CELEBRATING CENTENARY OF KAEL'S BIRTH THROUGHOUT MONTH OF JUNE
We noted last week that the Quad Cinema in New York is running a Pauline Kael series through the month of June that includes Brian De Palma's The Fury (critic Charles Taylor will introduce that film's June 18 screening). Over in the U.K., the BFI is doing its own Pauline Kael series throughout June, featuring "works she championed by directors she admired." The series includes De Palma's Blow Out, which will screen June 13, 17, and 22. Also on the 17th, there will be a talk, "Film Criticism According to Pauline Kael," which will look at "the impact her reviews and opinions have on American film culture and the next generation of film writers."
Meanwhile, for whatever reason, The Independent newspaper out of the U.K. posted an article yesterday headlined, "42 films to see before you die, from The Apartment to Paris, Texas." Not sure why they chose 42, exactly, but the article was written by Helen O'Hara and Patrick Smith, who chose the films on the list. Including Blow Out on the list, Smith writes, "John Travolta’s Z-movie sound man, out recording one night, accidentally tapes what turns out to be a political assassination. Brian De Palma hit peak ingenuity and gut-punch profundity with this stunning conspiracy thriller, mounted with a showman’s élan but also harrowing emotional voltage from its star. It’s one of the most delirious thrillers of the 1980s, with a bitterly ironic pay-off that’s played for keeps."
Back in 1981, Kael herself wrote in of the freshly-released Blow Out in The New Yorker:
If you know De Palma’s movies, you have seen earlier sketches of many of the characters and scenes here, but they served more limited—often satirical—purposes. Blow Out isn’t a comedy or a film of the macabre; it involves the assassination of the most popular candidate for the presidency, so it might be called a political thriller, but it isn’t really a genre film. For the first time, De Palma goes inside his central character—Travolta as Jack, a sound effects specialist. And he stays inside. He has become so proficient in the techniques of suspense that he can use what he knows more expressively. You don’t see set pieces in Blow Out—it flows, and everything that happens seems to go right to your head. It’s hallucinatory, and it has a dreamlike clarity and inevitability, but you’ll never make the mistake of thinking that it’s only a dream. Compared with Blow Out, even the good pictures that have opened this year look dowdy. I think De Palma has sprung to the place that Altman achieved with films such as McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Nashville and that Coppola reached with the two Godfather movies—that is, to the place where genre is transcended and what we’re moved by is an artist’s vision. And Travolta, who appeared to have lost his way after Saturday Night Fever, makes his own leap—right back to the top, where he belongs. Playing an adult (his first), and an intelligent one, he has a vibrating physical sensitivity like that of the very young Brando.