Siren Song – Ladies of Film Noir, Part 13: Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet (1986)

As I wind down this series concentrating on a baker’s dozen dames from film noir, my last post – lucky number thirteen – is about one of the great sirens of neo-noir, Isabella Rossellini in David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986). Like the last film I wrote about, The Band Wagon (1953), Blue Velvet is in color, but don’t let that fool you; the story is as mysterious and moody as in any classic noir. In tribute to film noirs of the past, Rossellini’s character, Dorothy Vallens, is a nightclub singer mixed up with a sadistic gangster (Dennis Hopper), yet she is drawn to a clean-cut young man (Kyle MacLachlan) who already has a girlfriend (Laura Dern). In this scene Rossellini sings “Blue Velvet” and “Blue Star,” an act that is underscored by the use of blue light shining on Rossellini as she stands on the club’s stage. This isn’t the film’s only example of musical performance, though, since arguably the more memorable scene is when Dean Stockwell lipsyncs Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” in order to calm down the psychotic and violent Hopper. Blue Velvet is an acquired taste, but it’s worth experiencing. And if you’re in the New York area, you’ll have that chance next month when BAM shows the film on Saturday, August 8 as part of the “Indie 80s” retrospective.


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