Coming to Terms with America in De Palma’s Blow Out

Perhaps the most famous frame in Brian De Palma’s 1981 film Blow Out is of a woman, portrayed by Nancy Allen, desperately reaching out for help. She’s being attacked, but we don’t see her assailant; instead are the stark stars and stripes of Old Glory, looming large and enveloping the background behind her. Like many brilliant shots, a print of it could hang in a museum and elicit thousands of interpretations. That the shot comes at the culmination of a story about a citizen who gets wrapped up in trying to expose the truth about a political assassination renders...

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