Customer Review

171 of 175 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Misguided censorship ruins the DVD, October 3, 2008
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This review is from: Blow Up (DVD)
Michelangelo Antonioni's view of Britain in the 1960's was a groundbreaking film that appeared at a time of turmoil and change in the lifestyles and mores of the Western world. Britain ruled supreme in pop music (Beatles, Stones, Animals) and in fashion (Mary Quant, Twiggy, Carnaby Street). The jazz stylings of Herbie Hancock were used as the soundtrack for the film, but the live Rock performance in the film was performed by the post-Clapton Yardbirds with Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. To reflect the London fashion scene, Antonioni used the German model Verushka in a simulated photo shoot that has been called the sexiest scene in film history.

(As an aside, Verushka's real name was Vera and her father was one of the German army officers who attempted to assassinate Hitler in 1944; with the failure of the plot, he was executed and his family was interred in labor camps.)

When I first viewed this film in 1967, I was enormously impressed. The photography was brilliant and the audio was the first "surround-sound" I had ever encountered. (During the park scenes, I kept looking over my shoulder to see what birds had gotten into the theater!) When I again saw this film about 1975, it looked dated and out of fashion. Now, more than 40 years later, I see that it is a true period film that reflects much of the character and thinking of the time.

David Hemming's character in the movie (known as "Thomas") is not satisfied with his success as a fashion photographer and wants to become a "reality/documentary" photographer in the genre of Dorthea Lange or Henri Cartier-Bresson. To this end, he pretends to be a street person and spends a night in a doss house, a sort of cheap barracks accommodation with shared sleeping and bath facilities. Thomas sneaks his camera into this establishment in a paper bag and surreptitiously photographs the other guests as they shower and dress in the morning. The clicking and whirring sounds of his camera and the stop-action showing the photographs that were produced constituted the opening scenes of "Blow-Up". Thomas intends to use these and other such photographs in a book that he hopes will establish him as a "real" photographer. For some incomprehensible reason, this entire opening sequence has been deleted from the Turner/MGM DVD release. Instead, the movie opens with Thomas leaving the doss house in the morning, after the original opening photography sequence. In the original movie, Thomas then returns to his parked Rolls-Royce, places his camera in the glove box and drives away. We viewers are surprised; is he stealing the car? This scene has also been deleted. In this DVD release, he suddenly and inexplicably appears, already driving the Rolls down the street.

With the deletion of the movie's opening scenes, it is difficult to make sense of some of the later scenes in the film. At one point, Thomas meets with his publisher (an early appearance by Peter Bowles, later known for his performances in "Rumpole of the Bailey", "To the Manor Born" and "The Irish RM") and reviews the photographs he had taken at the doss house. This is the only brief chance viewers of the DVD have to see anything of the opening scenes.

Those opening scenes are important because they set the theme of the film. Thomas first appears as a down-and-out man, but turns out to be far from it. Viewers are put on notice that they can never be sure what is real and what is make-believe. This continues through the film's final scene, where the make-believe of the mimes' tennis game becomes more real than the murder that Thomas accidentally photographed.

The DVD is marred by additional deletions. Thomas develops the roll of film he shot in the park, studies the photos and sees something. (We viewers never really see what it is.) He makes a series of larger and progressively blurrier enlargements. Finally, he makes his largest blow-up, examines it, and instead of hanging it out in the open as he had the others, he conceals it between a pair of cabinets. This seems a fairly long sequence in the original film and it is only later that we learn of its significance. Of course, the name of the film comes from this scene. I can only assume that Turner/MGM felt this sequence was boring and deleted most of it from the DVD. When Thomas later finds his studio has been robbed, we don't even know what was taken or why he has this one enlargement left. There are other odd little deletions here and there in the DVD; perhaps there were some bad frames in the original film from which the DVD was made. When I purchased the DVD, I expected some of his romp with the two young "wanna be" models to be deleted. I did not expect the evisceration of the basic theme of the film by the deletion of the important opening scenes.

I might describe this DVD as a "Bowdlerised" edition, but perhaps "Turnerized" may be more correct. The DVD includes commentary by Peter Brunette, an academician. author and presumed expert on the films of Michelangelo Antonioni. I have carefully listened to his commentary twice through, and can only conclude that he never saw the original film. His comments refer only to this DVD edition. At one point in his commentary, Mr. Brunette notes that the clothes worn by Thomas at the doss house mysteriously disappear. Yes they do, because of another nonsensical deletion!

I would not normally recommend a DVD with so many deletions, but it seems that this flawed DVD is the only version of the film that is currently available. To see it in this form is better than to not see it at all. I give it 3 stars instead of the 4+ that the original film deserves.
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Comments

Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 18 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Sep 1, 2009 10:07:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jan 3, 2012 7:08:28 AM PST
I found a VHS copy and it is the full length version--31 minutes longer than the DVD.

Posted on Mar 10, 2010 11:32:52 AM PST
Phenix says:
This is a great review and helped me understand things about the film that I've missed in the past.

Thanks so much!

Posted on Mar 29, 2010 8:49:18 AM PDT
Daragh Casey says:
This explains the many confusing periods in the film that seemed so clumsy to me, particularly the opening 5 minutes. I'm actually a bit angry that my first viewing of a film, that relies heavily on revelation and careful exposition, was of a butchered version.

Posted on Sep 28, 2010 9:14:06 AM PDT
Julie says:
My DVD has all the scenes you described as "deleted." Perhaps you got an early or defective version of the DVD.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2011 11:20:32 AM PST
This review is for the Warner Home Video DVD version with the red cover, which is the only version available as far as I know. What DVD do you have?

In reply to an earlier post on May 17, 2011 5:27:08 AM PDT
EGD says:
Please let us know the DVD version you have. That is the version I wish I had!

In reply to an earlier post on May 28, 2011 8:09:39 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 28, 2011 8:24:54 PM PDT
Hello, I'm French and lives in France. The DVD Zone 2 (Europe and Japan) Warner Home Video with the red cover offers the film in full, without cuts. All the scenes you are talking about its included in my DVD. This DVD is available on Amazon.fr.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 29, 2011 3:47:56 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 30, 2011 3:58:05 PM PDT
odietamo says:
Looks like Christian has quit Amazon: can someone else verify that the region-2 DVD includes the missing scenes?

I have the 2004 American DVD, which has commentary by Peter Brunette and doesn't have the scenes EGD identifies.

Julie, what version do you have?

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 18, 2011 11:58:22 AM PDT
Joyce says:
Dear Daragh:
Me too, and I plan on contacting amazon and complaining. I urge all of you who purchased this severely edited version of this film to do the same. I had heard of this film, but had never seen it, and so I ordered it on Amazon. Little did I know that it had been edited down, until after viewing it I had this nagging feeling that something was "wrong". I went to the Amazon website and read reviews from customers who had purchased this movie, like I did, and come to find out, what we got was a poor imitation of the original! I was so angry, and I will definately let Amazon know about it! It should have been made clear in the description of this movie that the WB edition we were purchasing had been cut and several scenes deleted from the original.

Posted on Feb 6, 2012 4:19:47 PM PST
I just watched this on TCM and was NOT impressed and somewhat confused. Thanks for the clearly explained story. Why don't they just release the film?
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