Taking photographs of a couple making love proves deadly when the photographer enlarges the image and discovers murder. The film and pictures are stolen from his studio and the body vanishes. In this elegant balance of d... more »eciet and trickery, the photographer must question the reality of what he has actually seen.« less
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 01/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"More than any other film that comes to mind, "Blow Up" illustrates the adage distinguishing the novelist from the filmmaker: the former's concern is to make the significant visible whereas the latter's passion is to bring significance to the visible. Little does it matter that the film's protagonist fails in that quest. Antonioni manages to make the search itself so absorbing that the "whodunnit" motif of the narrative is incidental to the journey itself. "Pictures don't lie" is another old bromide being put to the test by this film's unique thematizing of the photographic process itself, and Antonioni's accomplishment is to preserve the spirit if not the letter of the statement. We leave the film believing in the power of the photographed image even if both its meaning and content remain inconclusive.
Watching the film in the theater was a spellbinding and unforgettable experience. Anyone who has seen the director's out-of-control if not disastrous "Zabriskie Point" and subsequently decided to pass up "Blow Up" should definitely reconsider. Just a couple of caveats: the film does, in fact, transfer quite poorly to a small video monitor, bringing excessive attention to dated features of the pop cultural landscape of the late '60's London scene. Moreover, because video cameras are now the everyman's commodity, while cropping, editing, and enlargening images are common practice in modern-day consumer culture, some of the undeniable excitement experienced by David Hemmings with each of his successive blow-ups is bound to seem much more mundane. And perhaps by now we fancy we know more about photography than either Antonioni or Hemmings, especially after the failure of even instant replay to be definitive about whether a touchdown was scored.
Nevertheless, if you have a large screen, some patience and a memory of the promise and challenges of an earlier technology, "Blow Up" still is capable of working at several important levels--as existential philosophy, as postmodern text, as compelling narrative (Hemmings is wonderful), and as a respite from many current overly loud, fractically edited blockbusters that, despite the sound and fury, signify nothing whatsoever."
Very stylistic and avant-garde, but still makes sense. Great
EGD | 10/15/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 film adaptation of Julio Cortazar's "Blow-Up," perhaps Antonioni's best known work, represents a truly great adaptation of a short story, though the film on its own still stands as a great artistic acheivement. It is a remarkable example of an international work (an Italian director working with a British cast), a project which can easily go awry. David Hemings and Vanessa Redgrave both give excellent performances, but most important, it is a highly stylized somewhat avant-garde work, but in the end, the story has direct meaning and still makes perfectly clear sense- a true rarity. "Blow-Up's" value as a literary adaptation is only one virtue the film possesses, but this virtue includes several positive aspects. "Blow-Up" centers around a photographer named Robert, who, while walkng through the park one afternoon, photographs two lovers from a distance. The woman furiously demands that Robert hand over the negatives. Instead, he returns to hs studio to develop them. After studyng the photographs carefully, Robert discovers that the woman, working with a third firgure situated behind the hedge, is murdering the young man. As he studies the photos, Robert is watching an actual murder take place, but he is powerless to stop it, because it is only taking place in the photographs. Here, the line separating reality and imagination has become completely blurred. As events unfold, the photographer comes to realize that the entire sequence may have only taken place in his head. The recurring theme of both the short story and the film is that people ultimately construct their own reality. Cortazar helped establsh this theme from the beginning by writing his story alternately in first person and in third person, sometimes in singular, sometimes in plural, the implication being that the narrator himself isn't even certain whether or not any of this actually took place. In his film adaptation, Antonioni took what was represented as a few short scenes in the short story, and integrated his own material, bringing the film to a reasonable running time. The impressive part of this is that the integrated material, while completely fabricated by the filmmaker, still manages to make itself relevant by being in compliance with the story's main theme. The mime troupe is the most interesting of these additions. They appear in the beginning, their only apparent purpose to create havoc in the city. Though in the end, it is the mime troupe who make the film's theme most apparent. While playing a mock game of tennis, the mimes knock the "ball" out of the court. Robert goes to retrieve it for them. He bends over, picks up an imaginary ball, and throws it back on the court. The camera stays on Robert as he watches them play, and slowly, we begin to hear the sound of a tennis ball being bounced back and forth. Once again, Robert has immersed himself in the reality of his imagination, so to speak. Antonioni, an absolute master of sound control, pulls this effect off as no other director could have. The short story's theme of imagination and reality could so easily have been lost on film, since film is by its nature a third person limited storytelling medium. Antonioni's uses of sound, as in all of his movies, is truly astounding, and he uses this medium very effectively to enter Robert's personal reality. This is perhaps the greatest genius of the film adaptation."
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...
Samuel Chell | 03/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ever since I first saw this movie in the late 60's, it seemed clear to me that the whole picture was not really about the veracity of the crime that the photographer supposedly shot, but rather about the unreality of the life of the mod world, and by extension of the pop world as a whole. The two different chromatic tones used by Antonioni to depict the real life, as represented by the flop house, and the illusory pop world, the main theme of the movie, are indicative of the contrasting realities portrayed in the film. Hunger, poverty, old age, diseases, and dead are painted in subdued mate tones. On the other hand, the harlequins, mimes, drugs parties, rock concerts and other happenings populated by those zombies that represent the pop culture, their unreality notwithstanding, are filmed with bright fluorescent colors. These specimens of what now is considered the "beautiful people", are empty of true emotions. And just by chance, to one of its members, the photographer, the opportunity to escape from that unreal world is offered in the form of the photographing of a murder, without meaning to. Confronted with the absolute truth, death, this superficial human being does not know how to behave. That surreal world to which he belongs has ingrained so deeply into his soul, that instead of behaving like a normal person would do by going to the police, he instead unconsciously invents as many circuitous, roundabouts ways as possible to avoid the confrontation of that most real of truths: death. So that is why, after realizing that the corpse has disappeared, he circumambulates aimlessly by the park. And when asked by the mime to return the illusory tennis ball (that is, to reinsert himself anew in the illusory mod or fashion world) he decides to comply, having lost for ever the opportunity to be a true human being. And that is why the unreal tennis ball starts to sound in the final seconds of the movie.
What makes this film a classical masterpiece, besides the formal and structural techniques employed by "el maestro" Antonioni, is his depiction of the banal, sophomoric reality of the mod and pop world. And all banality of that world depicted in the film is as true today as in the 60's (just take a look at the frantic and pathetic lives of all those soulless Hollywood stars).
To say that the film has not aged well just because the white jeans that Hemmings wears are today demodé, is like saying that Battleship Potemkin is an anachronism because the Odessa steps scene sequence has been surpassed by Brian De Palma in The Untouchables. Simply put, classics by definition can not be dated. By the way, Blow-Up is based in a short history by Julio Cortazar("Las babas del diablo"), and has nothing to do with the Zapruder film, whatsoever.
As to some resemblance to the Austin Power movies I can not attest one way or the other, because life is too short to spend two hours seeing such stupid, silly movies (or Titanic, or Gladiator, or Shakespeare In Love, or Pearl Harbor, for that matter).
The jazz score throughout the most appealing scenes and the ominous wind in the park are employed in a masterly way. If any film deserves to be edited in DVD, this is it."
Misguided censorship ruins the DVD
EGD | 10/04/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Michelangelo Antonioni's view of Britain in the 1960's was a groundbreaking film that appeared at a time of turmoil and change in the lifestyles and mores of the Western world. Britain ruled supreme in pop music (Beatles, Stones, Animals) and in fashion (Mary Quant, Twiggy, Carnaby Street). The jazz stylings of Herbie Hancock were used as the soundtrack for the film, but the live Rock performance in the film was performed by the post-Clapton Yardbirds with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. To reflect the London fashion scene, Antonioni used the German model Verushka in a simulated photo shoot that has been called the sexiest scene in film history.
(As an aside, Verushka's real name was Vera and her father was one of the German army officers who attempted to assassinate Hitler in 1944; with the failure of the plot, he was executed and his family was interred in labor camps.)
When I first viewed this film in 1967, I was enormously impressed. The photography was brilliant and the audio was the first "surround-sound" I had ever encountered. (During the park scenes, I kept looking over my shoulder to see what birds had gotten into the theater!) When I again saw this film about 1975, it looked dated and out of fashion. Now, more than 40 years later, I see that it is a true period film that reflects much of the character and thinking of the time.
David Hemming's character in the movie (known as "Thomas") is not satisfied with his success as a fashion photographer and wants to become a "reality/documentary" photographer in the genre of Dorthea Lange or Henri Cartier-Bresson. To this end, he pretends to be a street person and spends a night in a doss house, a sort of cheap barracks accommodation with shared sleeping and bath facilities. Thomas sneaks his camera into this establishment in a paper bag and surreptitiously photographs the other guests as they shower and dress in the morning. The clicking and whirring sounds of his camera and the stop-action showing the photographs that were produced constituted the opening scenes of "Blow-Up". Thomas intends to use these and other such photographs in a book that he hopes will establish him as a "real" photographer. For some incomprehensible reason, this entire opening sequence has been deleted from the Turner/MGM DVD release. Instead, the movie opens with Thomas leaving the doss house in the morning, after the original opening photography sequence. In the original movie, Thomas then returns to his parked Rolls-Royce, places his camera in the glove box and drives away. We viewers are surprised; is he stealing the car? This scene has also been deleted. In this DVD release, he suddenly and inexplicably appears, already driving the Rolls down the street.
With the deletion of the movie's opening scenes, it is difficult to make sense of some of the later scenes in the film. At one point, Thomas meets with his publisher (an early appearance by Peter Bowles, later known for his performances in "Rumpole of the Bailey", "To the Manor Born" and "The Irish RM") and reviews the photographs he had taken at the doss house. This is the only brief chance viewers of the DVD have to see anything of the opening scenes.
Those opening scenes are important because they set the theme of the film. Thomas first appears as a down-and-out man, but turns out to be far from it. Viewers are put on notice that they can never be sure what is real and what is make-believe. This continues through the film's final scene, where the make-believe of the mimes' tennis game becomes more real than the murder that Thomas accidentally photographed.
The DVD is marred by additional deletions. Thomas develops the roll of film he shot in the park, studies the photos and sees something. (We viewers never really see what it is.) He makes a series of larger and progressively blurrier enlargements. Finally, he makes his largest blow-up, examines it, and instead of hanging it out in the open as he had the others, he conceals it between a pair of cabinets. This seems a fairly long sequence in the original film and it is only later that we learn of its significance. Of course, the name of the film comes from this scene. I can only assume that Turner/MGM felt this sequence was boring and deleted most of it from the DVD. When Thomas later finds his studio has been robbed, we don't even know what was taken or why he has this one enlargement left. There are other odd little deletions here and there in the DVD; perhaps there were some bad frames in the original film from which the DVD was made. When I purchased the DVD, I expected some of his romp with the two young "wanna be" models to be deleted. I did not expect the evisceration of the basic theme of the film by the deletion of the important opening scenes.
I might describe this DVD as a "Bowdlerised" edition, but perhaps "Turnerized" may be more correct. The DVD includes commentary by Peter Brunette, an academician. author and presumed expert on the films of Michelangelo Antonioni. I have carefully listened to his commentary twice through, and can only conclude that he never saw the original film. His comments refer only to this DVD edition. At one point in his commentary, Mr. Brunette notes that the clothes worn by Thomas at the doss house mysteriously disappear. Yes they do, because of another nonsensical deletion!
I would not normally recommend a DVD with so many deletions, but it seems that this flawed DVD is the only version of the film that is currently available. To see it in this form is better than to not see it at all. I give it 3 stars instead of the 4+ that the original film deserves."
Reviewed By Alan Gerrard
Samuel Chell | 02/06/1998
(4 out of 5 stars)
"To watch Blow-Up, you are confronted by two aspects. One is that the film can be taken purely as a straight forward mystery thriller; or secondly, you can approach the film as a snapshot that pours in every garish '60's cliche possible. The plot is minimal, and revolves around a wealthy young photographer (based loosely on David Bailey) who accidently photographs a murder. But no one believes him, even though he has blown up the image of a person hiding in the bushes of an inner city park, clutching a gun that is pointed at a man. The man is clearly the murder victim, that has been lured into the park by a young woman (Vanessa Redgrave), who herself disappears after trying to retreive the film from the photograher (David Hemmings). After this the film is bombarded by all the images that make this film so british. The pop stars (played by the Yardbirds) the colourfully trendy people, and a group of mime artists - which seem to accentuate Hemmings' own isolation. I particularly enjoyed the tennis scene with the mime artists and Hemmings, where Hemmings picks up the imaginary ball and throws it to them. And there the film ends, almost surrealistically, but if you liked the 60's and all that it embodied, this film is for you. It is as essential as the Mini and the E-Type Jaguar, a wild ride of beautifully filmed scenes that is pure arthouse. Sit back and enjoy. END"