Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Skuriels Countdown: #15 (tie)

David Lynch, 1986
[10 votes]

"”I'm seeing something that was always hidden. I'm in the middle of a mystery and it's all secret.’

“It's hackneyed - and usually thoughtless hyperbole - to say about a film, ‘I notice something new every time I see it!’ But it wasn't until my third viewing of David Lynch's masterful, distrubing
Blue Velvet that I noticed how blind Ed knows how many fingers Jeffrey's holding up. It's seemingly a throwaway moment, a small amusing note that adds flavor to Lynch small-town Americana. In retrospect, though, it's a subtle indication of the journey Jeffrey is about to take - the adult world is full of secrets and things that don't make sense from a youthful perspective, some benign and some less so. The secret to Ed's trick is so simple that you wonder how Jeffrey doesn't notice. It's right there in front of him, yet he's too naive to see it. Blue Velvet is, if nothing else, a stripping-off of that naivete and a terrible journey towards adulthood.

“The impetus for much of this painful progression is, of course, the towering nightmare figure of Frank Booth. Booth is a genuine monster, a human-shaped incarnation of the darkest desires of the human psyche. He stands at the intersection point of sex and drugs and violence, hollering profanities and imprecations. He is, in short, everything terrifying and mysterious about the adult world cranked up to a deafening volume, and the true horror in the film comes from the glints and fragments of him that get reflected in Jeffrey. When Frank tells Jeffrey, ‘You're like me,’ he means it; he's seen something underneath the word-swallowing facade, something dark and sticky that Jeffrey's been trying to deny - the capacity to hurt and to deceive. The Jeffrey of the first act can't keep secrets, can't conceive of others doing so, can't conceive of a man like Frank Booth. But as the film goes on, he becomes able to keep things in and not blurt out every little thing he knows, until he becomes confident enough to pull the ruse that defeats Frank. It's a simple ruse - just like Ed's trick. And it works - just like Ed's trick. But while Jeffrey is able to extinguish Frank, he still has to deal with the knowledge of his own capacity for cruelty.

“The final scene has a surface-level happiness about it, but there's still the fact that Jeffrey has been through everything and come out the other end very much changed into a man. He has, at last, learned how to keep secrets.” ~ Steve Carlson


  1. Other Ed taps him on the back a number of times that corresponds to the number of fingers Jeffrey's holding up.

  2. Ed, you sly bastards. I've seen the movie about 15 times and never noticed that.

  3. It's simple but small enough to miss. Look closely and you'll see Other Ed's fingers fluttering behind Blind Ed. A crafty touch.

  4. Based on Jeffrey's smile and reaction, I've taken to reading it that he DID know the Eds trick, but given the fact that he'd known them for years as employees of his dad's hardware store, he was still playing the young kid role - as one who had once not known the trick, then figured it out, but was still playing along. (Maybe I need to rewatch it again...)

    In either interpretation, it establishes that Jeffrey in Lumberton is essentially still a boy. I agree with your point though, whether or not he's learned there's no Santa Claus, he is about to come to terms with a world not only without Santa, but featuring an elf with a gasmask.