AS CRITERION DELIVERS A WOW
During a bonus interview on Criterion's recent release of Brian De Palma's Blow Out, Nancy Allen laments that the film's original release just didn't seem to have the right timing. A bleak movie released in the summer when everybody is looking to have some fun. Well, thanks to Criterion, thirty years later, Blow Out's time seems to have finally arrived. Widely regarded by De Palma fans and cinephiles alike as one of De Palma's best films, Blow Out currently seems to be cementing its place in the mainstream as the best representation of De Palma's cinema. The Criterion release is a big hit, introducing Blow Out to a wide new audience, and turning the heads of even some of De Palma's harshest critics.
When I was a kid, I had a friend who wrote a song (we were writing songs in the sixth grade) about some advice he had received from his dad. The hook of the song was, "Before you buy anything, it has to be a wow!" I can't say I've always followed this advice, but I can say without a doubt that Criterion's release of Blow Out is nothing less than a wow. Everything from the film transfer, supervised by De Palma himself, to the disc extras (three great interviews, and I never thought I'd see De Palma's Murder A La Mod on a Criterion release!), to the beautiful booklet that includes a reprint of pages from the magazine prop cut-up by John Travolta in the movie, is a treat in and of itself. To have all of this in one package is extraordinary.
A SMALL SELECTION OF 'BLOW OUT' REVIEWS FROM THE LAST TWO WEEKS
Randy Miller III at DVD Talk
Blow Out is unquestionably a fantastic film that, commercially and (perhaps) critically, was released at the wrong time. In the last 30 years, however, it's aged remarkably well and stands as an underrated career highlight for all those involved. Combining equal parts paranoia thriller, black comedy and tragic love story, Blow Out should enthrall those new to the film and delight those that haven't seen it in years. Criterion's Blu-Ray does a perfect job of maintaining the film's tone and spirit, pairing a rock-solid technical presentation with a handful of thoughtful, appropriate bonus features. While it's a bit on the pricey side (even for a Criterion disc), Blow Out is a top-tier effort and this Blu-Ray is worth every penny. Very Highly Recommended.
Travis Crawford at Filmmaker Magazine
The ending of Brian De Palma’s Blow Out hits you in the chest like a hammer. It’s not supposed to be this way; American studio movies don’t end like that. But of course it’s the heartbreaking denouement that has partially helped to make the film endure in the 30 intervening years since its commercially disastrous release, though one can certainly fathom how it alienated audiences at the time (for the record, some critics were passionate defenders; it’s just that most viewers don’t savor being implicated in the spectacle of violence as it is quickly transformed into tragedy).
Blow Out is usually considered critically, at least in part, as an investigation of filmmaking processes. It's true that De Palma spends some time with the mechanics of film, depicting the laborious process of synching sound to picture or opening up a Bolex to expose the camera's inner workings. In another funny joke, he has Jack slip Sally out of the hospital and into a motel room where, rather than snuggle up under the covers with her, he sits up all night with his Nagra tape deck. But the element of filmmaking that really matters here is deception, by which I mean performance. Sally, for instance, fancies herself a make-up artist, and it turns out that the face she presents to Jack isn't entirely an honest one. There's the duplicitous Manny (Dennis Franz), who uses a studio-photography business as a front for a blackmail operation. There's the murderous political operative Burke (John Lithgow, in an early rehearsal for his role on "Dexter"), who is so skilled at altering his voice that he sometimes talks as though there's a soundman inside his head, overdubbing the words in real time. De Palma even takes a moment late in the film to slyly depict the negotiation between customer and prostitute as a fundamentally phoney transaction on both sides.
Amid these actors, these practitioners of pure fiction, Jack is a documentarian. Once his boss insists that he bring new wind FX to bear on Coed Frenzy's soundmix, it's Jack's sense of professionalism that sends him wandering around in the middle of the night, recording the breeze rustling through leaves. That work ethic gets him embroiled in the mystery surrounding the governor's death. When the individual frames of a film showing McRyan's car driving into the river are published in a newsmagazine, à la the Zapruder film, Jack finds a way to turn them into a movie he can synch with his sound recordings in order to reconstruct the accident. At one point, he tells someone on the police force that he can't simply let it go because he was there for the real events, which don't correspond with the official story. "I was there, she was there," he argues. "Who gives a damn that you were there?" comes the devastating reply. More than filmmaking, per se, Blow Out is about the tale-spinning power of modern media--the efficiency of well-told lies.