I’m guessing that the Brian DePalma fan club isn’t what it used to be. 30 years ago his admirers, led by Pauline Kael, were legion. I was one of the faithful after his early to mid ’70s run ending with Carrie, but I began running hot and cold throughout the ’80s and ’90s, and didn’t really get off the boat until Mission to Mars (’00) — that, for me, was the final deal-breaker.
I know that my first stirrings of doubt in DePalma began with The Fury (’78) and then started to really take root with Blow Out (’81), a ripoff of Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Blow Up (’67).
All I saw in the former, a paranoid political thriller with John Travolta and Nancy Allen, was an attempt at construction that never finally felt complete. Push the button, yank the chain. DePalma has never been much of a story-teller. It’s a cliche to say this but he’s always been a guy who lives for elaborate camera choreography as an end it itself. To me the characters and especially the dialogue in his films have always felt hackneyed and hand-me-downish.
What was the old Michael O’Donoghue line from Saturday Night Live around this time? “Every year Brian DePalma picks the bones of a dead director and gives his wife [Allen at the time] a job.”
Am I interested in watching this forthcoming Criterion Bluray version when it arrives on 4.28.11? Yeah. Maybe it’ll play better than it did the one and only time I saw it in a New York screening room during the first year of Ronald Reagan‘s presidency. But it’s telling, obviously, that I haven’t felt the slightest interest in catching it again. My memory is a little hazy, but I think I was somewhere between unimpressed and pissed-off when I first saw Blow Out. I just couldn’t get past the fact that Antonioni’s version had sunk in and stayed in my head while DePalma’s evaporated the second it ended.
[Filed from the air, 34,000 feet above Ohio.]