Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I'm a Creep

If David Lynch did in fact - as Jacques Rivette once posited - create the creepiest set in the history of cinema with Dorothy's apartment in Blue Velvet, then he designs the human counterpart in Wild at Heart with Willem Dafoe's Bobby Peru. With the worst face in the history of anything, Peru straddles the line between the more abstract Lynch villains (Bob, Mystery Man) and the corporeal ones (Frank Booth), because he has a human enough name (after a country no less) and a somewhat sketchy bio (he was in the marines), yet he hails from nowhere (or "all over" as he tells Dern), laying claim to no land, and he for all intents and purposes still might as well have materialized out of thin air, or maybe more appropriately a subconscious.

Bobby is compared by others to a natural disaster, obese porn stars laugh at him as he walks by, and in a room with a puddle of fly-covered puke on the floor, Bobby is still the least attractive option. In short, he just doesn't fucking belong anywhere. "He has a way" Pruitt Taylor Vince's anonymous cowboy hat-donning trailer patron puts it, and that's the understatement of the century. And what separates Peru from Frank Booth - probably the only Lynchian creation that can give him a run for his money - is that Booth still, you know, had friends, and even if they were only cavemen and weirdos who sang into lights, they still moved him, and there was always a communal aspect with Frank, a sense that he would actually feel it were he not surrounded by these people. And so while, at one point during Blue Velvet, Frank drives down the road doing well over 100 completely wasted out of his mind, he at least has it in him to eventually put the brakes on. Bobby Peru, on the other hand, drives the gas tank off the edge of the cliff the first possible moment he can, taking everyone with him into hell and laughing his twisted ass off the entire time.


D Cairns said...

Dennis Hopper claimed that Blue Velvet was "the greatest love story since Romeo and Juliet," so Frank Booth is redeemed by love in a way that Bobby Peru could never be. "He loved that woman so much he cut a man's ear off. With scissors. And that's NOT AN EASY THING TO DO," said Hopper, who I guess had experienced most things.

J.D. said...

Bobby Peru is really an incredible collaboration between Lynch and actor Willem Dafoe who has said that those nasty teeth were the key to him getting into character. Once he put them on that was it. And it shows in his performance as he simply oozes sleaze and menace in every scene. You really fear for the well-being of Lula in their scene together and then Dafoe defuses the scene with a bit of humor before he exits. Incredible stuff.

Drew McIntosh said...

David - I'd not heard that specific quote before, but that absolutely makes sense and gets right to the heart of what I was getting at. Booth - totally fucked up as he is - has something resembling love swirling around somewhere in him, which tips his character slightly over into tragic territory.

J.D. - Yeah, those teeth are something else alright, almost a character themselves. It makes sense Dafoe would craft the rest of the role around such a feature. And that scene with Dern you speak of is one of the most horrifying in all of Lynch, not least because of how smoothly Peru slips in that attempt at humor after it's all over. So chill-inducing.