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David Lynch’s America

Blue Velvet David Lynch Opening
This clip of David Foster Wallace on Charlie Rose inspired us to revisit David Lynch’s 1986 surrealist noir thriller ‘Blue Velvet‘. In the film a young Kyle MacLachlan finds himself in the seedy underbelly of Lumberton, his seemingly idyllic America town. Along the way he encounters a steamy chanteuse played by Isabella Rossellini, and a violent, twisted thug with a penchant for amyl nitrite played by Dennis Hopper in the performance that revitalized his career. To capture his disturbed vision of All-American life, the director headed to Wilmington, North Carolina…


David Lynch’s script was so controversial that director had trouble finding a studio to produce it; finally he teamed with Italian director Dino de Laurentiis’ independent studio, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group. The now-defunct studio was located in Wilmington, North Carolina (at 1223 North 23rd Street, Wilmington, North Carolina) the perfect place to capture Lynch’s signature picture of America–equal parts visually stunning, unnervingly familiar and always creepy. In fact, with its quiet charm, the Southern town is a mecca for film production, having played the background for ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles‘, ‘The Crow‘, and perhaps most famously the TV teen drama, ‘Dawson’s Creek‘.
Some of the real-life locations in the film include the local high school at (1307 Market St.) and the police headquarters (115 Redcross St., Wilmington, North Carolina). But one of the most famous sites from the film are the dreary Deep River apartments, home to Rossellini’s singer Dorothy Vallens. In the film, the apartments are located on Lincoln Street — a running theme throughout the plot, as MacLachlan’s naive Jeffrey Beaumont is warned to stay away from Lincoln, and the drug-addled villain played by Dennis Hopper is named Booth, after the infamous assassin. There, Vallens lives in a sprawling plum apartment on the seventh floor. But in a classic Lynchian twist, the Carolina Apartments (420 Market St., Wilmington, North Carolina) are only six-stories high.
If you’re looking for Arlene’s Restaurant, the place where Beaumont and the police officer’s daughter Sandy (Laura Dern) decide to investigate a mystery on their own, you won’t find it in Wilmington. But you too can embark on a mystery over coffee at the same place — now it’s a location of the Port City Java chain. Afterward you can stop for a drink at the Barbary Coast Bar (116 S Front St., Wilmington, North Carolina; 910-762-8996), which lent its exteriors to the brothel in the film. If someone sidles up and asks you, “What kind of beer do you like to drink, neighbor?” Remember, the correct answer is Pabst Blue Ribbon, not Heineken.

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