By Drew Taylor | The Playlist November 5, 2010 at 6:20AM
The Evidence Is Too Great, Don't Bet Against It
Sure, any and all speculation about what the Criterion "wacky" clues really mean are going to be aimless and hypothetical (and, as such, have just as likely a probability of being way off-base and wrong), but there are a few from the past that have called to us with their obviousness: the parrot that wore the "Che" T-shirt, for instance; the golden scarab from "Cronos" or the thin red lion standing in for Terrence Malick's "Thin Red Line."
While certainly not as obvious as those two, we're fairly certain that the new clue (an owl wearing headphones and saying "What?") points to the studio releasing a deluxe edition of Brian De Palma's brilliant, heartbreaking thriller "Blow Out," sometime in the not-too-distant future (and, with any luck, also on Blu-ray).
"Blow Out," released in 1981 to apathetic audiences and a measured critical response (Pauline Kael loved it), was De Palma's wry riff on Michelangelo Antonioni's "Blowup," as well as indulging in a number of his sturdy stable of thematic obsessions -- voyeurism, paranoia and political unease. In the film, John Travolta (in what still might be his best screen role) plays a man who records sound effects for a living. One night, while out recording, he accidentally captures a murder, and from there it's one of the tightest, most technically unparalleled thrillers of the period. (And, also, one of the most overlooked.)
Recently, the DVD went out of print, so it's great that Criterion swooped in and will hopefully deliver an unparalleled collection of special features (as well as some well-scrubbed audio and video). The movie is one of De Palma's very best films, featuring fine performances from not only Travolta but also then-wife Nancy Allen and John Lithgow as a hired killer who gets a little too carried away with his job.
The movie is also noteworthy for Vilmos Zsigmond's wonderful cinematography, a grand and eerie score by Pino Donaggio, and a gloriously downbeat, nihilistic ending that seemed more in place with the rebellious cinema of the 1970s than with the more commercial fare of the decade in which it was released. We couldn't be more thrilled with the news, er, clue.