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When I saw Brian De Palma's "Dressed to Kill" upon its release I said to myself: "This man (De Palma) is so talented that if he really put his mind to it he could move on from these shallow potboilers and create a masterpiece." "Blow Out" was his next film and it IS his masterpiece - the De Palma film I had been waiting for. It's a dark, winding tale of a movie sound man (John Travolta) who goes out to record the perfect scream for a cheesy horror flick. He eventually gets that scream, and it's how he gets it that is the substance - and tragedy - of the story. A conspiracy thriller, a lurid pulp melodrama, a meditation on the artifice of film-making and the elusive nature of truth - "Blow Out" is all this and more. De Palma gives full vent to his powers and his imagination and the results are electrifying. He perfects his use of the wide split screen and uses it to great dramatic effect, so much so that my usual objections to this technique went right out the door. The production design makes frequent allusions to the colours of the American flag - red, white and blue - all the better to reflect, with utmost cruelty, the heart-breaking corruption of the American Dream for the sad-eyed protagonist. Travolta, playing a sound effects artist, and Nancy Allen, as a make-up artist, make a sweet and likable couple. They bond convincingly, partly because they're both so down-to-earth, and partly because they're both experts in artifice. John Lithgow chillingly portrays an assassin who really, really loves his work. The murder in the train station, with the camera tracking along the floor and the monotonous drone of the train announcer's voice - the voice of doom - echoing in the background, is one of the most horrific scenes I have ever experienced in a movie.
What a cinematic triumph for De Palma and his loyal fans. A sterling piece of work from Brian coupled with stupendous characterisation from the entire cast guaranteed me a thriller of magnetic proportions. Pino Donaggio's gritty underlying score highlights the sheer magnitude of the indispensable 'Blow-Out' climactic moment. Travolta and Allen keep things moving in this thought-provoking masterpiece, not to mention John Lithgow who without a shadow of a doubt, is perfectly suited to be the ultimate villain. One could say that it really is bemusing why this movie didn't rake in a lot at the box office because this is clearly Oscar-worthy material. A must-see movie for all.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For my comment #150 here in IMDb, I have chosen Brian De Palma's "Blow
Out", a less talked film of his career but at the same time, one of my
favourites of him. Although I haven't watch yet Michelangelo
Antonioni's "Blowup" I know that this film is a sort of a
"reinterpretation", now using sounds instead of photos. Anyway, this
film has Jack Terri (Travolta) as the main character; he works as the
sound-man for a little film company that produces low-budget horror
films. Working one night near a lake, looking out for some sounds, he
is witness of a car accident that ends with the car inside the lake.
Jack saves a girl that was inside the car, Sally (Nancy Allen), with a
currently candidate for the presidency. Suddenly Jack will find the
truth about that accident through his recorded tapes but also he will
be witness of a conspiracy that nobody wants to hear about it.
I love how this film start with a rare sequence of a horror film that ends with a funny scream, just to see the type of bad films in which Jack works. But although he failed in his job with the police and now works only for bad films, his abilities as a sound technician are really great. Soon as he gets involved with the car accident, there is going to be just mystery first with the possible fact that the candidate was with a prostitute and later with an entire murder conspiracy. Even the film involves a politic factor, l love how it focuses into Jack's obsession for finding the truth because, finally, there are many cases like that but now the witness is a citizen tired of the same endless stories that eventually will be forgotten. The other main character, Sally, is the opposite of Jack, always wanted to stay out of the conspiracy and maybe having too confidence to other people not seeing their real intentions. Eventually Jack will be the person who shows to her how things are really but also who puts her closer to the conspiracy and closer to her end. The conclusion is brilliant but of course not satisfactory for any of characters, maybe just for the director of the horror film, leaving a question for Jack that will stay in his mind: it was worth to look for justice?
Cast: John Travolta here is great, of course this is not going to be mention as his roles in "Grease" and "Saturday Night Fever" but definitely is one of his bests performances. Nancy Allen is also pretty good just like the support cast.
Conclusion: "Blow Out" is a great story about obsession and paranoia with an exciting climax and a brilliant end. De Palma's direction is great, with many unique sequences, and his script too, finding in the sound a great way to explore how the things really happened. Definitely this film is in my personal favourites of De Palma. 9.5 out of 10
And by that I mean De Palma's "I love Hitch" period, which truly kicked
off some years earlier with "Sisters" - to my great joy as a big fan of
the Hitch style concoction of thriller/slasher/psychodrama. Arguably De
Palma's best, it delivers on all fronts - there's mystery, blood, naked
and/or murdered women, sex, knives, elaborate and sadistic killings
that involve blades and strangulation, psychos, big set pieces, black
humour and all the rest of it, with an added bonus of a great story and
a brilliant Travolta as a modern leading man Hitch never had the chance
to cast. But there's De Palma's own established trademarks too - split
screen real time narratives, advanced story clues, multi layered
on-screen action and the obligatory big slow motion sequence where time
is perversely stretched like a bubble gum. The tragic finale of the
story is also unusually poignant, almost superior to "Vertigo" in some
ways, possibly because we are made to care more about these two than
Novak and Stewart.
The only weaker links in this otherwise fabulous thriller are Allen as a red haired blonde (she was better in "Dressed To Kill") - and Pino Donaggio's score, which is a very mixed and uneven bag in terms of style - ranging from incredibly inspired and even moving (listen how well it works with Travolta running up the stairs in slow motion; you just know he won't make it in time - and so on through to the very end of the closing credits) - to totally inappropriate and downright out of place (the blondie-call-me-ish number preceding his car wreck 5 minutes earlier in the film). The camera, photography and editing are all total virtuoso though, one particular standout being the rotating shot over the bleeping studio equipment with Jack coming in and out of the frame in a perfectly timed and choreographed visual ballet. In relation to this, there's another benefit to this film - it gives a nostalgic and endearing glimpse into the analogue audio and film tape editing era - from a viewpoint of a wholly digitalised today's world, that is.
De Palma simply took the relay from Hitch and carried it off into the eighties, lovingly so and nowhere better than in "Blow Out". He also turned it up a notch and added a touch of his own pervy elegance. And just as well that he did, because really good Hitch-like movies are nowadays few and far between and quite hard to find. A must-watch.
This to me is one of the best Philadelphia and Bicentential movies that
It is set in Philly during the celebration of 1776 (in 1976) and it really shows the sights of the city.
There is a scence when Tavolata is going sown the streets of the city looking for a suspect with the police and it seems so realistic , just like you were in the police car yourself.
Travolta as usual does a great job of acting. However, the stat of this movie, like James Bond movies is the villain, John Lithgow. he is absolutely manic in mission to be shoot the candidate.
The ending is great.
John Travolta plays a sound-mixer who tapes what he believes may be a
Blow Out is intricately crafted and full of suspense. It had me on the edge of my seat, one of Travolta's best performances.
John Travolta plays the sound technician who becomes embroiled in murderous political shenanigans when he inadvertently records an assassination, while Nancy Allen is the hooker who's seen far too many "members" of the Senate to assure her safety. Crammed with wonderful De Palma showboating and a wonderfully crackpot turn from John Lithgow as a right-wing loon.
I'm glad i unearthed this beast, it's up there with De Palma's best A forgotten Gem!
Brian De Palma has always gotten a bad rap for his penchant for
essaying his heroes and favourite thrillers, what often gets forgotten
is just how great he could be in crafting said thrillers.
Blow Out has John Travolta as a sound engineer for low budget horror movies, who while out recording sounds one night witnesses a car crash and dives into the river to rescue the call girl trapped in the back seat (Nancy Allen). Upon listening back to the footage of the crash, he hears two noises which point to a gun shot being fired at the car. So with the dead man in the car turning out to be a big political mover, he quickly finds himself spun into a web of intrigue, peril, paranoia and conspiracies. Can he and the girl stay alive long enough to solve the case?
Blow Out finds De Palma at the top of his game, blending the twisty plot dynamics with virtuoso technical smarts. A number of scenes are striking, both visually and in execution and the garnering of acting performances. Pino Donaggio provides an unforgettable music score to marry up to the layers of sub-plots folding together, and cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond sharpens the primary colours to give the story a Giallo like sheen that runs concurrent with the emotional states of the major players.
A sprawling and bustling Philadelphia plays host to a conspiracy sandwich, with a corking side order of the film making process. Sometimes bleak and complex, but never over stuffed, Blow Out is both thrilling and smart, while Travolta has never been better and John Lithgow is tailor made as the unstoppable crack-pot unleashed into our two protagonists' world. 8.5/10
Yet another strong thriller from Brian De Palma was this intriguing and
solidly-well made tale.
Sound FX man records the unwitting murder of a government official and soon finds himself in a deadly conspiracy.
Blow Out is the kind of juicy thriller that audiences have come to expect from De Palma. The story of this film has plenty of good suspense and action to drive the viewer along. It also has a surprising amount of black humor, especially with that terrific 'slasher movie' setup and the films ironic conclusion. Helping all the more is De Palma's usual stylish direction and his impressive camera work (the films climatic fireworks image is quite memorable). Pino Donaggio's music is also a welcomed addition.
Cast-wise the film is quite good, John Travolta being the best here in one of his greatest roles.
All around, Blow Out is a rewarding and nicely done thriller that stands as yet another testament to the cinematic brilliance of Brian De Palma.
*** 1/2 out of ****
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Oh, it must be so wonderful to write thrillers that don't have to
follow any kind of logic at all... De Palma mixes his usual ingredients
in this conspiratorial tale: absurdity, illogicality and
far-fetchedness. Apart from all that, it is a well-made film (not meant
sarcastically) that doesn't capture the mood of the original,
"Blow-Up", which it tries to imitate - but at least De Palma doesn't
make a secret out of that, hence the title. The good things about the
film: Travolta is surprisingly good here and there is suspense. But
Lithgow's character is ridiculous; he is knee-deep into the
assassination of a potential presidential candidate, yet he finds the
time and interest to kill women in his free time, sort of hobby-wise.
De Palma is like an idiot genius: great directing talent combined with a total inability to think logically. Either that, or the man has such contempt for the viewer that he simply doesn't give a flying f*** about logic. And this, among other things, is what separates him from the highest echelon: people like Kubrick and Scorsese are film-makers, De Palma is a director. If you're interested in reading my biographies of Travolta and other Hollywood people, contact me by e-mail.
Based on all the Brian De Palma films I have seen as of now, I have no
problem is stating that 'Blow Out' is my absolute favorite among them.
De Palma's technical prowess has never been in doubt and it is again on
show in this tightly paced conspiracy thriller, but he also adds layers
to the screenplay through his visual choices and the protagonist Jack
Terry played by John Travolta has the kind of depth and humanity that I
couldn't find in some of his other films.
While talking about the themes of the film, one has to make a comparative analysis because the nature of the film lends itself to such an approach. The connection to Antonioni's 'Blow Up' is unmissable if someone watches both the films. Both films are about a person unearthing a truth through their technical expertise, a truth that could somewhat go unnoticed by a layman. However De Palma is in no way trying to bring in an element of abstract existentialism that is a big part of 'Blow Up'. I think 'Blow Out' is also influenced by Hitchcock's 'Vertigo'. De Palma uses the colours of Red, White and Blue in a very meaningful and thematically poignant way just like Hitchcock did with the colours red and green in 'Vertigo'. As a matter of fact the shot of Manny's apartment room engulfed by the red neon light was very reminiscent of Judy's apartment in 'Vertigo' which had the green neon light coming in from outside. 'Blow Out' also shares with 'Vertigo' the Orpheus-esque theme of a character hurt by something in the past intentionally going through a similar incident again which breaks him permanently. 'Blow Out' can be compared with Coppola's 'The Conversation'(which was also tangentially influenced by 'Blow Up') because both films involve a character whose past trauma has led them to resort to something else for spiritual respite. For Jack Terry in 'Blow Out' it is the B- movie industry, while for Harry Caul in 'The Conversation', it is religion. However Jack isn't as psychologically broken and introverted as Harry was.
Apart from everything that I mentioned, one can't forget that this is a political conspiracy film. The film was made at a time when USA was ready to move on after enduring the traumatic incidents that marked the 70s like Vietnam and Watergate by electing Ronald Reagan. De Palma at a political climate like this coming out with a film of this sort, must have tried to claim that this is nothing but a false sunrise and in the end, the film and the political deviousness that is depicted in 'Blow Out' turned out to be prescient. I think 'Blow Out' is also a bit of a love letter to all the grind-house sleazy exploitation films of the 1970s. The film opens with a scene which makes fun of these kind of films including De Palma's own films which did at times go overboard with the sleaziness. But over the course of the film and especially with the beautiful ending De Palma conveys that no matter how technically inept and thematically vapid these exploitation films may be, they still will always carry the filmmakers' blood, sweat and tears. There will still be something personal in these films too.
The screenplay for the most part works. But there are a few sloppy elements here and there like exposition through television news reels and I also thought the climactic set-piece of the film gets a little too overblown. However the mild shortcomings of the screenplay get completely outweighed by De Palma's technical mastery. We get split screens, split diopter shots, tracking shots,etc. like all other De Palma films. There is a particular scene where De Palma uses the 360 degree shot and the camera revolves in a circular motion over and over again and it brilliantly expresses the paranoia of Jack in the scene.
This might be Travolta's best role of his career. He is brilliant with the nuance as well as the gradual sense of paranoia that engulfs him. He fully realises the character and endures the psychological journey that the character of Jack goes through in a convincing way. Nancy Allen is very sweet and likable as Sally, although it can be said that at times, the character becomes a bit too dumb. John Lithgow is also brilliant as the psychotic Burke.
I will end this review by saying that although I made a very thematic analysis of the film, simultaneously I also have to drive home the fact that 'Blow Out' is not just a thematically poignant, but also a very entertaining and funny film. It has something for everyone. Highly recommended.
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