Cannes Film Festival Focus: Our Review of ‘The Blackout’ (1997) on MUBI

Posted in by - May 20, 2023
Cannes Film Festival Focus: Our Review of ‘The Blackout’ (1997) on MUBI

Abel Ferrara’s The Blackout has, to quote Stefon, everything – beautiful women, analog TVs, and movie stars dealing with addiction issues. One of the movie stars in question is Matty (Matthew Modine), who is slightly jealous that his girlfriend, Annie (Beatrice Dalle) is starting to get more attention than him. They eventually have a fight after she reveals that she aborts their baby, an action he resents, until she plays him a tape where he tells her to get rid of the baby.

Annie’s revelation makes Matty swing back and forth. At one point he wants to drown his sorrows with a director (Dennis Hopper), and and at another, he finds sobriety with a new fiancee (Claudia Schiffer) who he meets in Miami. They find a new life for themselve sin New York but there’s something that brings him back in Miami. Something that he should leave alone, but of course films don’t exist unless their antiheroes scratch at their scabs.

The Blackout, by the way, is my first Ferrara film and a weird way to get into his oeuvre. The film was part of both his and Modine’s flop era but like some flops, this ends up in his retrospective as well as the one that MUBI is having that coincides with this year’s increasingly controversial Cannes film festival. Few flops get a second look. And this is what these retrospectives are for, to reverse the mark of shame that critics gave it contemporaneously.

What The Blackout does well is find the highs, lows, and middles of having addiction issues. The Claudia Schiffer scenes subvert what climaxes often do in films in that she represents the calm before the storm. And Modine, in retrospect, is the perfect guy to play someone like Matty who can get it together and lose everything within moments. He’s his generation’s Ryan Gosling, the kind of nerdy boy with an edge and a hint of violence.

The Blackout is an appropriate title for this film because there are a few gaps especially during its third act. There are also some flaws with its execution that reminds me of a slightly weaker version of Beau is Afraid. Specifically, in that it only shows one side of holding someone accountable even if accountability needs two sides. As I write this though, there’s soemthing marvelous in this film’s ferocity. It presents organized chaos and a bleakness that feels prophetic.

Watch The Blackout on MUBI.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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