Blu-ray: Blow Out

Blow Out

Brian De Palma’s best film gets a UK Blu-ray release from Arrow Films.

A cinematic fusion of Antonioni’s Blow-up (1966) and Coppola’s The Conversation (1974), it draws heavily on real events (notably the JFK assassination, Chappaquiddick and Watergate) and sees a sound technician (John Travolta) drawn into a sinister plot after accidentally recording what appears to be a gunshot.

Although not a financial success on its theatrical release, it stands up very well to repeated viewing, not only as a showcase of the director’s dazzling technique, but also as a gripping thriller.

Brilliantly shot by famed cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, it has many of the stylistic tricks favoured by De Palma: overhead shots, split-screen and split focus are just some of the visual flourishes on display.

But this isn’t just an exercise in style, as it manages to capture the bleak post-Watergate mood that lingered long after Nixon resigned, whilst also playing around with our perception of what we see and hear on screen.

Steadicam inventor Garrett Brown had just come off Kubrick’s The Shining and this was his first time working with De Palma and the smooth movements the camera allowed suited the director’s style perfectly (he also used it to memorable effect in Carlito’s Way and Snake Eyes).

The performances are also excellent: John Travolta demonstrates his more subdued side after the late 70s superstardom madness of Saturday Night Fever and Grease; Nancy Allen paints a sympathetic portrait of innocence in what could have been a clichéd role and John Lithgow is suitably creepy as the serial killer.

Blow Out is also about the filmmaking process itself: the central character has to recreate an event using sounds and images. But can we trust what we see and hear? Even if we can, what about the forces that initially shaped them?

This disc comes in a regular and steelbook limited edition with the following special features:

  • New, restored digital transfer, supervised and approved by director Brian De Palma
  • Original Dolby 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Optional English SDH subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
  • Black and White in Colour: An Interview with cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond
  • Rag Doll Memories: Nancy Allen on Blow Out
  • Return to Philadelphia: An interview with Producer George Litto
  • A gallery of on-set photos by photographer Louis Goldman
  • Original Theatrical Trailer
  • Collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Michael Atkinson, a conversation between Quentin Tarantino and Brian De Palma and more to be confirmed

> Buy Blow Out on Blu-ray from Amazon UK
> Find out more about Blow Out at the IMDb

Sundance London 2013

Sundance London 2013

DAY ONE (April 25th)

Sundance London 2013 – Day 1 from Sundance London 2012 on Vimeo.

The Look of Love (Dir. Michael Winterbottom): After 24 Hour Party People (2002) Michael Winterbottom reunites with Steve Coogan for this biopic of the late Paul Raymond. The self-styled ‘King of Soho’ made his fortune with gentleman’s clubs, erotic magazines and property but his great wealth was underscored by personal tragedy.

Coogan brings a huge amount of charisma to his role, but he is backed up by a fine supporting cast including Anna Friel, Tamsin Egerton, Chris Addison and especially Imogen Poots, who excels as his troubled daughter. Winterbottom deftly manages to balance humour and the film makes good use of real life locations in Soho.

DAY TWO (April 26th)

Sundance London 2013 – Day 2 from Sundance London 2012 on Vimeo.

Blood Brother (Dir. Steve Hoover): An enlightening and at times harrowing documentary about a filmmaker following his best friend (Rocky Braat) as he returns to a hostel in India for young children with HIV. Whilst it doesn’t break any new ground stylistically, the engaging central figure and rawness of the story makes for compelling viewing.

It is rare to see filmmakers adopt a such an extreme verite approach, but what initially starts off as a traditional narrative soon becomes something more unexpected. One scene in particular during the final third may raise questions about the moral line between documentarians and their subjects.

DAY THREE (April 27th)

Sundance London 2013 – Day 3 from Sundance London 2012 on Vimeo.

The Kings of Summer (Dir. Jordan Vogt-Roberts): One staple of US indie films, is the coming of age tale. This one follows three disaffected boys (Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias) in a rural Ohio town as they run away from home and try to settle in the woods.

Despite the over familiar setting – and a considerable debt to Rob Reiner’s Stand By Me (1986) – it manages to effectively capture the humour and frustration of those teenage years. This is mostly down to Vogt-Roberts nice eye for location and a solid ensemble cast, which includes a stand out turn from Nick Offerman from TV’s Parks and Recreation.

DAY FOUR (April 28th)

Sundance London 2013 – Day 4 from Sundance London 2012 on Vimeo.

Mud (Dir. Jeff Nichols): Interesting US directors outside the LA/New York axis have been rare in recent years. A notable exception has been Arkansas native Jeff Nichols. With his first two films, Shotgun Stories (2007) and Take Shelter (2011), he has firmly established himself as a distinct voice.

His latest comes soaked in the storytelling tradition of the Deep South, mainly Huckleberry Finn, as two young boys (Tye Sheridan and Jacob Lofland) come across a stranger named Mud (Matthew McConaughey) who is hiding on an island in the Mississippi river. Strong performances abound from McConaughey, Sheridan, Reese Witherspoon and Sam Shepherd, but it is the confident writing and directing that really mark this out as another chapter in the career of Nichols.

Upstream Color (Dir. Shane Carruth): Ever since his remarkable debut Primer (2004) scooped the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, people have been wondering what had happened to its writer/director Shane Carruth. The answer appears to have been a period of long development hell, but his second feature is well worth the wait. If you were baffled by Primer then be prepared for this film.

Just describing it is hard as it eschews conventional notions of plot but the basic premise revolves around a woman (Amy Seimetz) who comes across a man (Shane Carruth) who may or may not have the answers to a recent trauma she’s undergone. Imagine if David Lynch and Terrence Malick remade Memento (2000) and you might get some idea of the haunting puzzle box Carruth has crafted. The performances, visuals and score all combine to dazzling effect, and it is hard to recall a more mysterious and original film.

Sundance London
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> More on the history of the Sundance Film Festival and The O2 at Wikipedia

DVD & Blu-Ray Picks: May 2013

DVD and Blu-ray Picks for May 2013

  • Billy Liar (StudioCanal) / Blu-ray / 06/05/2013
  • The Impossible (Entertainment One) / Blu-ray and Normal / 06/05/2013
  • Amateur (Artificial Eye Blu-ray / Normal / 13/05/2013
  • One Hour Photo (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) / Blu-ray and Normal / 13/05/2013
  • Rear Window (Universal Pictures) Blu-ray / Normal / 13/05/2013
  • The Birds (Universal Pictures) Blu-ray / 50th Anniversary Edition / 13/05/2013
  • Bullhead (Soda Pictures) Blu-ray / Normal / 20/05/2013
  • The Sessions (20th Century Fox Home Ent.) Blu-ray with Digital Copy – Double Play / 20/05/2013
  • Blow Out (Arrow Video) Blu-ray Special Edition / 27/05/2013
  • My Left Foot (ITV DVD) Blu-ray / Normal / 27/05/2013
  • The Unbelievable Truth (Artificial Eye) Blu-ray / Normal / 27/05/2013

The Best DVD & Blu-rays of 2012
> Full DVD and Blu-ray Releases for May 2013