Well, folks, today’s feature is an international project. Let’s go back to the swinging 60’s, where sex and drugs were turning up everywhere, the fashion was getting funkier, and the music was outta sight. In 1966, on the other side of the pond, Britain was working with one of Italy’s most famous directors for his first English-speaking movie. Michelangelo Antonioni, famous for the Italian masterpiece L’avventura. This movie would be a simple one, focusing on the relationship between a photographer and a murder case. Simple enough. But what came out of this British-Italian co-production was a masterpiece of style and pacing that few have compared to since.
It’s all very simple, and I’ll keep it simple because this is a movie that needs to be seen and felt to be properly understood in its own context. It’s London in the 1960’s. A fashion photographer named Thomas is living in a small efficiency, working on a book of artistic photos he hopes to have published. He walks around a park and photographs two lovers kissing innocently enough. But when he develops the negatives, he notices something he can’t quite put his finger on. He enlarges the image (Blow-Up, get it?) and though the image quality has decreased, he can clearly make out a dead body in the distance and a shadowy figure with a gun in his hand. What happens next is puzzling, beguiling, and confounding as our plucky photographer friend travels into the hollow heart of the 60’s.
I can’t say enough good things about this movie. It’s such a simple concept that is taken in a very evocative and haunting direction by all the players involved. Famous Brit David Hemmings is our photographing hero, and he does exceptionally well. It is a wonder to watch someone like him play with such a blank-slate role and change it into something memorable. Antonioni is top notch here, giving his best direction since L’avventura, with the flourishes of a master given to a project he really cares about. His use of the ambiguity of character is in full swing here, and it’s difficult to really identify with anyone here. Also being the principal writer helps Antonioni craft this into something that is wholly his own; something fragile, something difficult, something dense.
Oh, and do you like the Yardbirds? You know, the famous band with Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, and Keith Relf? Well, they’re in this movie!!! And they play “Stroll On”, one of my favorite songs from them! It’s a great performance, and though it really doesn’t have a lot to do with the rest of the movie, I thought it was really neat. And Michael Palin makes an incomprehensible appearance for some reason. I don’t know why. But that is also neat.
It’s really such a mysterious and curious movie that it is difficult to review. I can’t really bring myself to say much more about it for fear of ruining the experience for anyone. It’s that kind of movie, the one where you avoid reading much about to let it wash over you once you’re in the moment. You’ll question the movie, the characters, and yourself quite often as to whether anyone knows what they think they know. Regardless, it is a movie based on style, mood, and messages. Maybe I’ve already said too much. If you like British movies made by master Italian directors, then stop right here. Your movie is waiting. I give Blow-Up 9 incomprehensible Micahel Palins out of 10.
See you tomorrow, where we discuss the blacksploitation genre with Blacula!