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.
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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.