Blow Out

(1981)

Genres: Crime, Drama, Mystery

Hot & Now: Blow Out / Le Quattro Volte

Transcript for Hot & Now: Blow Out / Le Quattro Volte

IGNATIY VISHNEVETSKY:
And now it’s time for our Hot & Now segment.  It’s been 30 years since the film BLOW OUT was released in theaters.  Now, you can see it on Blu-ray.  Here’s our contributor Matt Singer as he looks at why the sound for this film is so memorable. 

MATT SINGER:
In modern movies, sound is always present, but rarely noticed.  We just take it for granted.  Until something happens that shatters the illusion of reality.  Now one of the smartest and most entertaining movies ever made about the subject of sound in film is availble on blu-ray for the very first time.

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MATT:
In Brian DePalma’s Blow Out, John Travolta plays Jack Terry, a sound man for low budget exploitation pictures who accidentally records a political assassination disguised to look like a car accident.

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MATT:
Unwittingly, Travolta is drawn into a conspiracy and cover up far sleazier than anything in one of his B horror films.

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MATT:
Blow Out is a suspenseful thriller and a tender and sad love story between Travolta and Nancy Allen, but most importantly Blow Out is a brilliant expose of sound in cinema.  How it’s made and how it works.

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MATT:
Sound plays a huge roll in the film’s plot and becomes Jack’s greatest ally and his greatest enemy.  It helps him solve a murder mystery, but it also let’s the film’s villain played by a wonderfully evil John Lithgow, spy on  him through a wire tap.  Sound is everywhere in Blow Out.  Even in it’s visuals.  It’s no coincidence that Lithgow’s character where’s a Bell Telephone uniform or that the anniversary of another bell, the Liberty Bell, serves as the setting for the climactic chase.

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MATT:
By exposing us to a sound man’s process, DePalma reinvents our relationship to sound in movies.  Suddenly we’re hyper aware of everything we hear.  

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MATT:
And by showing us how easily sounds can be altered, DePalma plays devil’s advocate to his own protagonist.  Jack thinks his tape of the accident is concrete evidence of a crime, but DePalma repeatedly shows how easily film cn be mnipulated to suit the director’s purpose.  If you can fake a scream, why can’t you fake a murder? DePalma isn’t just interrogating sound in cinema, he’s questioning the cery nature of truth on film.  At the end of Blow Out after Jack has sacrificed everything for what he believes in, his very last gessture in the movie is to cover his ears to try to block sound out completely.  It’s not any easy thing to do unless you have a sound man to do it for you.  Alright, that felt good, sound alright?

IGNATIY:
Thank you so much Matt.  Now, BLOW OUT is one of my favorite films, which is why it’s my pick this week for Hot & Now.  It’s a masterpiece by any measure, and a film of  profound disillusionment -- not only with politics, but with our own ability to change the world around us. It's not only the high water mark of DePalma's career as a director and screenwriter, but also the finest performance of John Travolta's career; his character is a lonely, ultimately tragic figure, an idealist who pretends to be a cynic. 


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IGNATIY:

Though it was released in 1981, BLOW OUT has been rightly called "the last film of the 1960s" -- a pessimistic epilogue to an already distant decade of political and social change. Matt’s already talked about the film's extensive use of sound, but the camerawork and the editing -- including DePalma's trademark split-screens -- are just as carefully used. It's a perfectly-constructed film about human imperfection, making that infamous final shot all the more devastating. 

CHRISTY LEMIRE:
My Hot and Now pick is the mesmerizing Italian film "Le Quattro Volte." It follows Pythagoras' idea that the soul passes through four stages: human, animal, vegetable and mineral. Writer-director Michelangelo Frammartino traces the journey that connects an aging shepherd, a newborn goat, a giant fir tree and finally the wood coal that the tree becomes. 



CLIP -- from the trailer, available online, images of the goats and the trees and the old man


CHRISTY:

"Le Quattro Volte" is absolutely gorgeous -- it's essentially wordless, with Frammartino allowing the images to speak for themselves. He comes up with moments that are so fragile and intimate, he makes you wonder how he got so close to capture them. And yet he also makes you wonder what's real and what's not -- whether you're watching a documentary or some kind of hybrid of fiction and reality. Now, it may not be a Hot and Now where you are just yet -- it may be a Hot and Soon. It's been playing in New York, Los Angeles and a few other places, but opens in various cities across the country through July. So go and find it.