One of Entertainment Weeklies 100 Best Soundtracks Of All Time // A precursor to Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet sets a template for ethereal noir soundtracks in a modern, quite disturbed age.
“The shock of the new fades by definition, but it has hardly done so in
the case of Blue Velvet.” - Dennis Lim, Salon, 2016
“The haunting soundtrack accompanies the title credits, then weaves through the narrative, accentuating the noir mood of the film.” - John Alexander, The British Film Resource
You know that feeling you get when you’re shook awake in mid-dream? You were teetering on the ledge of a building, or maybe trying to free a butterfly from a spider web while wearing cricket gloves? Perhaps you’re running late for a train and your short cut takes you through a bad part of town, you’re being followed but the ever changing reflection in the shop window is a younger you, a healthier person – with a better hairstyle.
It’s an anxiety thing, an off-kilter almost world, best summed up on the soundtrack for Blue Velvet, David Lynch’s 1986 film that nods somnambulantly to the shadowy netherworld of film noir. Oedipal fantasies, finding a severed ear on your way home, voyeurism, crime and retribution, violence; they’re all there in abundance in the movie, a rotten sleazy commercialism set off against a set of strange situations that the edge of the seat is never far away from.
And what soundtrack would suit such an experience? Of course a mix of orchestral pieces from composer and conductor Angelo Badalamenti inspired by Shoshtakovich’s 15th Symphony (which rumour has it Lynch played onset to create the ‘mood’) mixed up with trashy Hammond-led boogie and overblown baroque pop from Roy Orbison and Ketty Lester, suitable for any dive’s jukebox.
That awkward mix plays itself out in Isabella Rossellini as Dorothy’s rendition of the song ‘Blue Velvet’ that melds beautifully and indeed hauntingly into ‘Blue Star’, a broken piece of vintage pop. Similarly, the track ‘Going Down To Lincoln’ with its narrative audio shtick takes all of the previously-mused elements to create a perfectly disjointed travelogue. The soundtrack album starts with Bernard Hermann-styled Hitchcock-esque strings and violin slashes, which dally before deconstructing the themes and motifs into a disturbing procession that climaxes with Julee Cruise’s funereal ‘Mysteries Of Love’, a fittingly titled epilogue to an epic that concludes with the hero’s true love’s reality of a simplistic birdsong dream from earlier in the film.
It’s a cyclical trip that feeds directly back to the beginning and, yes, there’s that severed ear again, now ant infested laying on the ground, proving that dreams become real, or is it reality that becomes a dream?
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