Blow-Up

"Weak"

Blow-Up Review


The mid- to late-'60s were a heady time for art cinemas in America. While Hollywood was still saddled with content restrictions that forbade nudity, sex, and other bankable cinematic ingredients, less puritanical cultures like those of France, Italy, and Sweden were turning out highbrow features that played to the id and the intellect at the same time. At the art house, America pondered the role of faith in contemporary society, the bankruptcy of emerging cultural mores, the meaning or meaninglessness of life, and the breasts of European starlets. A new galaxy of superstar directors was introduced to audiences, and among its ranks was Italian Michelangelo Antonioni, who burst on the scene in 1960 with an amazing debut, L'Avventura. With a name like his, the proceedings were bound to be a little arty, and indeed the film was an open-ended, nearly plotless examination of the lives of the idle rich. In the films that followed -- especially La Notte and L'Eclisse -- Antonioni's style emerged as one in which characters wandered about, mankind's deepest emotions were rendered merely fashionable, and the lives on the screen were examined with the blankest imaginable gaze. And there was the frank approach to sex, too, and that helped keep audiences coming.

Blow-Up, released in America in 1966, marked a departure. It was filmed in English and in color, and, it aspired to something like a plot: a photographer in swinging London (David Hemmings) uncovers evidence of a possible murder in the background of a series of pictures he's taken of a couple in a park. (De Palma's 1981 Blow Out is an obvious homage: A sound man records evidence of a murder on tape while recording ambient sounds.) Initially he's intrigued, since this event carries so much more gravity than the activities of his daily life, such as photographing models, driving around in a sports car, and off-handedly buying expensive antiques. But as the clues dry up, his interest does too. And having lost interest (after most of the prints are stolen), he simply throws the last print away.

Like everything else in Blow-Up, the photographer's choice of non-involvement carries the weight of Antonioni's moral judgment; the film is decked out in indifferent youth who make the same choice on a smaller scale in every instance. Antonioni's insistence is that Blow-Up is a chronicle of a day and age in which disinterest and immediate gratification win out over deeper values every time. (A similar theme was explored in the three films mentioned above.) Every generation has a cautionary tale like Blow-Up -- films are always warning us that society's fiber is worn thin by amoral young people -- but Blow-Up is special even in this company for its hypocrisy; Antonioni clucks his disapproval of casual sex, for instance, while leisurely treating his audience to an "orgy" at a party at which pot (scandal!) is smoked. Like his hero, Antonioni has an interest in the fashionable, too, so that, like the early '90s films of Gregg Araki (such as The Living End), the cutting-edge hip portrayed on the screen is now hilariously coy. There's even a gay couple with a little dog. When I last saw the film on a big screen in 1980, the aforementioned orgy had the college-age audience rolling in the aisles. So much for the message.

Thus it is that Antonioni, who very likely modeled his anti-hero partly on himself, peddles in Blow-Up the same thing he condemns. The film was a hit nonetheless, no doubt in large part for its simulated sex, and critics went mad for the rampant symbolism (drugged young people forcing a nun off a sidewalk, for instance) which Antonioni conveniently allowed them to read as they liked. Watching Blow-Up today (it's now available on DVD with a commentary track from an Antonioni scholar), you can enjoy the mod scenery, David Hemmings's lithe good looks, and Vanessa Redgrave's surprisingly engaging performance. But its message is just as tired and offensive as it was in '66.

Aka Blowup.



Blow-Up

Facts and Figures

Run time: 111 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 18th December 1966

Distributed by: MGM

Production compaines: Bridge Films

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 34 Rotten: 6

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Producer:

Starring: as Thomas, as Jane, as Patricia, as Bill, Veruschka von Lehndorff as Verushka, as The Blonde, Gillian Hills as The Brunette, Peter Bowles as Ron, Julian Chagrin as Mime, Claude Chagrin as Mime

Contactmusic


Links


Advertisement

New Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Movie Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams' Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago,...

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Daddy's Home 2 Movie Review

Like the 2015 original, this comedy plays merrily with cliches to tell a silly story...

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

There's a somewhat contrived jauntiness to this blending of fact and fiction that may leave...

Ferdinand Movie Review

Ferdinand Movie Review

This animated comedy adventure is based on the beloved children's book, which was published in...

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Brigsby Bear Movie Review

Director Dave McCary makes a superb feature debut with this offbeat black comedy, which explores...

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

Battle of the Sexes Movie Review

A dramatisation of the real-life clash between tennis icons Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs,...

Shot Caller Movie Review

Shot Caller Movie Review

There isn't much subtlety to this prison thriller, but it's edgy enough to hold the...

Advertisement
The Disaster Artist Movie Review

The Disaster Artist Movie Review

A hilariously outrageous story based on real events, this film recounts the making of the...

Stronger Movie Review

Stronger Movie Review

Based on a true story about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, this looks like one...

Only the Brave Movie Review

Only the Brave Movie Review

Based on a genuinely moving true story, this film undercuts the realism by pushing its...

Wonder Movie Review

Wonder Movie Review

This film may be based on RJ Palacio's fictional bestseller, but it approaches its story...

Happy End  Movie Review

Happy End Movie Review

Austrian auteur Michael Haneke isn't known for his light touch, but rather for hard-hitting, award-winning...

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Seemingly from out of nowhere, this film generates perhaps the biggest smile of any movie...

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

The Limehouse Golem Movie Review

A Victorian thriller with rather heavy echoes of Jack the Ripper, this film struggles to...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.