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Blow-Up (1966)


 I love finding new posters to films! I've never seen this one!
I love finding new posters to films! I've never seen this one!

Genre: Drama Mystery Thriller (UK, Italy, USA)

Starring: David Hemmings (Profondo RossoGladiator)Vanessa Redgrave (Howards EndDeep Impact)

Directed By: Michelangelo Antonioni (L'AvventuraLa Notte)

Overview: When a successful photographer takes pictures of a woman in the park, she insists on getting the film back. He instead carefully investigates the matter.

The overview above is a woeful misrepresentation of what Blow-Up is really about. Films that contain a plot - even if that plot takes up no more than 30 minutes of a film's 111 runtime - are typically noted for that plot. It's in our nature. "What's this about?" is usually more a question about events than mood, but in the case of Blow-Up, asking that question is missing the point.
Blow-Up, more than anything else, is a characters study, but one that is uncommonly exciting and entertaining, with a character different than ones we're accustomed to seeing. At heart Thomas is a wanderer, even an absent-minded A.D.D. case, and it's what makes him, what makes the entire film, dynamic. He shops on impulse, his mood changes as quickly as the film in his cameras, he leaves his studio in the middle of shoots or from a pub before getting the food he ordered, and all because of the obvious passion that he is a happy slave to: photography. 
The proper answer to "What's Blow-Up about?" is nothing more than 'a day or three in the life of successful photographer Thomas'. Sometimes we watch as he photographs women, sometimes as women are begging to be photographed. Thomas prepares images for an upcoming book publishing, buys a propeller, catches something curious in the park. We explore sex, women and his darkroom in a frequently silent montage of his own travels and travails. The fact that one of his random events equates to a Thriller genre is just one of the more interesting stories of his immersive days.  
What makes Blow-Up's main character different from most is Thomas' frequently muddied motivations. Luckily, rather than being unnatural or confusing, they're interestingly strange and worthy of exploration. The way Thomas handle the problems happening around him is unique without being unbelievable. Antonioni adds a minimalist soundtrack by Herbie Hancock to the often quiet scenes. Add a cameo by band The Yardbirds including young founder of Led Zeppelin Jimmy Page, as well as an ending that had our little group talking about it on the metaphysical level, and Blow-Up sits firmly on the happy medium between worthy study and fun time.

One of Blow-Up's more beautiful and charcter defining scenes
One of Blow-Up's more beautiful and character defining scenes, and hoo boy 60s fashion, eh?

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 9 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 9

Overall Rating: 84% (Take A Closer Look)
Blow-Up reminds me most of Permanent Vacation, the Jarmuschian tale of an aimless wanderer. What Permanent Vacation lacks, Blow-Up makes up for in spades, most notably due to its lack of aimlessness. It's exciting, interesting and fun. This is the first Antonioni film I've seen. When Blow-Up ended, I mourned the possibility that I didn't have more of this director's work to explore. 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die has made certain that there is much more of Michelangelo's work to be reviewed on this site - five more to be precise: L'Avventura, La Notte, L'Eclisse, Il Deserto Rosso and Zabriskie Point. I'm looking forward to each and every one.
Another neat little factoid, if I can believe Wikipedia, is that this film was released in America in bold defiance of the long-standing Hays Production Code introduced in 1930. Blow-Up was one of the nails in the Hays Code coffin that lead to the end of Hollywood's strict censorship rules in 1968, to be replaced by the MPAA film rating system, which we all know and love.

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L'avventura is a top 5 movie, but it's not like this one at all so I dunno

I hate Antonioni.  This was the only film of his that I even marginally enjoyed from The Book, and it was marginal.  Boring, tedious, dull, with no strong sense of message or conviction.  Bleagh.

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