Blue Velvet (1986)


"In dreams, I walk with you. In dreams, I talk to you. In dreams, you’re mine, all the time. Forever." Quite sinister when crooned to you by a psychopath.

This was the first movie I ever saw where I noticed the cinematography. It seemed every shot was beautiful, composed like a photograph.

According to an interview with VH1, Stephen King is quoted as saying, “A lot of times, filmmakers don’t really seem to understand ordinary people. I think there’s a reason that David Lynch has never made a Stephen King film, or John Waters, because they don’t really get ordinary people.” I could not disagree more. They both load lots of love on ordinary people — with all their ridiculousness, eccentricites, and secret horrors. King does this too, though most of that happens internally in his characters, which is, in fact, part of why adaptations of his books so often seem a bit flat.

Lumberton, U.S.A. is the quintessential normal town. In many ways it resembles Bedford Falls in It’s a Wonderful Life. And like any normal town, it has its deaths, its accidents — and its murders. Within the first few minutes, a man has a stroke and the terribly innocent and buttoned-up Boy Scout Kyle Maclachlan finds a severed ear in a vacant lot. Lynch then spends the rest of the two hours exposing the seamy underbelly of Anytown, USA, through the eyes of a newcomer to that parallel world, much as any science fiction or historical romance introduces its world to the reader by introducing it to a character unfamiliar with its ways and nuances.

Like Roman Polanski, Lynch is in love with duality; it comes through in most everything he does. The duality of the pleasant vs the dark in the same town. The duality of the innocent and the corrupt in the same person. The duality of the vicious killer crying like a baby.

Hitchock's heroes are often ordinary people caught up in extraordinary, terrible circumstances, often spurred on by their own curiosity. When Jeffrey (Maclachlan) says, “No one will suspect us because no one would suspect two people like us to be crazy enough to do something like this,” that just reeks of Hitchcock, very Strangers on a Train. Rear Window is another example: when Jimmy Stewart (2nd Stewart movie I’ve mentioned) decides to be a peeping Tom, he never expects to witness a murder. Lynch also explores this concept in Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive.

The two teenagers’ fairly innocent curiosity is all the door the underworld needs to slurp them up like Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks, another simple, ordinary town with a decidedly dark shadow self.

Silent Hill explores the same themes, taken to horrifying and literal extremes (not that Blue Velvet doesn’t get downright nightmarish at times).

The face of innocence, whether it be a town or a teenager, often hides something darker, and curiosity is all it takes for the facade to begin to unravel.

I did a review and still set from Repulsion a while back that included a large animated gif of the various “hauntings” Cetherine Deneuve’s character experienced throughout the film. Since I’ve been doing video slideshows of some of my movies, I figured this would be a good candidate to update.

Music is “Sirens of Belfast,” a piece of my own creation.

From Roman Polanski’s Repulsion (1965), the first movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant. Starring Catherine Deneuve

The Tenant (1976) — Review

And we wrap up with Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Polanski himself stars as a mild-mannered little nebbish who just has a hard time in his new apartment. As with the others in the trilogy, this movie played with themes of madness, duality, paranoia, the occult, and creepy old people.

In fact, it is a close parallel with Rosemary’s Baby in that he is systematically destroyed by the machinations of neighbors with an unnatural hidden nature. When he seeks asylum, he “discovers” that everybody is in on the conspiracy. His friends are useless, boorish and meddlesome. While they are different sexes, they both cross the line in the course of the film — Rosemary with her severe, masculine haircut, and Trelkowski with his more plot-central transformation. The only real difference is that Rosemary was right.

Although, don’t write Trelkowski off as a simple lunatic just yet. There are many questions unanswered, and his version may actually hold together better than what is presented as the “real” version of events.

What I want to know is, how did he find out about the apartment? He was coy about it when asked, and it was never explained. He didn’t know any of the tenants, they never advertised.

There was a time, not long ago, when cross-dressing of any sort, if not played for laughs, was a clear indicator of Psycho. Thankfully, those days are mostly past, or at least gone subtle. On the surface, The Tenant looks like one of these psycho-tranny films. The protagonist goes mad at about the same rate he goes female.

But it’s not quite the same. For one, he’s only dangerous to himself. For another, his outrage is always about being turned into someone else, never about being feminized. He shows no disgust or loathing at the idea of wearing a dress or heels or makeup. He is horrified that he seems to be turning into someone else against his will.

If the previous tenant had not been a woman, the story would change very little — as long as the previous tenant had a style, carriage or habit sufficiently distinct from Trelkowski’s that the transformation is strong and clear.

I try not to judge movies by the personal lives of their creators, and surely Polanski’s private life does not look good from what one reads in the papers. I am more interested in why he chose the main role for himself. Why he returned to the trilogy after nine years. Why he envisioned it at all?

And yet, like the mystery of why the tenants stand in the loo for hours, staring into space, some mysteries are better off staying mysterious.

Stay tuned for lighter fare with The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.

This is Scix in the back row, and you’ll never turn me into Simone Choule! 

Standing in the loo series.
From Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and  Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

Standing in the loo series.

From Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

Bandaged and screaming, about to die, who can say who is really in there?
Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and  Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

Bandaged and screaming, about to die, who can say who is really in there?

Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.


Forked tongue. (animated gif)
Can you blame Trelkowski for choosing to flee?
An animated gif from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and  Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

Forked tongue. (animated gif)

Can you blame Trelkowski for choosing to flee?

An animated gif from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.


"Be reasonable!" someone nearby cries, but are these people coming toward Trelkowski simple, normal, self-centered Parisians trying to help, or are they demons with snares and traps?
An animated gif from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and  Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

"Be reasonable!" someone nearby cries, but are these people coming toward Trelkowski simple, normal, self-centered Parisians trying to help, or are they demons with snares and traps?

An animated gif from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

Applause. Poised on the window ledge from which Simone jumped, dressed and made up as Simone, Trelkowski sees all of the other tenants seated as if for a show, applauding what they seem to expect him to do.
Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and  Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

Applause. Poised on the window ledge from which Simone jumped, dressed and made up as Simone, Trelkowski sees all of the other tenants seated as if for a show, applauding what they seem to expect him to do.

Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

Demons? Telkowski sees a different world than we do, but I am not 100% convinced he is wrong.
Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and  Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

Demons? Telkowski sees a different world than we do, but I am not 100% convinced he is wrong.

Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

La Peinture Lure. No idea what it means (“the painter’s lure”?), but it’s a poignant image.
Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and  Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

La Peinture Lure. No idea what it means (“the painter’s lure”?), but it’s a poignant image.

Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

Reflection. Mirrors and duality are strongly-present tropes throughout the trilogy.
Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and  Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

Reflection. Mirrors and duality are strongly-present tropes throughout the trilogy.

Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

Head. I have no idea whose head that is.
Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and  Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

Head. I have no idea whose head that is.

Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

I won’t tell you what’s flying by that window.

From Tenant, last in the “Apartment Trilogy” of Polanski.The others are Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby.

Standing in the Loo #4: Memory of Simone. The last person Trelkowski sees standing in the loo is the dead, bandaged former tenant he fears he is being forced to become.
Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and  Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

Standing in the Loo #4: Memory of Simone. The last person Trelkowski sees standing in the loo is the dead, bandaged former tenant he fears he is being forced to become.

Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

At the park. Trelkowski sits and sulks. Not pictured: a minute later he slaps an ugly child for no apparent reason.
I just love the composition of this shot.
Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and  Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.

At the park. Trelkowski sits and sulks. Not pictured: a minute later he slaps an ugly child for no apparent reason.

I just love the composition of this shot.

Stills from Roman Polanski’s 1976 film, The Tenant, the final movie in his “Apartment Trilogy” along with Repulsion (1965) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Starring Roman Polanski and Isabelle Adjani.