Blow (2001)

As someone who was constantly seeking to lose themselves and escape their reality in their early 20s, there was a period of time where I romanticized the “drug” movie genre. Which I perceive differently now. When I was younger I would see a movie like Trainspotting and think about how cool the characters and the whole lifestyle seemed. To live your life with such a carefree attitude, with total edge, to exist on the fringe of society (as opposed to living on the society of fringe) it just seemed so exciting and enticing to me at the time. When you’re living in an environment that is constantly making you want to escape, these sorts of things become very appetizing. It’s easy to get swept up in all of it. I’m grateful to have come out the other side, more or less intact (give or take) when I still see people around me who are so lost in the sauce that it kind of hurts.

I recently re-watched Drugstore Cowboy with my girlfriend (what an excellent fuckin movie and controversial opinion alert I think it might be the only film by Gus Van Sant actually worth a damn.) and the whole time I kept seeing the film and the characters as a major warning tale. This film wasn’t romanticizing these drugs at all like I had initially thought, but it was actually condemning them and the kind of person you become while on them. I empathize now with the mother character, distressed that her son might pawn one of her belongings to get a fix. When I was younger I would have seen the mother character as a major buzz kill. Now I have empathy. You gain some things with age who would have thought! It’s interesting what life experiences will do to the way you process cinema. How you can re-visit a movie and pick up on something new or have a different perspective depending on where you are in your life.

During this time period where I was watching all these films, I am surprised that I never came across Blow and that I only watched it recently. Once I realized that it was a contender for the B Roll write up. A movie with Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz about some cocaine escapades operating within a real historical context…not sure why it didn’t appeal to me at the time. Maybe because it was steeped to much in reality? Films like Fear and Loathing or Enter The Void are drenched in a mystical haze. They feel other worldly. Which was more my cup of tea at the time. Escapist cinema. I will admit that I am late to the game with this film, but I have arrived nonetheless. Blow was the last cinematic effort by Ted Demme who also directed a film called Beautiful Girls which my Aunt told me was really good and I will be watching and writing about that film as well.

These types of films all show us the tragic endings that befall someone who lives this kind of a life. And yet we romanticize these characters anyway. Why? Why is Tony Montana so idolized to this day? Because they take excitingly dangerous risks and these risks usually pay off before the whole thing comes crashing down.?Because these characters think outside the box? All of these things just remind me that these people never knew when to leave before everything hit the fan. They don’t know how to exit the “casino” before they lose completely. Does that make sense? They stay in the ring long enough to get knocked out. These big time drug dealers get cocky and delusional in thinking they are above the law. That’s where they get caught. If you are to act in such a way that is completely rebellious to society, you have to know when to stop before you eventually have to pay for it. That is an important take away from this film and from others like it.

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By Sebastian Sommer

Sebastian Sommer is a filmmaker, writer, and creator of the Tie Dye Film Festival.

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