No film captures Sixties London as perfectly as BLOW-UP. Thanks to Daryl for sending me details of a new exhibition in Switzerland (there was one, maybe the same, in Vienna recently, for which I wrote the piece below...). The Swiss one says: "The cult film "Blow-Up" by Michelangelo Antonioni (1966) occupies a central position in the history of film as well as that of art and photography. No other film has shown and sounded out the diverse areas of photography in such a differentiated way. The photographic range of ’Blow-Up’ is highly diversified and ranges from fashion photography and social reportage to abstract photography.. For the first time in
From a previous BLOW-UP post:
Is there another film that seems to crystalise a moment in time as perfectly as Antonioni's BLOW-UP? Viewed today, it seems like a "greatest hits" compilation of London's swinging era: the buoyant Herbie Hancock soundtrack; (which I have loved in vinyl, CD and iPod), the Yardbirds gig, complete with a cameo from Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck; Jane Birkin's blink and you'll miss it full-frontal moment that ushered in more lenient censorship in cinema.
I did not know that the model dancing on the roof over the opening credits was American supermodel Donyale Luna (whom my Australian friend Garry knew). Verushka of course is the other super-model in that stunning scene with Hemmings, while Jill Kennington and Peggy Moffitt are among the models waiting to be captured on film, and Janet Street-Porter is the girl dancing in the club!. We love that studio (John Cowan's) too, which was once an abbatoir. Landscapes and interiors are so mesmerising here, as is usual with Antonioni films, and not only that green park but the streets and city landscrape our hero drives around in, talking on his two way radio !
The Vienna gallery says: There is hardly another feature film that has shown the diverse areas of photography in such a differentiated fashion, and which attempts to fathom them in such a detailed and timeless manner.
The protagonist believes that he has "documented" a murder; however, the photos turn out to provide only ambivalent evidence, because even enlargements or blow-ups of these photos don't reveal the presumed corpse. This cinematic study of the representation of images and their ambivalence demonstrates that Blow-Up has retained its cultural relevance since its creation in 1966.
The film still looks marvellous now, London looks fresh and clean, but is it a British, Italian or American film?, seeing as it was created and produced by Italians, shot in England, for MGM ... whatever, it remains an essential '60s classic.
One hilarious BLOW-UP artefact for me is Professor Peter Brunette's commentary on the DVD which is very po-faced as it states the obvious and tells us what we are about to see, and comes across like he is trying to explain the film's milieu to a classroom of American teenagers who know nothing about the Sixties or who these people like Vanessa Redgrave are. Maybe that's what teaching teenagers is like .... ?