Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Lost Highway, the Elephant Man, Twin Peaks, Blue Bob, Blue Velvet ... all other Lynch discussion here please
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Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Postby Siku » 27 Mar 2012

I saw BV for the first time last night. It was on a crumby VHS with the sides cut off to make it TV format - all very 80s.

It wasn't quite what I was expecting, principly that the plot was as straight as the straight story. I've had a little read around online and the reviews all seem to naively take the (admittedly consistent) plot on face value.

Plot Summary
Jeffery's dad is struck down
visiting him in hospital, Jeffery finds the ear
...Reports it to the police
...Hooks up with Sandy to investigate further
...Sneaks into Dorothy's flat discovering that evil Frank has kidnapped her son and husband to control Dorothy
...is discovered by Dorothy and enters into a relationship with her
Jeffery follows Frank, stakes out his apartment and witnesses some gangster stuff
Jeffery is discovered at Dorothy's apartment by Frank, and they are both takenfor a ride into his depraved gangster world
Jeffery takes his new findings to the police
Police and ganster showdown
Jeffery and Frank Showdown
Jeffery and Sandy get together
Jeffery's dad recovers
Dorothy is reunited with her son

There is a fuller plot summary here of course: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Velvet_(film)

Interpretations & Reviews
The reviews I have found make passing reference to the freudian symbolism, applaud the imagery, and discuss the social and historical context. Here's the sort of thing:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog ... velvet-bfi

The more scholarly articles I've found aren't concerned with trivial details like plot, and are content to roll around in the abundance of psychoanalytical theory and revel in the postmodern structure. I love this stuff:

http://www.thecityofabsurdity.com/papers/stern01.html

Questions
What no one seems prepared to do is address the questions Lynch raises on the film's own terms.

Of course it's relevant to note that Dad's departure leaves the stage clear for Jeffery to play out his oedipal fantasies, BUT, does that imply that Jeffery actively removed his father? Are we to conclude that Jeffery fulfilled his desire to remove/replace his father? Or is it, in plot terms, a convenient conceit that allows Lynch to SYMBOLICALLY play with the Freudian imagery?

There simply doesn't seem to be the same willingness to question the surface level plot (that I can find at least) in the same way that EVERYONE has questions and theories about Mulholland Drive. Why?

Here are a few questions that I was left with from my first viewing...
Last edited by Siku on 02 Aug 2012, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Postby Siku » 27 Mar 2012

1. I’ll start with the weirdest one: What’s going on with Dorothy’s wig? When Jeffery first sees her from the closet she clearly removes a wig to reveal her hair in a hair net and then goes into the bathroom. When she comes back from the bathroom the wig is in place again, and remains so for the rest of the film. Continuity error? I think not.

2. What is the significance of her child’s propeller hat with musical notes on? Music drives Frank crazy – what’s the connection?

3. What happens to Jeffery's dad in the opening sequence? He slaps the back of his neck and collapses, then in the hospital he's in a neck brace, overcome with emotion? Insect bite = neck brace & intense emotion. Huh?

4. Where is Jeffery’s mum? She is absent and unmentioned for the whole film, but turns up at the end as a doppelganger of Sandy’s mum, the two of that sat together on the couch.

5. Who are the aunts that populate Jeffery’s house? Like Bertie Wooster these aunts seem like surrogate parents but conveniently at arms-length, devoid of the intimacy and sexual tension of real parents.

6. What is implied by Jeffery threatening his aunt “you’re going to get it”? The sadism demanded of him by Dorothy seems to have taken root strangely quickly if it can be expressed to an elderly relative over breakfast.

7. What is the thing on Jeffery’s wall? Vagina denta? What are we to make of this?

8. Why is the yellow man standing in the death tableau? Why was he killed? By whom?

9. What happens to Dorothy’s husband? Is he the second body in the death tableau? Was it his ear that got us into this mess? Is there a significance to his absence from the closing image of Dorothy reunited with her son?

10. Then there’s all the obvious unanswered stuff, a lot of which, to be fair, doesn’t feel it NEEDS answering. E.g. how did Franks meet Dorothy? Why is he obsessed by blue velvet? What were the gangsters up to?... There’s a lot of this that seems, to me, like nicely open mysteries, rather than glaring inconsistencies asking to be considered (e.g. the wig).

I expect I’ll add more later as it occurs to me…

All thoughts very gratefully received!
Last edited by Siku on 02 Aug 2012, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Postby Siku » 02 Aug 2012

Well this thread isn't going anywhere fast, which kinda proves my point ;-)

However, Gandalf36, many moons ago, posted in this thread http://vine.rottentomatoes.com/vine/sho ... p?t=344839

"Blue Velvet: I see it as the fantasm of a teenager who dreams to rescue a woman he is looking at in a park with her child. (The last shot of the movie). To me it seems that Denis Hopper plays in BV a character similar to the cowboy in MD or to the Mystery Man in Lost Highway."

And

"Frank Booth's distorded immature sexuality represents nothing but Jeffrey's own emergent sexuality. The whole story is a fiction. and Dorothy's child does not appear until the very last shot of the movie, because Jeffrey doesn't want to think that she is already with some other man. But on the contrary he imagines that he saves his child from a kidnapping and becomes her heroe. But of course on the other side he is responsible of that kidnapping too... Blue Velvet is probably as deep as MD."

And

"my first idea is to consider Frank as a dark facet of Jeffrey's personality inside a dream or better: an awaken fantasm of a teenager in a park looking at a beautiful woman with her child. Thus Jeffrey to me is not only in the closet looking at the rape, he is at the same time Frank attempting to rape Dorothy. But from his teenager point of view he doesn't know how to. This is why Frank behaves as we see.

In the fantasmed story, the kidnapped child is a pretext to imagine the meeting between Jeffrey and Dorothy. Of course, the child itself is an obstacle between the two. This is why he does not appear in the dream itself. The last picture with Dorothy peacefully alone with her child seems real and in sharp contrast with the rest of the movie. "

Gandalf36 is getting into something I haven't considered: A reverse Oedipal fantasy, with the protagonist in the role of Father fantasising of displacing the child.

Is it radical to view BV as a dream?

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Re: Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Postby kmkmiller » 02 Aug 2012

to the extent BV could be seen as a dream, i think there should be some evidence. Not just evidence in terms of the weirdness of the story, lending itself to dream analysis. What I am looking for, specifically, is a framing device. In MULHOLLAND DRIVE we have the POV image of someone falling asleep to dream (to support the trad theory).

Or even to support my crazy theory that it is an afterlife thing, we at least have the framing device of Betty/Diane greeting the Bardo clear light in a red white and black jitterbug scene with shadow selves.

Those are framing devices, real visual cues that what you are about to see is either a dream or, well, you know.

If I've made it clear what a framing device is, then is there a framing device in BLUE VELVET? Do we see Jeffrey's head fall to a pillow? That's what I would need before I start venturing too far down that rabbit hole.

Another thing. Frank Booth is not The Cowboy (unless you think The Cowboy is bad, and I don't because I can't find any black on him). Frank Booth is KILLER BOB, he'll find you in your dreams and walk with you/fire walk with me. Maybe the MYSTERY MAN. In TWIN PEAKS, Laura calls KILLER BOB her MYSTERY MAN, so MYSTERY MAN = KILLER BOB = Frank Booth.

Lastly, Ben (one suave fuck) is very well dressed and is a doppelganger of very well dressed Ben Horne. Is there a Jerry in BLUE VELVET?

Hope I'm not stating too much that is already obvious.

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Re: Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Postby blu » 03 Aug 2012

At the start of Blue Velvet do we not go deep down into the earth almost like descending into the pillow, and finish with Jeffrey snoozing on the sun lounger? Pretty sure it's something like that, but been a while since I watched.

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Re: Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Postby kmkmiller » 03 Aug 2012

Yeah, we go into the severed ear, and then exit out of the ear of Jeffrey, I forgot about that.

Need to see the movie again before I would go further.

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Re: Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Postby Camilla » 09 Aug 2012

I always thought of Blue Velvet being more straight forward (albeit none-the-less weird) than Mulholland Drive or Lost Highway. I mean what would really need in-depth analyzing would be the psyche of the Frank character and the conditions under which he met Dorothy and how the whole ransom/blackmailing thing came about (with the husband and child).

I think of course like other David Lynch films as far as symbolism and imagery go I have had a harder time finding these sorts of things I guess because it's not quite as in your face abstract as MD or LH, or even TP. Blue Velvet has artistic license and is abstract to an extent but more often people who have seen it from beginning to end understood what was going on, whereas Twin, Highway, and Mulholland left many thinking "wtf did I just watch?"

I think the exchanges and relationships between the characters are the symbols in this film; Jeffrey and Dorothy, Jefferey and Sandy, Dorothy and Frank, Frank and Ben, etc.

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Re: Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Postby kmkmiller » 09 Aug 2012

now that I've decided there's some validity to the idea that the camera dips into the ear at the beginning of Jeffrey's story, and then exits out of his ear at the end, this is kind of important. Jeffrey in the context of his fantasy is still Jeffrey, he did not make up a different version of himself.

So I guess what I'm saying is that BLUE VELVET still lacks the WTF-ness of MULHOLLAND DRIVE.

I'm agreeing with Camilla on this.

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Re: Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Postby Camilla » 10 Aug 2012

Watched it again today and noticed some things that could be considered "symbolic"

*Darkness - the dark/nighttime is prevalent throughout the movie; Frank repeatedly says "It's dark now" despite the fact that it's been dark throughout except for the few scenes that happen during the day.

*At the beginning of the movie, before the ear is found the camera zooms in on a hole that is filled with ants or beetles of some sort. I think this is important because at the end of the movie, on the window sill there is a robin with the same kind of insect nestled in its beak (during the day time).

*When Sandy meets with Jeffrey on the streets she emerges from the darkness into the light. Before his brief dream, Jefferey appears in the light and fades with the darkness. At the climax of the film, when Jeffrey and Sandy reunite they are both emerged in light.

*The numbers theme plays here again; Route 7 (to the Slow Club), Floor 7 Room 10 (710; Dorothy's apartment).

*Before Jeffrey has any idea of who Dorothy is or before he gets his hands dirty with the missing ear/murder story his aunt warns him not to travel on Lincoln street. Later when Jeffrey goes into Dorothy's apartment, the camera focuses on a sign that clearly says "Lincoln". -Was the aunt precognitive somewhat? How or why did she know to tell Jeffrey to stay away from Lincoln?

*After Jeffrey descends the stairs to go out for the evening, on the TV it shows somebody going upstairs. I'm not sure what the symbolism is or what importance there is behind that but there is a reason the focus shifted to that particular scene on the TV.

*Dorothy Vallens is referred to as the Blue Lady, there is a "Blue Lady" in Mulholland Drive - specifically on the balcony in Club Silencio.

*A red lamp is present like what we have seen in Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive (I can't remember if it was at Jeffrey's house or at Sandy's)

*Dorothy utters this line several times; "He put his disease in me" I'm not sure if she is referring to Frank (most likely) or Jeffrey (also a possibility). For Frank it sounds like something he would do, have his way with her with or without her consent and consequences be damned. For Jeffrey it sounds like it could be an unwanted/unplanned pregnancy (disease = unwanted child) at least that's how I interpreted it when she was nude inside the Williams' residence and then Jeffrey receives a slap from Sandy.

*Dorothy either intentionally or unintentionally refers to Jeffrey as Don throughout their 'encounter', during their whole love scene I believe that she is mentally using Jeffrey as a surrogate for her husband. This can relate back to the above statement about the 'disease', she also said that she was okay with it. She could be okay with Jeffrey infecting her with his disease (aka impregnating her) because she was thinking of her husband the entire time.

*Dorothy begs to be struck by Jeffrey and shows to enjoy it whenever she is hit, this is evident on the closeup of her relaxed grin upon being stuck by both Jeffrey and Frank. This could be a way for her to null/kill the emotional/mental pain by undertaking physical abuse, which heals easier/quicker than emotional abuse.

To attempt to answer some of Siku's questions

*Both the Yellow man and Don (Dorothy's husband) are a part of the death tableau in the apartment. The Yellow Man was most likely killed by Frank because his usefulness expired, same for Don. We can also tell that the gagged & bound man is Don because he is missing an ear, and he resembles the man from the picture that Dorothy keeps under the sofa.

*The thing on the Jeffrey's wall is weird, it looked like a mouth or a hamburger with teeth.

*The "you're going to get it" comment from Jeffrey during breakfast was weird, it didn't come off to me as a genuine threat but just more like reminding her that she is babbling.

*Don was not present during the reunion scene with Dorothy and the son (Donny) at the end because he was in fact killed in the apartment. I believe it was the ear that got Jeffrey involved, it was never found then there would have been to need to go to the police to ask questions, there would have been no need to find out who this Dorothy person is - it would have remained as one of those unseen/unexplained disappearances that happen everyday in America.

*I noticed the wig thing too, I figured maybe she took it off because when she entered the bathroom she washed up a bit before changing into the blue velvet robe and didn't want to get it wet.

*I think the hat signifies the innocence of childhood and the connection between Frank and Donny (besides Dorothy obviously) is music. I'm not sure if there was a favorite song for Don and Donny (maybe Blue Velvet/Blue Star?) unlike Frank who loses it to "In Dreams". It makes the distinction that Frank, while child-like in his words and actions is a full grown adult and is perfectly aware of the evil that he does and the people that he hurts, while Donny is naturally a child and is till innocent despite being soiled by Frank's insanity (kidnapped and kept hostage in Ben's house)

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Re: Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Postby kmkmiller » 02 Apr 2013

Just saw this last night for the first time in a long time, for the first time since coming to my own realizations about Lynch's work, ....

Blue Velvet's strengths are simply different than Mulholland Drive's strengths.

And it's more clear to me how Twin Peaks is a pivot point between Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive.

But just to cut to the chase, I agree with the most of the stuff in this thread, summing up: Blue Velvet is a straight story, so to speak, surely exploring the depths and darkness that exists underneath otherwise pristine veneers, but there are no character shifts, no doppelgangering, no explicit dream sequences. Going into the ear at the beginning of the movie, it makes sense, Lynch is still exploring interior lands as he always has, but there is nothing at all to suggest the Jeffrey we see for most of the movie isn't the same Jeffrey who showed up before we first descend into the severed ear.

I would say it is a more perfect movie than Mulholland Drive, those images with the firetruck. The ending has real emotional impact. I can see why people went ape poop when the movie came out, Pauline Kael calling Lynch a Capra-esque surrealist.

The thing we're all trying to say here is that there is simply not that much to theorize about when you see Blue Velvet. You can watch Mulholland Drive many many times and get some different take on what's going on, and while you can watch Blue Velvet many many many times to marvel at the images themselves, the first viewing is going to be the same as the last in terms of what's going on.

I'm assuming the yellow dude was killed by Frank as it became clear to Frank that the yellow dude was undercover. Frank killed yellow dude and van gogh and then realized he had to kill Jeffrey too so came back to do that.

The one thing I caught, the thing I saw this time I didn't see the first time. Before Jeffrey finds the ear he throws rocks at a bottle. Reminds me something Coop does in Twin Peaks.

Ok, real short here. There's no red curtains in Blue Velvet. It's Twin Peaks insofar as Twin Peaks exists outside the Black Lodge. Blue Velvet, outside. Twin Peaks, both inside and outside, then Mulholland Drive, a movie I still contend takes place, in it's entirety inside the Black/White Lodge.

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Re: Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Postby Siku » 18 Apr 2013

Camilla, your observations are very perceptive, I hadn't spotted any of that - it's time for me to see this film again. And thank you for taking the time to consider my questions.

For my second viewing I shall keep in mind that the into ear/out of ear thing is a framing device that separates what happens within the frame, from what happens without.

And also the idea that both Dorothy's son and Frank are doppelgangers of Jeffery.

I'm not sure if the ear framing device implies a dream, as it does in MD, or if a 'dream' interpretation is even necessary to make any sense of the plot, as in Lost Highway. You know what? The thing that makes me think we have to look at the deeper, oedipal layer of this film is that the basic plot is just so dopey and hammy in it's execution. It only really comes alive because we can hang all these freudian symbols from it.

The child is Jeffery, the murdered father is the oedipus-displaced father, Frank is the repressed/externalised emergent sexuality, and Laura Dern is the acceptable object on which to transfer desire and create an adult hetrosexual self. His reward? Insertion into the patriarchal nuclear family unit.

Must see again....

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Re: Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Postby PauloMota » 25 Apr 2013

Here is my take on the whole thing:

Blue Velvet -> Earth. The drapes of velvet crossfade into a tilt from blue skies to a white fence with red roses. Blue Velvet is also a desire, to Frank Booth and his obsession. This could be seen like this: We live on earth with desires. It's Blue Velvet, that texture in the blue is our desire while living on earth.

The opening sequence is David Lynch Film intentions 101. Life is not what it seams. Right below blue skies and children going to school someone has an heart attack and below the grass we see that ants/bugs fight for survival. There is a Buddhist underlining here. Because in Buddhism they believe we are here to grow in conscience and we, in previous lifes, were ants, bees, etc... all small bodies that had lesser conscience and we grow to become humans in this world of illusion and fight the final assault against desire. Since Lynch clearly has stated his meditation habit, it fits.

One day Jeffrey stumbles on an ear. This is a perfect metaphor for his own self, because he go into the ear, and what it's right next to the ear ? You know the main organ that is mainly explored by David Lynch... the brain. We go inside the mind of Jeffrey.

And the duality starts:

- Jeffrey is good and a bit naive. There's a little innocence in Jeffrey. He then, because of his curiosity to unfold the mysteries of the world, stumbles upon Dorothy Valens, an object of desire and she corrupts Jeffrey in a way. She is in fact infected by love. She loves Frank, clearly, because she likes to be mistreated by Jeffrey and wants Jeffrey to be mistreat her just like Frank Booth. But Frank is impotent and Jeffrey isn't, and Dorothy wants Jeffreys potent body and think of Frank, "please hit me! HIT ME!" (she says).

- Frank Booth is a very sick man. He kidnaps the husband and the child of Dorothy Valens so she can submit to his desires. Frank wants Dorothy, she is the reason of it all. Ironically Dorothy falls in love with Frank and becomes very unsatisfied by Franks impotence.

Jeffrey and Frank Booth are the same. Frank even says it to him on the car. Frank is the sick side of Jeffrey and Jeffrey becomes more and more like him. He even kills Frank at the end. In fact we witness the corruption of Jeffrey with the flashbacks of the burning candle of love. The one that Frank lights for Dorothy, while visiting her. Love distorts Jeffrey, we can even see a strange trophy on the wall (a white wall) on Jeffrey's room, when he wakes up. Jeffrey's was a hunter. He's like Frank, no doubt, not only like Frank, but Frank lives in him.

Jeffrey lies to Sandy, he uses her, he is involved with Sandy and Dorothy at the same time and lives a double life. This is the duality Lynch loves. The corruption of innocence, we became prisoners of our desires. Desire makes us do terrible things. Jeffrey, very very ironically even puts this question to Sally, "Why there have to be people like Frank ? Why there's so much trouble in this world ?" That's the thing, right there.

Lynch is saying "Why are we LIKE this ?", in INLAND EMPIRE he puts things really simple:" tits and ass". The objects of our desire, "tits for man and ass for women".

In the end of the film we all leave the ear, Jeffrey's ear. Lynch wanted you to know. Then the Robins, the symbol of love that Sandy gives us conquer the troubled and irrational bugs/ants, with the Robin with the bug in his mouth.

It's a message of hope that falls short because the last scene is Dorothy with her son and she still has the WIG, she still loves Frank. It's a never ending cycle and this is Planet Earth, the camera re-tilts to the blue skies that crossfade to the Blue Velvet curtains.

The proof that this never really happened, besides in Jeffreys mind is simple. Frank disappears while leaving the home of "Suave"(I forgot the name of the guy, but it's after the In Dreams flashlight karaoke session) and the WIG that disappears.

In reality Jeffrey is with Sandy and inside he wants Dorothy, but no one will ever know :)

Amazing film. Love it.
"Why instigate a need to suffer ?"

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Re: Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Postby Camilla » 26 Jun 2013

Siku wrote:Camilla, your observations are very perceptive, I hadn't spotted any of that - it's time for me to see this film again. And thank you for taking the time to consider my questions.

For my second viewing I shall keep in mind that the into ear/out of ear thing is a framing device that separates what happens within the frame, from what happens without.

And also the idea that both Dorothy's son and Frank are doppelgangers of Jeffery.

I'm not sure if the ear framing device implies a dream, as it does in MD, or if a 'dream' interpretation is even necessary to make any sense of the plot, as in Lost Highway. You know what? The thing that makes me think we have to look at the deeper, oedipal layer of this film is that the basic plot is just so dopey and hammy in it's execution. It only really comes alive because we can hang all these freudian symbols from it.

The child is Jeffery, the murdered father is the oedipus-displaced father, Frank is the repressed/externalised emergent sexuality, and Laura Dern is the acceptable object on which to transfer desire and create an adult hetrosexual self. His reward? Insertion into the patriarchal nuclear family unit.

Must see again....

Siku, have you ever considered that maybe the ear is also symbolic of Jeffrey (specifically his mind)? When the camera zooms in I think it's a way for the film to say "we are now entering Jeffrey's mind", and at the end "now exiting Jeffrey's mind." I think the ear also shows us that Jeffrey was in a dark and confused place (albeit subtly) and by the film's climax we can assume that he has seen the light.

As for the dream idea, I don't even think a dream context is remotely necessary for Blue Velvet. Jeffrey asks Sandy "why do people like Frank Booth exist?" Well people like Frank DO exist in Twin Peaks we have Leo Johnson, Jacques & Jean Renault, Ben Horne, Hank Jennings, Thomas Eckhart, Windom Earle & to a lesser extent; Bobby Briggs. We also have Diane Selwyn in Mulholland Drive who's mental state possibly drives her to put out a hit on her ex-lover and have her body disposed of. And in Lost Highway there is Dick Laurent, who aside from Leo Johnson probably best matches the fit to Frank Booth in both mentality and impulse. The idea is that the film is telling us, "no this is not a dream", that people like Frank (and Dorothy, and Jeffrey and Sandy) really do exist and this is just one interpretation of these modern-day Shakespearian tragedies that happen everyday in different parts of the world.

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Re: Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Postby kmkmiller » 26 Jun 2013

It's a pretty straight forward movie guys. Lots of sad paper thin ideas here. Have a great day!

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Re: Blue Velvet - questions, interpretations and spoilers

Postby Siku » 13 Sep 2016

5 Films that influenced BV:

http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news ... asterpiece

1. Un chien andalou (1929)
2. Rabbit’s Moon (1950/71)
3. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
4. Written on the Wind (1956)
5. Vertigo (1958)


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