Blow-Up

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blowup1.jpeg

(1966, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni)

- inducted 2017 –

~~~ Review here ~~~

“An asshole hotshot photographer (David Hemmings) develops a roll of film in his darkroom. He has obnoxiously chased a pair of lovers down in a park and, during what they’d hoped would be a private moment, he’s snapped a series of photos of their liaison. He worries over a few of the shots, obsessively enlarging, reformatting, zooming… eventually picking out disturbing details in the photos.

“A body in a field.
“A face in the bushes.
“A hand holding a gun.

“These three visual phrases – just barely ellipses – are the fulcrum on which Antonioni’s Blow-Up pivots from a brooding character study of the life of a Swinging Sixties photographer into something far more… Sinister? Metaphysical? Symbolic?

“When Antonioni approached author Italo Calvino for help writing out the idea that eventually became Blow-Up, Calvino said the film needed to have ‘a sense of a search for a mystery’ (and then politely declined the job, which ultimately went to iconoclastic playwright Edward Bond).

“A sense.
“A search.
“A mystery.

“These are ephemeral, filament-thin words (indeed, Blow-Up’s shooting script was only fourteen pages long) but Antonioni manages to hang a 110-minute feature on them that is solid enough to be epoch-defining (and -shifting). Like its cinematic cousins (Vertigo, The Big Sleep, La Jetée, Mulholland Drive, Inside Llewyn Davis… to name a few), Blow-Up uses the ‘sculpting in time’ element of film to shatter time itself. It’s at once a capsule of a place/culture/era and a living, breathing item that may or may not be completely different the next time we view it. Like those images the photographer pulls out of his negatives, the film reveals stranger and stranger layers the more we obsess over it.

“For example (and I’m gleaning this from the extras on the recently released Criterion Blu): the park where the couple attempts to have their tryst is built on an ancient pagan ritual mound. It was here that the Celts or Picts or whoever would hold their Wicker Man-ish spring fertility rites, resulting in a lot of Sexual Revotion-ary activity (and, perhaps, a human sacrifice or several). Consciously or not, Antonioni stages the critical scene in his paean to the youth counterculture – a group he describes as ‘(living) a very ritualistic life despite the fact that they celebrate lawlessness as law’ – on the site of lawless rituals from millennia ago.

“Antonioni considered Blow-Up an optimistic film, though (in the interview accompanying the Bluray) he doesn’t specify what exactly it’s optimistic about. Bearing in mind, this is 1966: pre-May ’68, pre-Manson, pre-Altamont… all before the pandemonic spirit of rock-n-roll youth culture began to manifest in ways that didn’t give peace and love a second thought. So, to my jaded eye, Blow-Up depicts the high wave of THE NINETEEN-SIXTIES!® crashing against post-war modernity and resulting in… well… a body in a field.

“I chose Blow-Up on my ballot because it’s one of the most indelible films I’ve ever seen. To be miserably frank, I’ve seen it all the way through only twice, once in 2008 and again just this week (meaning I’ve seen dreck like Superman III and The Waterboy more than I’ve seen Blow-Up). However, if I can indulge in a little solipsism, Antonioni’s film immediately grafted itself onto my DNA, inspiring a short film script, a novella, and a screenplay of my own. It packs a whole helluva lot of vital energy into its obsessive dream fugue.”

~ Philip Tatler IV

Principal cast: David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles, John Castle, Jane Birkin, Gillian Hills, Peter Bowles, Verushka, Julio Cortazar (uncredited)
Special uncredited appearance by The Yardbirds (Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Keith Reif, Jim McCarty)
Screenplay by Michelangelo Antonioni and Tonino Guerra
Story by Michelangelo Antonioni
English dialogue by Edward Bond
Based on the short story “Las Babas del Diablo” by Julio Cortazar
Produced by: Carlo Ponti
Executive producer: Pierre Rouve
Cinematography by Carlo di Palma
Art direction by Assheton Gorton
Costume design by Jocelyn Rickards
Original music by Herbie Hancock
Makeup artist Paul Rabiger
Hair stylist Stephanie Kaye
Sound by Robin Gregory (sound recordist), Mike Le Mare (sound editor)
Photographic murals by John Cowan
Film editing by Frank Clarke (uncredited)
Additional English-language dialogue by Piers Haggard (uncredited)

United Kingdom
Duration: 111 minutes
Languages: English
Filmed in color
Sound mix: mono
Cinematographic process: spherical
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Printed film format: 35mm

Produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Released in USA by Premier Productions
Premiered in New York City on December 18, 1966

Awards and honors:
- Selected as one of Roger Ebert’s “Great Movies,” November 8, 1998
- Cannes Film Festival, 1967: Palme d’Or (winner)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1967: Best Director – Michelangelo Antonioni (nominated)
- Academy Awards (USA), 1967: Best Writing, Story and Screenplay – Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra, Edward Bond (nominee)
- BAFTA Film Awards, 1968: Best British Film (nominee)
- BAFTA Film Awards, 1968: Best British Cinematography, Color – Carlo Di Palma (nominated)
- BAFTA Film Awards, 1968: Best British Art Direction, Color – Assheton Gorton (nominated)
- Golden Globes, 1967: Best English-Language Foreign Film (nominated)
- NYFCC Awards, 1966: Best Film (winner)
- NYFCC Awards, 1966: Best Director – Michelangelo Antonioni (winner)