Thursday, December 29, 2016

CANON OF FILM: "BLOW-UP"

BLOW-UP (1966)

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Screenplay: Michelangelo Antonioni and Tonino Guerra based on the short story “Las Babas del Diablo” by Julio Cortazar and story by Michelangelo Antonioni. English Dialogue by Edward Bond



Michelangelo Antonioni is a director whose influence is rarely seen in modern movies. He likes long takes of scenes, often of what appears to be nothing in particular until something moves into the scene, or moves out, or eventually does both and he’s been known to leave shots for minutes on end, and then pan the shot. During one Cannes Film Festival, the French were literally yelling “Cut,” at the screen every few minutes during a showing of his film “L’Avventura,” which is now considered a masterpiece. (And the scene they booed at, wasn’t really that long either) Although most of his work is in Italian, the only films I’ve seen of his are two of his English Language films, one being “The Passenger,” with Jack Nicholson about a journalist who trades lives with a military arms trader after he dies, (A film, I’ve already added to the Canon, you can find that post under the tab above) and “Blowup,” which is as much a mystery as it is the definitive document on Mod Culture in London in the mid 60s.

The beginning scene of the film is a bunch of mines driving in a car out on a rag, which I don't know if that happens much anymore, but it's where college art students go and collect money for charity. Then we meet, our protagonist, a fashion photographer who very metaphorically and literally is able to get his models to make love to the camera, and can probably talk them into whatever he wants if he was interested in it, Thomas (David Hemmings) but instead, he’s preoccupied in his own personal photography which usually consists of park landscapes. Until one day a woman, Jane (Vanessa Redgrave) goes up to him, demanding the photographs. She comes back later seemingly willing to do anything for them. He doesn’t give her the photos, but then they become his obsession, as he continually blows up the photos he realizes that he may have photographed a dead body, and then thinks he may have photographed a murder. Even an orgy with a couple of wannabe models can’t divulge his attention from these photos. He then… if I keep going, I’d probably tell you the entire film, and I think I’ve told you more of the film than I should have anyway, at least in regards of what happens in the film, and the journey of…, well we don’t really regard him as a hero. He’s seen now more as a man whose obsessed, and his unsavory treatment of women, although I’ll be honest and say that the two tarts who he has the orgy with, I don’t know if I would’ve done anything different, but still his contempt is obvious. It’s kind of ironic that David Hemmings’s photographer has become the quintessential prototype of the Mod era, and yet he himself seems completely disinterested with the scene and the people in it. I used to think that he acted like a rebellious 12-year old rebelling against everything and anything that they want to and in some ways he does act like an immature kid, but in hindsight, I don't know if that's accurate. It's more likely that he's some kind of stoic figure he's become uninterested or jaded by the scene that seems to surround him. He walks through a similarly quiet and jaded crowd at a rock concert of The Yardbirds, with, I guess a little bemusement, but it's more like he's drifting through the scene, 'cause it's in the way and he's more than willing to let it die and end, as he's found little if anything worthwhile within it. In another universe, this guy might've turned into Don Draper. No wonder it takes, the possibility of murder to inevitably fascinate, even when surrounded by beautiful girls and women who are throwing themselves pussy first at him.

This Mod era, as you may have guessed didn’t last too long; it eventually got swept up by the peace and love movement in most of the Western World. The movie’s surreal ending of our photographer watching mimes playing an imaginary game of tennis is one of my favorite images in film, although I’ll admit that I have no idea what it means. Interpretations are subjective throughout the film however, although I watch the film for the sur-reality of it all without going into exceptionally great detail about meaning, because the photographer wouldn’t know the meaning of a subject other than how sexy the girl looks in the dress if it hit him in the ass. He's a man in the art world who doesn't truly understand how to look at art, and that's the tragedy of it all

So now the question is, what does a mimed game of tennis mean to you?  
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