Before the cult of Twin Peaks shook up American television, long before the unfettered weirdness of Mulholland Drive, pop culture's most dedicated surrealist, David Lynch, gave us a fascinating precursor, Blue Velvet (1986). Peeping through the windows of a seemingly normal small town, Lynch finds murder and perversion in the lives of a kinky nightclub singer (Isabella Rossellini), a psychopathic kidnapper (Dennis Hopper, at his strangest) and some other townsfolk who are never what they seem. The semi-innocent young hero of the piece is portrayed by Kyle MacLachlan, who would later star as Twin Peaks' mystical, coffee-drinking FBI agent, and Laura Dern is the daughter of a twisted police detective. Between the moment when MacLachlan finds a severed human ear and Hopper's justifiably famous expressions of sadistic delight, we find ourselves thrown into a dark cinematic puzzle that made Blue Velvet the most controversial movie of its time. Possibly bewildered, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated Lynch for a Best Director Oscar in 1986, but he lost out in the voting to Oliver Stone and Platoon. Little matter: The maker of Eraser Head, The Elephant Man and Dune had set a daring new course for himself -- looking behind the placid facades of American life to discover the sexuality and violence in our collective unconscious. Lynch's experiments don't always pay off, but his audacity remains matchless.
Blue Velvet screens Saturday in the popular Midnights at the Mayan series. Landmark's Mayan Theater is located at 110 Broadway. For more information, call 303-744-6796.
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