Blue Velvet is a 1986 American mystery film written and directed by David Lynch. The movie exhibits elements of both film noir and surrealism. The film stars Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper and Laura Dern. The title is taken from The Clovers’ 1955 song of the same name. Although initially detested by some mainstream critics, the film is now widely acclaimed, and earned Lynch his second Academy Award nomination for Best Director. As an example of a director casting against the norm, Blue Velvet is also noted for re-launching Hopper’s career and for providing Rossellini with a dramatic outlet beyond the work as a fashion model and a cosmetics spokeswoman for which she had until then been known.
After the commercial and critical failure of Lynch’s Dune (1984), he made attempts at developing a more “personal story”, somewhat characteristic of the surreal style he displayed in his debut Eraserhead (1977). The screenplay of Blue Velvet had been passed around multiple times in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with many major studios declining it because of its strong sexual and violent content. The independent studio De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, owned at the time by Italian film producer Dino De Laurentiis, agreed to finance and produce the film. Since its initial theatrical release, Blue Velvet has achieved cult status, significant academic attention and, alongside Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive, is widely regarded as one of Lynch’s finest works. It is also seen by many critics as representing a modern-day version of film-noir, “neo-noir”, present in many thrillers from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s. Blue Velvet was ranked as one of the 100 Greatest Films of All Time by Entertainment Weekly in 1999 and chosen by the American Film Institute as one of the greatest mystery films ever made.
The film centers on eccentric college student Jeffrey Beaumont (MacLachlan), who, returning from visiting his ill father in the hospital, comes across a human ear in a field in his hometown of Lumberton. He proceeds to investigate the ear with help from a high school student, Sandy Williams (Dern), who provides him with information and leads from her father, a local police detective. Jeffrey’s investigation draws him deeper into his hometown’s seedy underworld, and sees him forming a sexual relationship with the alluring torch singer Dorothy Vallens (Rossellini), and uncovering the psychotic criminal Frank Booth (Hopper), who engages in drug abuse, kidnapping, and sexual violence.