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Blowup 1966

R CC

During the 1960s, a London photographer believes he inadvertently photographed evidence of a murder only to have the evidence mysteriously disappear.

Starring:
Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles
Runtime:
1 hour, 51 minutes

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Format: 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.
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Format: VHS Tape
Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 film adaptation of Julio Cortazar's "Blow-Up," perhaps Antonioni's best known work, represents a truly great adaptation of a short story, though the film on its own still stands as a great artistic acheivement. It is a remarkable example of an international work (an Italian director working with a British cast), a project which can easily go awry. David Hemings and Vanessa Redgrave both give excellent performances, but most important, it is a highly stylized somewhat avant-garde work, but in the end, the story has direct meaning and still makes perfectly clear sense- a true rarity. "Blow-Up's" value as a literary adaptation is only one virtue the film possesses, but this virtue includes several positive aspects. "Blow-Up" centers around a photographer named Robert, who, while walkng through the park one afternoon, photographs two lovers from a distance. The woman furiously demands that Robert hand over the negatives. Instead, he returns to hs studio to develop them. After studyng the photographs carefully, Robert discovers that the woman, working with a third firgure situated behind the hedge, is murdering the young man. As he studies the photos, Robert is watching an actual murder take place, but he is powerless to stop it, because it is only taking place in the photographs. Here, the line separating reality and imagination has become completely blurred. As events unfold, the photographer comes to realize that the entire sequence may have only taken place in his head. The recurring theme of both the short story and the film is that people ultimately construct their own reality.Read more ›
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Format: DVD
More than any other film that comes to mind, "Blow Up" illustrates the adage distinguishing the novelist from the filmmaker: the former's concern is to make the significant visible whereas the latter's passion is to bring significance to the visible. Little does it matter that the film's protagonist fails in that quest. Antonioni manages to make the search itself so absorbing that the "whodunnit" motif of the narrative is incidental to the journey itself. "Pictures don't lie" is another old bromide being put to the test by this film's unique thematizing of the photographic process itself, and Antonioni's accomplishment is to preserve the spirit if not the letter of the statement. We leave the film believing in the power of the photographed image even if both its meaning and content remain inconclusive.

Watching the film in the theater was a spellbinding and unforgettable experience. Anyone who has seen the director's out-of-control if not disastrous "Zabriskie Point" and subsequently decided to pass up "Blow Up" should definitely reconsider. Just a couple of caveats: the film does, in fact, transfer quite poorly to a small video monitor, bringing excessive attention to dated features of the pop cultural landscape of the late '60's London scene. Moreover, because video cameras are now the everyman's commodity, while cropping, editing, and enlargening images are common practice in modern-day consumer culture, some of the undeniable excitement experienced by David Hemmings with each of his successive blow-ups is bound to seem much more mundane. And perhaps by now we fancy we know more about photography than either Antonioni or Hemmings, especially after the failure of even instant replay to be definitive about whether a touchdown was scored.
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