3. Blow Out“ by Brian de Palma (1981)
Since his breakthrough “Carrie” in 1976 Brian De Palma has built a successful career as director of dark, but at times funny films that don’t take themselves too serious. His focus has always been “visual brilliance” and intelligent plotting, but he has also been confronted with criticism about his films being overly violent, or misogynist.
Nevertheless, he delivered some of the most exciting films of the modern Hollywood era, including classics like “Scarface”, “The Untouchables” or “Mission: Impossible”.
“Blow Out” is one of his less-known, almost forgotten masterpieces, but definitely one of his best films.
Starring John Travolta, it takes the plot of Antonioni´s “Blow Up”, and turns it into a brilliantly filmed cinematic essay about: filmmaking.
De Palma, sometimes rightly so, was criticized for producing beautifully textured artworks lacking true depth, but “Blow Out” proofs these critics wrong: It combines a strong and well written story with solid acting, amazing camera montages – and a devastating, almost melodramatic ending. If you plan to expose yourself to the cinema of Brian De Palma, “Blow Out” is definitely one of the 3 must-sees.
2. „Johnny Handsome“ by Walter Hill (1989)
This neo-noir by Walter Hill combines 80s-style with a plot arranged around classic Western themes and characters: Mickey Rourke plays “Johnny Handsome”, a poor guy who has been born with an unhandsome face through a birth defect. Leading a life of a petty crook in the shadows, shabby bars, and the underground, a dramatic incident offers an unexpected chance for him: After a failed burglary, Johnny ends up in a hospital, where a doctor gives him a new face – and the chance of a new life.
Johnny tries hard, gets a job, even finds a girl – but the odds and the demons of the past are against him…
Considering that Walter Hill is best known as director of manly, macho action-films with elaborate stylistics, it is quite surprising he crafted this fine, at times moving and emotional film. It deals with a serious topic: Is it possible to get a “second chance”? Can one change his life, if society gives him the opportunity? How heavy is the weight of “social heritage”?
“Johnny Handsome” is an aesthetic and exigent film, which every fan of the 1980s should have seen.
1. „Escape from New York“ by John Carpenter (1981)
John Carpenter has revolutionized several genres: With “Escape from New York” he designed something like a “Sci-Fi-Noir” that plays in a not so distant, but hopeless future in New York. Manhatten has become a no-go-area packed with crime and anarchy, but the president of the still existing government is held hostage there, by the outlaws.
The government forces Snake Plissken (Kurt Russel) to “get in” and rescue the president…Reluctantly he agrees.
“Escape from New York” can be called innovative and prophetic at once: On the one hand the cool, even cold style, the minimalistic, electronic soundtrack (written by Carpenter himself) would be seen in many 80s-films to follow, the dystopian view on a society that has lost morality, values and leaders and is based on pure egoistic motives is, at the same time, portrait and criticism of the zeitgeist of the years between 1980 and 1990.
Considering all of that, “Escape from New York” can be called the “ultimate 80s gem”. If you want to understand something about the cinema of this decade, or solely about American social and political conflicts of that time, you have to see it.