About a month ago, I saw a documentary called “De Palma” about, who would guess, Brian De Palma. Having had never seen a De Palma film, the documentary gave me a good sense of the three things that he’s most often associated with and criticized for:
Since then, I’ve seen my first De Palma film: Blow Out, his 1981 thriller which opens with a scene that has:
I couldn’t believe it. “Well, everyone is right about De Palma,” I thought to myself.
Turns out that Blow Out has a film within a film.
The protagonist, Jack Terry, is working on a low-budget exploitation film -- that opening shot that we were just watching. So that exploitation film is a satirical take on a De Palma film. Is De Palma making fun of himself? Is he making fun of the criticisms that are attached to his films? I’m really not sure. I just think it’s awesome De Palma did that.
The rest of Blow Out is extremely fun. It's your average thriller, except it's slightly heightened by De Palma's style. It's got a good performance by John Travolta, who waves his hands around to emphasize his confusion and, more importantly, the metaphorical tinfoil hat slowly being placed on his head as he continues to unravel a conspiracy. In a film about a sound designer, the sound design is great.
And then the ending comes along and ruins it.
I won't spoil it, but it pisses me off. The rest of the film is so fun to watch and the ending decides to become melodramatic, cheesy, and "touching." Except it's hard to touch me when you add:
Maybe the lights are a metaphor for America? They're American colors... Do I just not get it? Well, even if I don't get it, it's still cheesy as hell...
Blow Out is still a lot of fun. It’s certainly gotten me interested in seeing De Palma's other work. But the least you could have done is let me think at the end instead of waving a giant sign that says "BE SAD." It’s really a shame, because Blow Out is an above average thriller. It’s got an interesting plot which is heightened by De Palma’s idiosyncratic direction. It’s just a shame that he couldn’t let me think for myself at the end like he was letting me do the rest of the film.