary detachment or arouses a necessary sympathy. When the theme is important, and contemporary, the failure of a work of art may make us indignant. Time can change that. Time liberates the work of art from moral relevance, delivering it over to the Camp sensibility. . . . Another effect: time contracts the sphere of banality. (Banality is, strictly speaking, always a category of the contemporary.) What was banal can, with the passage of time, become fantastic. In the frame at hand, two things happen that alter, temporarily, our relation to the movie. First, Orbisons song (from 1963) is used for a second time, weakening the spell

of power it cast over us the first time, in Bens apartment. In the first instance, the song bit us and punctured the flesh deeply. This time, it simply leaves scratch marks on us. It does not move us. Second, Blue Velvet is too eager to arouse in us a certain emotional response in this scene. The repeated Orbison song (which seemed to be something private and mysterious between Frank and Ben, after all, but which now seems to have become a signifier for any old psycho behavior), the woman dancing on the car, Franks smeared lipstick; all this conspires to make us react in a way that goes something like, wow, this is really weird and scary. Its true of course that Blue Velvet has been weird and scary many times before this, but always in ways that were ambiguous, leaving plenty of space for the viewer to puzzle-out its meanings in her own ways. At this moment, however, the film becomes forced and enters so deeply into the realm of Camp (a love of the exaggerated) that we feel as if we are actually being instructed on how to read the film. Which is to say: the terrors of Blue Velvet perhaps reside not in the terrible things it shows us, but rather in its fragile tone, a tone that suggests that whatever horrors are depicted on the screen, there is even something more horrible that cannot be depicted, because to depict it would strip it of its awful power. 109 / Second #5123, 85:23 Knife blade at his throat, Jeffrey is silent. Has he already decided that hell kill Frank? Something in his face has changed. He has the weary look of someone who knows how the game will end. In one of the first great books of modern film theory, The Aesthetics and Psychology of the Cinema (1963-65), Jean Mitry traced the gradual emergence of cinemas ability to use shots and camera movement not merely to convey narrative information but also to convey a point of view that implies some level of judgment about characters in question: Liberated from the need to be descriptive, shots [in the 1920s] became language. In a way, they became the filmmakers judgment of his characters. Thus analysis stole a march on narrative while reinforcing the cameras ability to be everywhere at once. In this sense, a film shot is never just a shot; it is always-already bundled with meaning that goes far beyond mere narrative description. In the frame at second #5123, the camera captures Jeffrey from slightly below eye level. In other words, from the level of Franks point of view, which does two things: it puts us in visual collusion with Frank, and it gives us a sense of Jeffreys judgment. For at this moment he is already beyond Frank and seems to be taking a sort of numbed interest in his tormenter. By this point, Blue Velvet has switched gears from detective story to survivalist story, Old Testament-like in its depiction of tribe (Frank and his gang) against tribe (Jeffrey and Dorothy and Detective Williams) and has entered so deeply into Franks nighttime world of madness.

And of course the knife at the throat . . . well, Frank (not Jeffrey) is the exterminator here, not of human beings but of ideas. For in Franks presence, there is no room for any thought other than Frank. Frank and the idea of Frank. For now, Jeffrey is enslaved to both. 110 / Second #5170, 86:12 In the spirit of the humor of the scene from which this frame is taken (and because its Friday) this is a post of a different stripe. Part of what constitutes Blue Velvets weird chemistry is its humor, the humor that lies at the end of despair and that arises out of a confrontation with the absurdity of evil. Frank is terrifying in this scenehaving just wiped some lipstick from Jeffreys face with that talismanic swatch of blue velvetbut also oddly funny. He is a monster, but also pathetic, and the aura of theatrical performance he has created for his assault on Jeffreythe make-up, the music, the dancing woman on the car topconspire to give the scene a sort of sad humor. In a few moments, Frank will begin slugging Jeffrey and the film will veer into even darker terrain. But for nowin this frameLynch has opened up a space for us to enjoy the absurdity of the moment. In this spirit of absurdity, here is footage of the screen grab capturing of second #5170. Around 36 seconds into the clip below, the audio switches to a snippet of movie dialog I recorded in a theater in 2010 from a film that one critic called shamelessly manipulative. 111 / Second 5217, 86:57 I wondered when, or if, this would happen: a Blue Velvet frame that depicts nothing. This comes from the time-space between the beating that leaves Jeffrey unconscious and waking up the next morning in the dirt. For around six seconds between these scenes, the screen is filled with a close-up of a candle flame holding its own against a roar of wind, only to be extinguished, followed by a black screen, from which this frame is taken. Jeffreys mind going black. Blank. The black screen, haunted with psychopaths and monsters. Of all of Blue Velvets uncharted associations, perhaps the most obscure is its relation to the dark, uncanny antebellum writings of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe,George Lippard, Robert Montgomery Bird, and Emily Dickinson. In fact, three mysterious letters that Dickinson wrotebut apparently never mailedto someone she referred to only as Master reverberate weirdly (and Im sure unintentionally) in Blue Velvet. Between 1858 and 1861 Dickinson drafted these letters, which actually could be poems in letter form, since Dickinson blurred the lines between these two modes. Speculation as to who these letters were intended for range from the Reverend Charles Wadsworth to the editor Samuel Bowles. Some have even speculated that the Master is none other than God, or Satan. The letters share the same dark current asBlue Velvet: domination, submission,

obedience, authority, mystery, andyesa bird that could well be a robin. In the letters, Dickinson refers to herself as Daisy. Here are some sample lines. The first letterfrom Spring 1858is reproduced below (beginning four lines from the bottom of the left hand page; click on image to enlarge) and is taken from The Master Letters of Emily Dickinson, edited by R.W. Franklin:

You ask me what my flowers said then they were disobedientI gave them messages And from letter #2, early 1861: Ohdid I offend it DaisyDaisyoffend itwho bends her smaller life to his meeker every day who only asksa task something to do for love of itsome little way she cannot guess to make that master glad A love so big it scares

Her, rushing among her small heartpushing aside the blood And Masteropen your life wide, and take me in forever, I will never be tired I will never be noisy when you want to be stillI will be your best little girl And finally, from letter #3, summer 1861: Master. If you saw a bullet hit a Birdand he told you he wasnt shotyou might weep at his courtesy, but you would certainly doubt his word One drop more from the gash that stains your Daisys bosomthen would you believe? A frame with no image, nothing to latch words onto. Open your life wide, and take me in forever. Might not thesein some parallel universebe Dorothys words to Jeffrey? 112 / Second #5264, 87:44 This shot comes at the beginning of a montage that unfolds in this sequence: 1. Jeffrey on bed, from which the frame at second #5264 is taken: 11 seconds 2. flashback to Dorothys face, close-up, hit me: 2 seconds 3. back to Jeffrey on bed: 8 seconds 4. flashback to Jeffrey hitting Dorothy: 2 seconds 5. back to Jeffrey on bed, crying, camera dollying in: 8 seconds

6. implied flashback; close-up of Donnys helicopter hat: 2 seconds 7. back to Jeffrey on bed, crying: 4 seconds 8. flashback to bedroom door in Bens apartment where Donny is held; no Donny, Mama loves you!: 3 seconds 9. back to Jeffrey on bed: 3 seconds 10. flashback to Jeffrey hitting Dorothy, harder: 2 seconds 11. back to Jeffrey crying, broken down: 13 seconds 12. black screen: 4 seconds The shot is disorienting: is Jeffrey in his childhood bedroom? Immediately after the black screen, he will emerge at the breakfast table, joining his Mom and Aunt Barbara. And yet earlier in the film he emerges from a door at the top of the stairs, goes down to where his Mom and Aunt are watching a film noir on television, and tells them he is going out. The implication is that hes coming downstairs from his bedroom, and yet this shot seems to be of a first-floor room judging from whats outside the window in this and subsequent shots. Ultimately, its a minor detail in a strictly narrative sense. We simply dont need to know precisely what room of the house Jeffrey is in; whats important is that we see his pain, his regret, his guilt, evidence that he is not simply a cold voyeur, but rather someone whose actions have revealed the repressed monster that dwells deep inside him. And yet, the unfamiliar room that we find Jeffrey in contributes to our own disorientation: where, precisely, are we? And that thing (a mouth?) hanging on the wall behind him . . . it made an appearance earlier, after Jeffrey awoke from nightmares following his first session with Dorothy:

Loaded with signals and crossed signals, the frame at second #5264 collapses in on itself, generating its own black hole where everything disappears, leaving behind only traces of meaning, fragments, like that screaming mouth on the wall. 113 / Second #5311, 88:31 1. This frame is from around twelve seconds into a thirteen-second shot, just before the screen goes black. Jeffrey sobs. The unflinching, unmoving camera eye does not look away. There is no soundtrack. There is nothing ironic or postmodern about this moment. 2. Paul Virilio, from his book Open Sky: If anyone thinks I paint too fast, they are watching me too fast, Van Gogh wrote. Already, the classic photograph is no more than a freeze frame. With the decline in volumes and in the expanse of landscapes, reality becomes sequential and cinematic unfolding finally gets the jump on whatever is static. 3. Rendered at a low frame rate (below) the shot in question suggests Jeffreys jagged brokenness. In order not towatch too fast maybe we ought to watch differently, deforming the film to correspond to its own portrayal of psychological torment and deformity. 4. David Lynch, from an interview with Chris Rodley:

So I had this idea, and thats when I did The Alphabet. It was four minutes long. Thats when my daughter Jennifer was born and I recorded her crying with a Uher tape recorder that was broken. I didnt know that it was broken, but the crying and everything I recorded with it was fantastic. 5. The fact of crying in the films of David Lynch, and in Twin Peaks. Laura Derns is the face that cries the most, anguished and beautiful. But Jeffrey cries, too. 6. The movie turns at this point, back to Sandy. Jeffrey has gone as deep into the black well as he can, and now he must journey back. But he cant come back and become the same man that he was before the journey. Something in him has already changed. A fuse has been blown. He went too deep. 114 / Second #5358, 89:18 When Blue Velvet is funny, it is very funny. This shot opens with Jeffreys mother and his Aunt Barbara (the late, great, Frances Bay) looking up from the breakfast table at something, aghast. However, in a sharp instance of delayed decoding, we dont see what they see for several seconds. For all we know, they could be looking in frozen horror at an intruder, or a monster (perhaps the entity behind the Winkies dumpster from Mulholland Drive), or something visible only to them. It is only at this moment that we see what they see: Jeffrey, whose bruised face shocks them. There is the recurrence of curtains used as a framing device; Jeffrey (like Ben) is about to enter the space between them, as if taking the stage. And there is the odd contraption just behind Aunt Barbara. But most of all there is the presence of Frances Bay who would appear again in several Lynch projects including Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me as Mrs. Tremond, who hands Laura a framed picture of a doorway, a doorway which she will enter in a dream. In Brian Evensons story Discrepancy, from Windeye, a woman becomes plagued by a temporal break resulting in an ever-increasing delay between her experiences and the sounds of those experiences: There was a day she noticed a discrepancy between sound and image on the television, and found no matter how she messed with the tracking she could not make it go away. . .. And now, she told him [a doctor she has sought out for help], it was not just television but other things as well. Like people. Even he, she told the doctors cousin, also a doctor, was off. She would see his lips move and then only a moment later did she hear his words. She has fallen out of time which is, in a sense, what movies like Blue Velvet do. They are echoes from the past on at least two levels: as a sort of documentary record of reality

and as a fictional representation of reality. The yellow teapot on the table, for instance, is just a prop, but once activated in the space of Blue Velvet it becomes a yellow teapot in a different reality. Once we see it on that kitchen table, it becomes fixed as a tiny piece of narrative. In Parallel Worlds, the theoretical physicist Michio Kaku summarizes the theory postulated by Niels Bohr, Einsteins contemporary and great foil, that reality behaves in a remarkably counter-intuitive way at the sub-atomic level: Before an observation is made, an object exists in all possible states simultaneously. To determine which state the object is in, we have to make an observation, which collapses the wave function, and the object goes into a definite state. The act of observation destroys the wave function, and the object now assumes a definite reality. In its own way, Blue Velvet is about the act of seeing (just follow the gazes of Jeffreys mother and aunt in this frame) and how that act actually changes things. In this frame, the comforting but also terrifying presence of Frances Bay constitutes a visual logic all her own, provided youve seen her before (after?) in Twin Peaks, season two, and Fire Walk With Me. In that case, the look on her face in this instant is not one of shock, but of horror. Which is to say: she recognizes, in Jeffrey, a monster. Second #5405, 90:05 Detective Gordon (aka The Yellow Man, or The Man in Yellow, played by Fred Pickler) sits at his desk at police headquarters, where Jeffrey has gone to see Detective Williams. He spots Gordon in his office and, startled that this is the same man hed seen earlier with Frank, takes a moment at a drinking fountain across from Gordons office to get a better look, which constitutes this shot. Gordon is a terrifying presence for reasons that are impossible to sort out. The fact is he shouldnt be terrifying, sitting there in his yellow (yellow!) jacket, working studiously, the model of Reagan-era diligence. Perhaps thats it: he seems to be someone pretending to be someone hes not. Whos side is he on, Detective Williamss, or Franks? On the wall behind him appears the lower portion of a poster with the word REVOLVERS. It may as well be the name of a band or a foreshadowing of how the film will end. There are objects on the desk that, in isolation, seem harmless enough, but for some reason when assembled as they are here take on a weird aura: the phone, the police walkie talkie, the tape dispenser. There is the pattern of yellow sweeping upwards from the legal pad to Gordons tie and jacket to the partial poster image above the word REVOLVERS. The inscrutability of Gordon, who seems as ageless as a dark figure from a fairy tale. He either knows about all the terrible secrets thatBlue Velvet hides or he knows nothing at all. Whenin a few secondshe glances up

at Jeffrey and catches his eyes, it will either be a terrible warning or nothing at all, simply a harmless glance. In this fashion, Blue Velvet maintains its dark spell in the way that only certain films can. Maybe it has something to do with these quiet, in-between moments where the menace hums at a lower frequency than the super-charged scenes with Frank or Dorothy. There is so much to puzzle over in this image, and the frozen frame offers the chance to absorb small details such as REVOLVERS appearing just above the Yellow Mans head, as if predicting that his head, indeed, will be destroyed by a bullet from a revolver.