The Playlist's Drew Taylor speculates that a new clue from Criterion hints that a new DVD package of Brian De Palma's Blow Out may be on the way soon. A very welcome idea, as the film has been out of print on DVD for some time now.
Hello and welcome to the unofficial Brian De Palma website.
Here is the latest news:
to direct remake
says she's the "perfect
choice" to direct
his recent films:
"What I was
trying to do with
those films was to
make three student
films in order to
try and set a new
trajectory and try to
say, 'Well, what
happens if I have no
resources?' Now, having
done that, my new
work is going to be
much more ambitious
and bigger in scope and
budget and ambition,
but now building on a
new confidence or
assurance. The three
little films were very
useful. I'm glad I did
it. I hope George Lucas
does it, because he
has a wonderful personal
filmmaking ability that
people haven't seen
for a while."
a la Mod:
Allen further talked about how she became involved in Blow Out, which she says was originally written for older actors:
I was not going to make that movie, Blow Out. I was never supposed to make that movie. In fact, in the original script, the characters were written very differently. They were really written for two older people who were kind of broken down, and, you know, cynical, and just older, and really had been through a lot. And there was a list of actors, more like, um, James Woods, or more of like an intellectual kind of actor. And John [Travolta] just happened to call. I was in Paris, and I was there doing press for Dressed To Kill. And Brian says, “Oh, John Travolta called, and he wanted to read my new script.” And I said, “Well, what are you going to do if he likes it?” [Laughing] Because it was not written for… And he said, “Oh, no, no, it’s not for him. He won’t like it.” So sure enough, he liked it, and I said, “Well, now what are you going to do? Are you going to tell him no?” And he said, “Well, no, I can’t do that. It changes the whole movie.” And I said, “Well, you know, he’s totally wrong for this character. I don’t know what you’re doing.” So I was arguing with him. And he says, “Oh, you think so? Well, he wants to do it with you! Now what do you think?” And I said, “Well, I say yes! Of course I’m going to do it.” So then because it was so different with the two of us, we started to do improvisation to try and now find these new characters. So we worked all these improvisations, and then Brian rewrote the script so it was fitting more to John and I.
As the interview continues, Allen explains how the whole idea of her character wanting to do make-up was something that just popped into her head while doing the improvisations with Travolta. She also confirms to the interviewers that it really is her scream at the end of Blow Out.
(Thanks to Screenfreekz!)
And that joke we got in those several extended takes right at the start (slightly similar to something Tobe Hooper did in THE FUNHOUSE around the same time) gradually dissolves away, a small running gag in the film that seems to be forgotten about as the world closes in on the two leads. What becomes clear on those multiple viewings is that as much as we wish Jack would do a few things differently, there’s the overwhelming feeling that nothing can be done about any of this, the shadowy ‘they’ who are actually just as paranoid about everyone else yet still powerful enough to pull the strings. Frankly, it actually becomes kind of depressing for me to go over certain parts of the film again because of this. Coming from what was at that time over seventeen years of conspiracy talk surrounding the Kennedy assassination (using iconography from both that event and Chappaquiddick) against the bogus Americana of the Liberty Bell Jubilee he muddies the water to have it both ways—a lone nut hired by the conspiracy who engineers his very own plot against the wishes of those allegedly pulling the strings.
In his final paragraph, Mr. Peel muses on the relationships between politics and art in De Palma's cinema between the cynical Blow Out in 1981, and the more "upbeat" Femme Fatale twenty years later:
Several months ago when I wrote about seeing DRESSED TO KILL at the New Beverly I mentioned how based on the screams heard right before the ending the film was still able to get that reaction. The audible response of the crowd registering just what had been done by the film’s lead character at the very end of BLOW OUT, making it clear how many people there were seeing this for the first time, was considerably different and much more complicated, just like the movie. Looking at it now I thought of De Palma as this sixties hippie, getting burnt out, observing what had been going on in all those years since Dallas. I wondered it he was maybe using this ending as a statement to finally throw in the towel on all he once cared about, essentially saying, “we tried to make things better, none of it worked, you went and elected Reagan…just go fuck yourselves.” When something like November 7, 2000 comes to mind for me I think I understand and maybe BLOW OUT is about one final attempt by a person with regrets to engage with the real world, to truly do something to change it for the better, only to find out that such a dream is futile and you can never wipe what happened in the past from your brain. As it turned out FEMME FATALE, screened second that night at the New Beverly, was the ideal chaser to come after this, in a sense transforming all these regrets into a giddy vindication—both films, after all, conclude with the one of the leads finally putting the finishing touch on what he’s creating, something he’s been searching for the entire film. The revelation at the end of the second film is of course much more ludicrous, not to mention considerably more upbeat, but it also offers the feeling that maybe it is possible for a person to find some sort of peace within a work of art that they’re attempting to create. Maybe that was a conclusion that Brian De Palma himself, who after all is an artist, was able to come to in the intervening years, long after he made this bitterly cynical film in 1981. I was in a wonderful mood after this double bill, practically dancing out of the theater, although in the days since those final seconds of BLOW OUT have stayed with me, as I suppose I knew they would. I guess that’s the whole point.
SALLY IS BLOGGER'S "FAVORITE MOVIE PROSTITUTE"
Meanwhile, this weekend Flick Sided's Scott Tunstall, inspired by the recent release Love Ranch (and the fact that he has no way to see that film at the present time), offers up Nancy Allen's Sally from Blow Out as his "favorite movie prostitute." Tunstall writes:
However, my ideal lady of the night is a combination of the two. She’s got a little bit of class, but not too much. Her wardrobe is slutty, but not disgustingly so. And her beauty is natural, more like the girl next door, not the swimsuit model up the street. In cinema, that representation would be Sally from Brian De Palma’s vastly underrated thriller Blow Out.
Sally is played by one of my first boyhood crushes, Nancy Allen. Her healthy mound of curly strawberry blonde hair frames the face of a cherub. Her voice is slightly squeaky and she speaks with an annoying Philadelphia accent. (Being a Philly guy, that’s an incredible turn on.) Sally is so darn cute she catches the eye of a psychotic serial killer dubbed “The Liberty Bell Strangler,” creepily portrayed by John Lithgow.
In the following scene, John Travolta’s sound technician has bugged Sally and is tailing her to a meeting with the Strangler, who is pretending to be a reporter.
Unfortunately for Sally, she meets a tragic end, as do many big screen hussies. Why must we be so cruel to these hardworking ladies of questionable morals? Have we no compassion? Have we no shame? *wipes single tear from cheek and sighs*
Speaking of Hirsch, he recently served as editor on the Robert De Niro/Al Pacino cop/buddy movie Righteous Kill, which I finally watched last week (watch out for SPOILERS here). De Niro and Pacino got a lot of flack for this one, but the project itself I think was a good one to take on. Where De Niro went wrong, I believe, was in taking the project to director Jon Avnet, who has a style akin to television. The script is good, and the idea to cast Pacino opposite DeNiro in this is a good one. However, with that pairing having previously been directed by Francis Ford Coppola and Michael Mann, a stronger director would have worked wonders for this project. That said, there are two sequences that really stand out for being extremely well-edited. The first is a scene where the two cops are being interrogated, and the shots roll at us in rapid succession and from various directions, as the pair are compared to Lennon & McCartney ("not an inch of daylight between them"-- how's that for a contrast to their juxtaposition in The Godfather Part II?). Indeed, De Niro and Pacino tease their interrogators with irreverence as if they were two Beatles at a sixties press conference. A followup scene later in the film becomes a split-screen marvel as the two cops are juxtaposed against each other, and then against themselves, as if we are watching four personalities in the minds of two men. Very creatively done.
Righteous Kill also carries thematic links with De Palma's Snake Eyes. Pacino had turned down the role of Kevin Dunn in the latter film opposite Nicolas Cage's Rick Santoro, but in Righteous Kill his character takes a very similar twist, although the roles in each film, regarding who looks up to who, is reversed. In an odd bit of serendipity, Carla Gugino has been cast in both films as the go-between female figure who is the first to identify the real killer. (John Leguizamo plays a younger cop in Righteous Kill, teaming up with Pacino's cop, but there is no real "Carlito"-type of tension between the two characters in this one.) In the making of docs on the DVD, De Niro says he liked the script, which I agree is a good one, but he should have taken it to a great director. De Palma, Scorsese, Coppola, or Eastwood—even Michael Mann, any of these would have elevated the material, which was already a strong piece of work, especially when combined with the casting.
(Thanks to Rado!)
One film, however, took Chappaquiddick and ran all the way with it. And it’s a great film, too. Brian De Palma’s Blow Out from 1981 is, for me, the swan song of the great paranoid political thrillers of the 1970s. These films, kickstarted by John Frankenheimer with The Manchurian Candidate and Seconds include The Parallax View, The Conversation, Chinatown and Three Days of the Condor. If you haven’t seen all of these titles, see them now. They are fantastic. The genre still exists (Enemy of the State, David Mamet’s Spartan and Eagle Eye all have their value) but Blow Out was the last true masterpiece of the genre.
So, what is Blow Out? Wasn’t that a show about a hair stylist? Blow Out, starring the not-yet-embarrassing John Travolta, is a true film-lover’s film. In it, Travolta plays a post-production sound engineer for low budget horror pictures - working out of Philadelphia of all places. One night he is out recording ambient sound on his Paleolithic analogue sound equipment and he witnesses an auto accident. A Governor with Presidential aspirations and his pretty young thing end up in the drink. What at first seems like a tire blowing out is soon discovered to be a gun shot.
Travolta then uses the power of cinema to expose a massive government conspiracy. Indeed, not until 2009 and the release of Inglourious Basterds will we see the nuts and bolts of pure cinema so deliberately conquer evil.
But as our hero is splicing, mixing, animating still photos and changing reels (AVIDs be damned! Fetch me my razor and sticky tape!) De Palma exposes another great conspiracy: how the magic of the movies is made. Once we get to the final act, and the split-screens, color saturation, tracking shots and slo-mo are flying in ever direction, we find ourselves in pure film lover paradise.
So, yes, Teddy Kennedy. I know I should be thanking you for the health care reform and the advancement of civil rights. But I’d be lying to myself (and to you) if I didn’t say that you’ve touched me most by inspiring Brian De Palma to create Blow Out, one of my favorite whacked-out thrillers of all time.
In a brief post titled "Ted Kennedy and the Cinema," the New Yorker's Richard Brody recalls how Kennedy's presidential hopes were dashed in 1980:
I remember the hope that we liberal Democrats held, in 1980, that he’d prevail in a floor fight at the Convention. It wasn’t so, and Ronald Reagan was the result. So the tight chain of causality seemed to my callow young self, at least. Well, he wasn’t President, but the next year, he was a movie: Brian De Palma’s Blow Out, starring John Travolta as a sound recordist who (shades of Antonioni’s Blow-Up) studies a tape for evidence that a Chappaquiddick-like accident he coincidentally recorded was actually a plot. In De Palma’s film, it’s the politician who dies and his female passenger who survives; I was happy to see Travolta in a new sort of role, but disappointed that De Palma didn’t stick closer to docu-drama. Sometimes an accident is just an accident; the randomness of life is what the cinema, or, rather, its screenwriters, have more trouble with. And maybe what people everywhere have trouble with: there’s the desire to think of history as the product of intelligent design, too, even when its presumed designers are often malevolent.
The illusion of freedom and liberty are alive for all to see in the sky, even if Sally (and the truth...) die right here; their ends acknowledged only by Jack.
Sally's personal story in Blow Out also serves as a metaphor for disillusionment and disenfranchisement in America. Sally begins her journey as a disinterested observer, just minding her own business trying to make a buck any way she can. She doesn't even watch the news "because it is too depressing." When Sally finally does get involved in the "political process," in a quest with Jack to reveal the truth about this conspiracy, what happens? She is brutally murdered.
In this case, a murdered innocent in a movie may very well represent a disappointed, disillusioned electorate in real life. Most people don't get involved in politics, and those activists who do so inevitably face disappointment because things don't seem to change, or get any better. The parties in power may alternate, but the entrenched interests don't. Killing Sally in Blow Out is, essentially, killing hope in the democratic process; it's killing political involvement. From a certain perspective, there are no real "good guys" in Blow Out because even the guy in "search of the truth," -- Jack himself -- exploits the simple-minded Sally (representing the American electorate) for his own purpose. He ruthlessly uses her for his ideological agenda...and she ends up dead, even though that agenda was inarguably noble.