Following the critical and commercial failure of his big budget adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune, David Lynch managed to finally get together the necessary finances to make a film that he had been keen to bring to the screen for many years. That film was Blue Velvet, a haunting and electric feature that is widely regarded by many to be his greatest achievement, and in the humble opinion of this writer, still stands as one of the greatest films ever made.
Coming off the back of Dune, Blue Velvet represented a return to more personal filmmaking for Lynch, and he was given a surprising amount of freedom by producer Dino De Laurentiis, who had previously hired Lynch for Dune. In Blue Velvet Revisited, a feature length bricolage of previously unseen footage and photographs from the filming of Blue Velvet, Lynch casually mentions that he and the crew are “having fun”, a comment that is rather pleasant to hear when one is so used to behind-the-scenes docs about nightmarish shoots. This lack of struggle does make Blue Velvet Revisited a film that is utterly lacking in drama; but drama, or indeed any sort of narrative structure, is not something that director Peter Braatz appeared to be concerned with when he sat down in the editing room.
This is no bad thing necessarily, as the film plays very much like a wistful reminiscence, developing in a linear fashion with fragments of footage, non-synch dialogue and monologues, photographs and inter-titles swirling in and out of each other in a way that never explicitly tells us anything about the production of the film, but instead attempts to recreate a mood and offer us brief snapshots that we can use to build a wider picture.
This approach doesn’t always work – the score, for instance, is occasionally beautiful and effective, but too often distracting and far too high in the mix – but what the film sometimes lacks in craftsmanship is more than made up for in the historical quality of what we see and hear. Raw footage of Isabella Rossellini singing Blue Velvet live, Lynch directing Laura Dern or Dean Stockwell commenting that he thinks the film is going to be “really funny” are the kind of inclusions that will be catnip to Lynch fans, but even for the more casual viewers there is some fascinating content within.
One moment in which Lynch lays out his dream for the future of filmmaking is particularly startling, especially when viewed thirty years later. He discusses a future in which he will be able to use tiny digital cameras and control lighting and more with a computer. It’s an electrifying monologue in the documentary that highlights Lynch’s ability to think beyond the boundaries of what is necessarily around him.
A few moments like this aside though, Blue Velvet Revisited is far from a conventional making-of and very much a film for fans of Lynch and of Blue Velvet, who will find a reasonable amount to sink their teeth into. Much like Lynch himself, Blue Velvet Revisited is an oddity, but one that a certain group of people will really enjoy spending time with.