Review of Blow

Blow (2001)
Petty Conspiracies
17 December 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

What makes this superficially mundane film interesting is what Depp does behind the director's back.

The situation depicted is a society that is unaware of itself, tragically, humorously so. Within that society, under the radar of group consciousness, an incredibly rich network of one-to-one conspiracies was formed, involving hundreds of millions of people globally. Nothing was controlled, everything was on a one-to-one basis.

Now here we have a film that is not just about this, but uses the same mechanism. When we experience a film, especially a Hollywood product, we are seeing an artifact of a society, and generally not a very astute one. As with America in the seventies, it rumbles along thinking it is in charge. It waves the flag of individualism but has no way of getting close to the phenomenon. In fact every effort to accommodate dooms itself because it flexes the big machine.

So it is with this film that is planned, written and directed with the mentality of a soviet factory. And along comes Depp. The dynamics of the character are that he engenders trust with the people he contacts.

Well known social phenomenon: when you take drugs with someone, an intimate, opportunistic fellowship is created, not from any commonality but by shared exclusion of the `outside' in spite of the best attempts of that outside to intrude. Get enough druggies walking around and you have a bazillion pairs of immediate, mostly superficial conspiracies adding up to a counterculture. This film focuses not on the counterculture, but the pairs formed by Depp's character and the people he meets. As he says, he is very, very good at this.

Depp is coming along as a fine actor. He's no Sean Penn yet, but he is one of a half dozen male actors worth following and he is steadily growing. His solution to the challenge of this film is to adopt an acting style that is a conspiracy of pairs. He completely ignores Demme, who seems concerned with his checklist of directors to copy. Instead, what we see is a two layered performance between Depp and each of his collaborating actors.

At the `low' level, we see Jung forming a bond. At the higher level, we see Depp forming similar bonds to create the illusion of the first. It's intelligent stuff which he shades according to each role. For instance, with Rubens, there are sexual bounds that are excluded, but because they are explicitly so, they become important at the higher level. The partnership with Liotta is notable: liotta is the senior but less talented, so he withdraws. Depp goes extra distance in this conspiracy to help Liotta define the character of the Dad.

Particularly of interest is what Depp works out with the two women, again all behind Demme's back. Potente is an intelligent actress who was in `Lola,' a landmark bit of folded self-reference. His bond with her is intellectual. See the virtual winks and nudges. If she had lived, he would have had a chance at turning his life into something meaningful (and with Depp, controlling the movie to have a more meaningful existence).

Cruz is not an intelligent actress, rather an intuitive. See how Depp forms an improv bond with her at the actor level that mirrors the story? Mostly acting with their body movements? And on and on one at a time, Depp creates a counterculture of performances. Stay tuned to Depp.
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