Blow Out

I liked this movie a lot when it came out.  Saw it two or three times.  Don’t know why it didn’t impress me today.

Travolta is fine in an intelligent, committed performance.  Lithgow is suitably horrible and creepy.

Nancy Allen, for whatever reason, I didn’t buy as the dumb-as-a-post good-time gal.  I never liked this performance, but I used to go along with it because Pauline Kael liked it, so I figured the problem was me.  I don’t have a problem with larger-than-life De Palma performances in general, I’ve come to enjoy them, but this one left me cold.  I couldn’t bring myself to care about someone who barely seemed there to begin with.

Ideologically, the movie makes complete sense.  A sitting president hires a creepy, amoral thug to frame his rival, and when the framing turns into a murder the thug covers it up by murdering a bunch of innocent women.

In 1981, it seemed outlandish and paranoid, in 2006 is seems more like “What, only one creepy, amoral thug?  Why isn’t there a team?  And why bother to cover anything up?”

Likewise, the sad, despairing aspects of the narrative, the capitalist imperative driving everyone’s decisions, and how Travolta ultimately makes his uneasy peace, are all affecting.

The hallmark scenes of suspense all work well, as well as the scenes of Travolta showing us the tools of the trade in order to piece together his clues.

The problems I had with it today, I think, were logical.

Karp (Karp again!) has a 16mm film of an assassination, which he has sold to a national news magazine, “News Today.”  News Today has run a key section of the film, frame by frame, in black-and-white stills, in their magazine.

Setting aside the notion that the magazine would use up a valuable features section to run a frame-by-frame presentation of an auto accident, the question I have is: didn’t News Today make a copy of the film?  And wouldn’t anyone on the staff of News Today notice the gunshot, which is painfully obvious, even to Chappaquiddick/Watergate-hardened cynics, when you watch the film in color?

Later, it’s revealed that Karp has sold the film “all over the place” and “to every newspaper and magazine in the world,” yet there are no other copies of it, and Karp still has the only one in his seedy motel room with no lock on the door, just waiting to be stolen by the first floozy who comes along with a smile and a bottle of J&B.

Ray of hope: the presidential candidate, it turns out, did not approve the framing and assassination of his rival.  Lithgow is a rogue re-election campaigner.  He’s Donald Segretti with a trick watch and amurderous hatred of women.

Bonus points: spot the C-3PO mask!
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3 Responses to “Blow Out”
  1. urbaniak says:

    Conversely, Pauline Kael hated DeNiro in “King of Comedy.” Go figure.

    • Todd says:

      Well, as you know, King of Comedy was the movie that finally alerted me to De Niro’s genius. Not Taxi Driver or Raging Bull, no, it took me a good ten years or so to absorb those movies.

      I saw Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and thought “These may or may not be great performances, I wouldn’t know, because I don’t know anyone like Travis Bickle or Jake LaMotta.” But I knew plenty of people like Rupert Pupkin, and De Niro’s performance in that felt like having my skin pulled off.

  2. craigjclark says:

    Oddly enough, Blow Out is the one film of De Palma’s from this period that I do not own. I should probably get around to rectifying that eventually.