Starring-David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave
Reviewed December 20, 2015
Blow-up is a mysterious and compelling 1966 (the spawn of more edgy films) thriller that undoubtedly influenced the yet to come 1974 masterpiece The Conversation, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, as both films are tense tales of intrigue focusing on technology as a tool to witness a murder. This film is legendary director Michelangelo Antonioni’s first English speaking film and what a film it is.
Set in hip London in the 1960’s, it certainly portrays the fashion world in an interesting way. The story is about a fashion photographer named Thomas, who is in high demand. He revels in bedding women so they may have their photos taken by this rock star photographer and is chased around London by gorgeous women. He aborts a photo shoot one day because he is bored. He is not the nicest guy in the world and is rather an unlikable character. But perhaps that is secondary or even intentional. While walking in Maryon Park one day, he comes upon a couple in the distance. They appear to be in the midst of a secret rendezvous, nervously kissing, so he begins photographing them. The woman, Jane, (played by a very young Vanessa Redgrave) realizes they have been snapped and is furious- demanding the film. This sets off the mystery and the meat of the film.
The film is a tremendous achievement in cinematic intrigue. It is quite psychological and open to much interpretation, which is the genius of it. The main questions asked are “What exactly transpired in the park and who is responsible?” We feel little sympathy for Thomas, which perhaps is intentional. and what about Jane? Talk about mysterious! We know little about her other than she has secrets, but is she responsible for the crime? Thomas and Jane play a sort of cat and mouse game throughout the film, both seemingly trying to outwit and outmaneuver the other. The unique aspect of the film is that the viewer will often ask questions- “was there even a crime committed”? “Are the events all in Thomas’s imagination or has he misinterpreted the series of events”? One will revel in the magnificence of these questions.
Comparisons to The Conversation were apparent to me right away- both feature one of the senses as a means to solving or realizing the crime committed- in The Conversation it is hearing, in Blow-Up it is sight. In both, the main character uses these senses for a living and both are arguably not the most likable characters. Both films feature mimes. Both films are quite cerebral and furthermore, both are cinema gems for the “thinking man”.
Blow-Up has weird, little intricate moments- a very tall, female, Russian model experiences an odd photo shoot with Thomas. Later, a giggling pair of young girls end up in a grappling match with Thomas after asking him to take their photos. A topless (from behind) Jane prancing around Thomas’s apartment is an unusual scene.
As a first time viewer I adored this film and it is a good example of a film that really requires multiple viewings to fully appreciate and I look forward to doing just that, A fantastic creative achievement, Blow-Up is a masterpiece that can be dissected with each subsequent viewing.