Saturday, 30 March 2013

Blow Out [1981]

Inspired by the Watergate era and a homage to Antonioni’s Blow-Up, Blow Out was in the classic mould of a political conspiracy thriller. Unfortunately, despite this being one hell of a visceral, tense and engrossing ride, and possibly De Palma’s finest work, the American movie-goers’ tastes had shifted from anti-establishment films to escapist blockbusters by the time it released. John Terry (John Travolta), a talented sound engineer for Z-grade slasher flicks, becomes witness to a political assassination while recording outdoor sounds on a bridge one night. He manages to save Sally (Nancy Allen), a deceptively coy and cute looking girl in what appears to be a car accident, but not the man who, as it turns out, was a potential Presidential candidate. The ramifications are explosive, particularly when he realizes that he has inadvertently recorded the murder on tape. However, the more he strives for truth, the deeper he gets entangled into a murky and dangerous game of cat-and-mouse, with the police, on one hand, finding his claims fantastic, and on the other, a mysterious cold-blooded killer (chillingly portrayed by John Lithgow) silently stalking him and Sally, who too, interestingly, might not be who she seems. De Palma superbly complemented the feverish pacing, nightmarish suspense and the constant sense of paranoia, with bravura visual style. He didn’t just imbue it with a sleazy look, he also made tour-de-force and voyeuristic use of sight and sounds. The sheer range of camera angles, zoom lengths and depths of field used in the jaw-dropping nighttime bridge sequence brilliantly evoked here-and-now immediacy, and was reminiscent of the woodcutter’s walk through jungle in Kurosawa's Rashomon.

Director: Brian De Palma
Genre: Thriller/Political Thriller/Psychological Thriller
Language: English
Country: US


Sam Juliano said...

"Unfortunately, despite this being one hell of a visceral, tense and engrossing ride, and possibly De Palma’s finest work...."

I for one do believe this is De Palma's finest work, and it's every bit of the visceral and pulsating ride that you describe it as in this dead-on assessment. De Palma's career is uneven, but his visual style is certainly unique, and three or four of his films, including BLOW OUT are masterful.

Shubhajit said...

Thanks a lot Sam. Yes, its a terrific film alright, even though, unfortunately, it remains largely underrated.

By the way, Sam, I'd love to know about your favourite De Palma films in order to preference.