Blow-Up, 1966

If the jaded tabloid journalist, Marcello, in Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita ever found success, he would invariably lead the life of Thomas (David Hemmings) in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup. In the hip culture of 1960s London, Thomas is a famous fashion photographer whose disillusionment is reflected in his expressionless, mannequin-like models. His technical directions have no meaning – they only serve as a means to fill the silence. He is constantly surrounded by people – celebrities, groupies, mod scene acquaintances – but is emotionally isolated. He weaves through drug parties and casual sex with the same pervasive mechanical detachment that he shows in his work. Perhaps, his only source of true intimacy comes from his brief meetings with an ex-girlfriend who has since married someone else, and can only offer abbreviated words and exchange enigmatic, knowing glances. One day, he photographs two lovers rendezvous in a park, the woman sees him, and proceeds to chase after him. Unable to retrieve the film, she turns to look for her lover, who has disappeared. Her name is Jane (Vanessa Redgrave), and she soon finds David’s apartment, attempting to seduce him in order to get the negative. After developing the film, he begins to suspect that he has photographed a murder. Resurrected artistic passion quickly breaks the tedium as he obsessively reconstructs the incident using photographic blowups. Antonioni masterfully taunts the audience with the grainy, obscure black and white prints, hanging from the walls, like Rorschach tests. Is there something in the photographs to prove murder, or is it merely topographic aberration? There is no definitive answer. He returns to the park and does indeed find the body…but there are no obvious signs of foul play. Inevitably, the cause of the man’s death is immaterial. Like many of Antonioni’s films, Blowup is a parable of answered prayers: the idea that the distraction of wealth and fame cannot fill the void of loneliness, nor substitute for a soul’s unrequited passion.

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