04 March 2006

Wow, what a week. I'm flying to Bombay in a couple of days, there's a new shareholder letter from Warren Buffett, tonight is Oscar night, and Blue Velvet is playing at the Film Forum.

Of all my favorite movies, Blue Velvet is the one I talk about least frequently, and until an hour ago, it was the only one I hadn't watched since coming to New York. Seeing it again tonight for the first time in years, I was forcefully reminded that this is basically the best American movie ever made. As several critics have pointed out, modern independent cinema starts here, but Blue Velvet also harks back to a tradition of surrealism in mainstream pictures that probably reached a high point in Vertigo. It's as well-constructed as a Hitchcock thriller, but it's also radically experimental, which is probably why I'm still not entirely sure of my responses to it, even after many, many, many viewings.

Even if you've seen Blue Velvet before, experiencing it in a theater is worth a special trip to New York, despite the fact that the Film Forum has some of the smallest screens in the city. (If it were playing at the Ziegfield, I'd be in heaven.) The sound is cranked up to just the right level of intensity, and the utterly pristine print reveals telling details—like a fly crawling across the hand of a dead body—that are invisible on video. Above all, seeing Blue Velvet with a receptive audience is one of the great experiences in moviegoing. There's always a lot of laughter, sometimes condescending, sometimes uneasy, but also long, uncomfortable silences and gasps of bewilderment. The reactions of the people around you—and your reactions to their reactions—are a crucial part of the show.

Put Blue Velvet together with The Red Shoes and Chungking Express, and you've got a triptych that sums up most of the reasons why I go to the movies. Amazingly enough, over the past ten months, I've managed to catch all three of these movies on the big screen. And that's why I love New York.

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