September 2014

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16 CINEMONTAGE / SEP-OCT 14 by Peter Tonguette H is most memorable film? Don't ask that of Paul Hirsch, ACE. The Academy Award-winning editor does not believe in the concept, and a quick perusal of the more than 40 films to his credit suggests the futility of that exercise: Is it Carrie (1976) or Star Wars (1977)? The Empire Strikes Back (1980) or Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) — or something else? For his part, Hirsch is philosophical about the business of picking and choosing among one's life work. "It's a little like asking a parent who their favorite child is," he says. "Calling one out as opposed to the others invites invidious comparisons that have nothing to do with a film's worth." Even so, there are films that stand out from the rest, and Blow Out (1981) is among them — not because it is better or more successful, but because of what it represents. The film was Hirsch's eighth collaboration with writer-director Brian De Palma, a notable milestone in and of itself. "He was my mentor, and my teacher, as a beginning film editor," Hirsch says. But Blow Out was not simply one film among many — it had something more, as was perceived by film critic Pauline Kael in her review in The New Yorker: "I think De Palma has sprung to the place that Altman achieved with films such as McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Nashville and that Coppola reached with the two Godfather movies — that is, to the place where genre is transcended and what we're moved by is an artist's vision." Time has validated Kael. Quentin Tarantino ranked Blow Out among his 10 favorite films, and (in an interview with Sight & Sound the year that Pulp Fiction was released) praised the handiwork of star John Travolta as "one of my favorite performances of all time, I mean of all time." The film is also one of only two of De Palma's to be afforded the honor of being released by the Criterion Collection on DVD (the other being 1973's Sisters — also edited by Hirsch). The road to Blow Out began in 1968, when De Palma was finishing his third feature film, Greetings. The co-writer and producer was Hirsch's brother, Charles. Through that connection, Hirsch was hired to edit the film's trailer. Though he had majored in art history at Columbia University, Hirsch developed a passion for film during a summer trip to Paris following his senior year. Back in New York, a friend helped get him a low-level job at Dynamic Films, from which he worked his way up to negative cutter. After six months, he moved on, and within a year was cutting trailers, commercials and documentaries MY MOST MEMORABLE FILM Paul Hirsch on 'Blow Out' Paul Hirsch. Right: Blow Out. Filmways Pictures/Photofest CONTINUED ON PAGE 18

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