Tuesday 19 September 2006

Blow-Up (1966) - ickleReview (TV)

Film by Michelangelo Antonioni set in London, based on the short story Las babas del diablo by Julio Cortázar. A photographer (David Hemmings) inadvertently photographs a murder when he is taking pictures of a couple cavorting in a park. The woman (Vanessa Redgrave) asks for the pictures back when she sees him, but he refuses. She tracks him back to his studio. He fobs her off with the wrong film and develops the right one after she has left. It is then when he is blowing up (enlarging - hence the title) the pictures that he notices a gun and a corpse in the bushes.

There are early scenes of him shooting models in the studio. He treats some of them quite harshly. He is over-exposed to beautiful women and doesn't treat them with much respect. Yet the women are desperate to be photographed by him and use their bodies as lures; but because he sees so many beautiful women, he is hard to impress. When he does let a couple of groupies in, there follows a number of artful but nevertheless gratuitous and quite inexplicit semi-nude erotic scenes.

The remarkable thing about this film is the almost total lack of significant dialogue. Most of the story is told just in pictures. It's so pervasive one doesn't notice the characters aren't speaking most of the time. This is nicely rounded off at the end when the photographer watches a group of mime artists collecting money for charity play a mime tennis match without balls or racquets. They even make the photographer go to fetch the ball and throw it back to them.

For film buffs, the most interesting thing about this film is the influence it had on Brian Da Palma's Blow Out (1981), which develops the detective aspect much further. The best scenes are those in which the photographs are being developed in the dark room. The pictures-within-the-picture are telling a hidden story within the pictures.

Nugget: not quite the blow-me-up-and-away cinema classic I was led to expect. Not a bad film, but not a world-breaker either. Some rather artificially lit night scenes when the photographer goes to look for the corpse and the fact that he never appears to have to change films when stalking the couple outdoors puncture the plausibility of the film.

This review was also posted on Blogcritics.

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