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Blow Out Spoiler Discussion


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#1 of 10 benbess

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Posted April 28 2011 - 11:17 AM

Don't read this thread until you've watched your copy of Criterion's new release of Brian DePalma's Blow Out from 1981. I'd like to have a chat about this that does not have to be mysterious about plot points and the end of the film


I just finished watching Blow Out myself for the first time since the theatrical release in the summer of 1981. I was 16 then, and in high school, and I almost always went to movies with my friends. None my friends wanted to see this one, however, and no one in my family did either. But since I could drive I screwed up my courage and just drove myself out to a matinee by myself. Something about the ads for the film attracted me--I think it was the idea that there was this puzzle that Travolta's character Jack Terry was going to solve. And I guess the film had a big impact on me in part because I kept hoping he was going to solve it and it would have a happy ending--but of course it's more memorable with the tragic ending. I remember being shocked at the horror and sadness and yet beauty of the scene where he gets to Sally and she's dead. And of course now that the film is known you can see how they were heading toward that "good scream" all along. But at the time I thought it was a huge twilight zone like shock.


Anyway, I thought the film did hold up pretty well for me. Not surprisingly I wasn't quite as impressed at the age of 46 as I was as 16, but I still think it might just be DePalma's best film and Travolta's best performance. The pq and aq are excellent, and I don't regret at all that I got this title--and that's even before I've tried to dive into the impressive group of special features.


Anyone else out there have any thoughts? What impressed you about the film? Where specifically are the Hitchcock homages? What about the film doesn't maybe quite stand up for you now.


And what do you think of the fact that this film was an expensive flop in 1981 that essentially helped destroy Filmways, and yet it has in the last 72 hours been one of Criterion's biggest blockbusters ever and a gigantic hit for them....?



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#2 of 10 Neil S. Bulk

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Posted April 28 2011 - 12:34 PM

Do you think Burke is a brilliant killer or incredibly incompetent?  Does he really plan on killing women that look like Sally or does he screw up when he kills someone that looks like her?  He also botches the job that sets off the entire movie.


And why do tapes that have been erased make any sound?


I love the movie and I actually don't expect a definitive answer regarding Burke's competency.


Neil



#3 of 10 TravisR

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Posted April 28 2011 - 02:39 PM

^ I think Burke is completely competent. Assassinating Governor Ryan at the beginning is only really screwed up because Jack records the accident and  that's out of his control. As for the women he kills, I take him at face value when he says that he's doing it as a cover to kill Sally.


On a related note, I live outside of Philadelphia so when I go into the city, it's enjoyable to see 30th Street Station or City Hall or (I think) Market Street and mentally compare it to what it looked like back when they shot Blow Out there in 1980/81. Also, I saw this movie in the theater a few years back and the print must have been from 1981 because it had basically turned purple over the years.



#4 of 10 Brisby

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Posted April 28 2011 - 02:43 PM

The first woman Burke kills is an honest mistake, but he kills the other women who resemble Sally deliberately in a ploy to draw attention away from any whiff of political conspiracy (and, he just plain likes killing).



#5 of 10 benbess

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Posted April 28 2011 - 07:33 PM

I think at the start of our posts in this little thread we should make sure our first sentence doesn't give anything away. I forgot that the first sentence shows up where everyone can see it. As long as we do that we should be spoiler free.


Burke is obviously sick and nuts, but from his twisted perspective I think he felt he was competent. I think he meant to shoot out the tire in a way that might kill the politician all along. But I do wonder if that first attack from the back was a "mistake"--and that then he decided to use it....Sociopath, obviously...That scene where he's calling up the police and pretending to have feelings of remorse was still creepy to me.


On another topic, the train station setting seemed to me an obvious Hitchcock reference to NNW, Strangers on a Train, etc.




#6 of 10 benbess

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Posted April 29 2011 - 02:03 AM

Matt H. in his review does a great job of describing and analyzing what makes this film special. One thing that surprised me watching again were the split screen techniques, which I barely recalled. I did recall the special effect, if that's what you'd call it, of the fireworks scene at the end. Was that done with blu-screen? I wonder. Anyway, it was quite well done....And the final scene where he's smoking and hearing the scream is pretty heavy. Is that movie they are watching the one that's the bonus feature??


Anyway, here's part of the review by Matt H:


"The film is filled with split screen effects (sometimes obvious ones with the screen split in two; sometimes with two different shots melded into the widescreen frame seamlessly as if in one), overhead and low-level shooting at appropriate moments (a climactic shot involving fireworks never fails to take one’s breath away), a mesmerizing sequence where the camera circles 360 degrees as Jack discovers that his sound studio has been burglarized, tracking shots, slow motion shots, and a creative manipulation of previous images (using a directional mic) with current ones (reliving his experience using a pencil instead of the mic). The unending assortment of techniques to tell his story (De Palma also wrote the script) makes it the very definition of auteur cinema. What could have been a stale, simple stalk and slash movie in the wrong hands turns into something deeper and more meaningful as the director constantly surprises us with unique revelations about motives and modus operandi. And he also doesn’t resort to a typical romance developing between his two leads either which films of this type would generally embrace. Instead, we get a grown up emotional bond between the protagonists tied as they are to the event and its aftermath. Perhaps the lack of these clichéd elements prevented the film from capturing a large, enthusiastic audience during its initial release, but it certainly plays like a masterwork now."


As Matt say, the 360 degree camera is very effective. He's a sound man, and so by erasing his library it's almost as if they are erasing his life, or at least his professional career. His memory and his life is turning into ribbons of blank tape, which is why I think the cover chosen by Criterion is so effective. Plus he now knows that they'll do anything. He was paranoid, but now he knows he maybe wasn't paranoid enough. They are out to get him. He keeps not being paranoid enough, even though everyone tells him he's a paranoid conspiracy theorist...



#7 of 10 benbess

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Posted April 29 2011 - 10:10 PM

I learned from the interview with DePalma on the disc that some of the shots on the film where things close up and far away are in focus are because of the use of a special split lens set up called a split diopter. Fascinating. And I think it's well used in the film.



#8 of 10 Brisby

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Posted April 30 2011 - 02:37 AM



Originally Posted by benbess 

I learned from the interview with DePalma on the disc that some of the shots on the film where things close up and far away are in focus are because of the use of a special split lens set up called a split diopter. Fascinating. And I think it's well used in the film.



De Palma uses the split diopter lens on most of his movies (especially his films from the 70's and 80's). Dressed To Kill in particular utilizes it frequently.


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#9 of 10 Scott Calvert

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Posted April 30 2011 - 12:44 PM

Great movie but I can't help but think it would have worked better with someone besides Lohn Lithgow as the villain. I love Lithgow, but I've never really bought him in heavy roles. I dunno, he's just not scary or threatening to me at all.



#10 of 10 Brisby

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Posted April 30 2011 - 02:58 PM



Originally Posted by Scott Calvert 

Great movie but I can't help but think it would have worked better with someone besides Lohn Lithgow as the villain. I love Lithgow, but I've never really bought him in heavy roles. I dunno, he's just not scary or threatening to me at all.



I find Lithgow phenomenally creepy in this movie. Check out the nearly imperceptable "tic" in his eye while he's playing around with his wristwatch garrote wire while contemplating killing the prostitute in the train terminal. And I love the scene where he's on the phone playacting about where he left the body of the first woman he killed. Great performance.







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