13 April 2024
Blow Up (1966)
111 min.
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.
With David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles, Jill Kennington, Verushka, Peter Bowles, Jane Birkin, Gillian Hills.
Thomas (Hemmings) is a hedonistic photographer living in swinging, mid-'60s London. One day, while he's strolling through a quiet city park, he decides to take some candid shots of a couple wandering about in the distance.

Suddenly, he's approached by the woman (Redgrave) of the pair, who demands he cease and desist with his voyeuristic shutterbugging. In fact, she insists that Thomas give her the pictures he's taken. Immediately! Has he captured something in those photos he wasn't consciously aware of when he took them? At home in his studio, Thomas begins to enlarge the pics, one by one.

Slowly, he suspects he's seen a murder in the park. Or has he? Do the pictures tell any truth with absolute clarity? Can Thomas' memory really be trusted?

Antonioni's 1966 thriller is certainly riveting and engaging entertainment. Hemmings is sheer bliss as the soul-drained Thomas, a role in many ways he'd repeat as the protagonist in Argento's Deep Red (1975). He and Redgrave reveal an electrically-charged chemistry, while Antonioni's sequences in the park are utterly spellbinding.

But alas, Blow Up isn't the complete masterpiece some would suggest. It's an academic treatise on the individual's perception of reality and the role of the subconscious.

Antonioni's focus is on events, their sequencing and their editing - but not in cultivating viewer suspense. As such, the film becomes only a moderately effective mystery. In particular, the scenes with the two wannabe models, and also the Yardbirds rock gig, seem like needless filler. Still, Blow Up is visually and atmospherically intriguing, clearly influencing the later work of Brian De Palma and Dario Argento.

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