Monday, May 30, 2011

BLOW OUT (Brian De Palma, 1981, USA)

Jack Terri's life is imprinted upon magnetic tape, a reel to reel existence lived through a live wire. Director and writer Brian De Palma ciphers Antonioni's BLOW-UP into a Hitchcockian mystery where everything is exactly as it seems, synching video and audio into an nihilistic thriller as cracked as the Liberty Bell.

The film begins as a classic teen-slasher flick, to include the buxom victims and the hunchbacked serial killer, shot in POV of the murderer allowing immediate viewer identification with the sadistic acts. De Palma then smartly cuts to a sound studio where Jack Terri is synchronizing sound effects to the moving pictures but unable to imprint the perfect scream. This genre excursion becomes a harsh parallel to the actual film and blurs the line between cinematic Trash and Art.

Later that night, Jack is recording nature sounds for his collection and witnesses a car crash into the river. He jumps into the frigid waters and pulls a young woman from the vehicle but the driver is dead. Soon, he is being ordered to forget the girl and details of the accident by mysterious politicians because the driver was the Governor and presidential hopeful. Now, Jack is involved in an apparent conspiracy where he knows the truth but can't prove it. De Palma smartly reveals the truth to the audience and allows the narrative to exceed Jack's perception, creating high-wire tension between what we know and what he doesn't.

De Palma utilizes split screen and two-shot compositions to great effect, revealing visual information to weave a pattern of suspense. The beautiful cinematography portrays the City of Brotherly Love in all its sordid elegance, from the bright neon glitter to the litter strewn gutters. He often surrounds Jack with studio equipment, isolating him from human contact, and in one 360 degree shot centers him in a room full of blank cassettes. Little is revealed about Jack's past (or Sally's) except an incident where his talent for invention resulted in the murder of a police officer. DePalma sets the scene for Jack's redemption but dresses it to kill our expectations...and it does. Jack only discovers the girl of his screams.

Final Grade: (B+)

1 comment:

Chase Kahn said...

It's been so long since I saw this on VHS (I need to see that Criterion Blu-ray ASAP), and the only thing I seem to remember is that I liked it and, of course, that final scene.

I'm curious to revisit it seeing as how I've fallen in love with some of De Palma's works over the last several years ("Carrie", "Sisters", "Phantom of the Paradise", "Obsession").