Thursday, December 29, 2016


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 anymore. 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 screening, 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 first films I’ve seen of his are two of his rare 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) and “Blow-up,” 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 mimes 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, but instead, Thomas’s (David Hemmings) 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 him, 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. There was what some might call a pseudo remake of the film in Brian De Palma's "Blow Out", which is one of his best films, but it's more inspired by the idea of the movie then it is a direct remake. "Blow Out" was a pretty straightforward Hitchcockian psychological thriller, "Blow-Up" sometimes speaks in the language of that genre, but it's not interested in finding a resolution to a mystery any more; it would rather surround it's character into the world that's around him until he's just overwhelmed by it. 

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, but more importantly, Thomas doesn't have any idea either. He's arguably not capable of understanding that the point of such an image is that it's asking for him to interpret it. Doesn't matter to me, interpretations are subjective throughout the film and in general anyway, and besides, I watch the film not for the meaning but for the sur-reality of it all; the photographer wouldn’t know the meaning of a subject other than how sexy the girl looks in the dress she's wearing 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 ironic tragedy of it all.

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

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