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You shouldn't expect to find so much possibility hidden in a severed human ear. But when that ear's a prop in a David Lynch film, there's nothing stopping it from becoming the key to hell. Much has been made of Lynch's 1986 movie Blue Velvet (Wednesday, February 9, Dryden Theatre, 900 East Avenue, 8 p.m., $6). Film nerds dig the veiled symbolism, while nervous types detest the depravity. And more than enough has been said about all that.

            There's really not much sense in getting all theoretical about Blue Velvet, even though Lynch's films --- no doubt because they don't easily explain themselves --- tend to elicit all sorts of punditry. What makes Blue Velvet such a stunning achievement is Lynch's ability to take abstract notions like dread, evil, and the thrill of voyeurism and make them so real you become more a witness than a viewer.

            Blue Velvet follows Jeffrey (Kyle McLachlan), a clean-cut college boy who happens upon a human ear while tossing rocks in a vacant lot. Hopelessly perplexed by his discovery, Jeffrey embarks on a quest to find the ear's origin. That search descends into a surreal and horrifying underworld in which Jeffrey eventually becomes an almost unwitting participant.

            Lynch's primary tools here are color, lighting, sound, and set design. He's also assisted by fully invested performances from McLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, and Dennis Hopper. All of this results in a movie experience so delightfully creepy you'll be reaching for the disinfectant when it's over. Blue Velvet hits that hard. And isn't that what movie magic is all about?

            After Velvet, the Dryden's Lynch series continues with 1990's Wild at Heart (Wednesday, February 16, 8 p.m.), which continues many of Velvet's themes while ratcheting up the mania. The series concludes with Mulholland Dr. (Wednesday, February 23, 8 p.m.), Lynch's oft-misconstrued and relatively quiet masterpiece. 271-4090.

--- Chad Oliveiri

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