The Artful Illogic of Blow-Up

There must be an endless backlog of reviews written on Michelangelo Antonioni's iconic 1966 film Blow-Up. It's definitely one of those "you're not a true cineaste until you see it" kind of films. I had intended to place it in my Netflix queue for quite some time now but kept putting it off. Finally it arrived in that red and white envelope thing, and I could check it off on my never-ending list of required films to see.

Beautiful illogical artistry was the first description that came to mind immediately after watching this phenomenal film. Many other descriptors danced in my head, some of which include "mysterious," "cerebral," "unique," "bold," and "inscrutable." The illuminati certainly must have had a field day with Blow-Up over the past four and a half decades since its release.  I've no idea what they've said, nor am I particularly interested. I just know that immediately after watching the film, I wanted to write about it.

I lied about one minor detail, though. I rented it before -- about two years ago or so. After having watched roughly the first 45 minutes, I had removed the disk, disheartened and feeling as though I missed something. I just couldn't get into it. There was no structure. No plot. No meaning. Events in the film occurred haphazardly in no coherent order, as if Antonioni's camera was simply following an arrogant young fashion photographer around the streets of London. What's going on here? What's the big deal? What was I missing? Usually, I don't give films a second chance. There's so much out there that it's best just to move on to the next flick. But there was something about the illogic of Blow-Up that stuck with me.

If there's anything resembling a story that can be found in this film, it revolves around a central incident in a London park. The episode involves the main character's accidental sighting of a possible murder in progress as he surreptitiously takes photographs of a couple romantically frolicking about in the park. Great premise, isn't it? Most would probably agree, but they wouldn't agree with the illogical timing and placement of this vital scene, almost halfway through our picture with nothing of significance happening before then. Ah! But therein lies the beauty of Blow-Up. Slowly after seeing this legendary long, languid, drawn-out scene, the viewer realizes he's in Antonioni's illogical world only, and it doesn't really matter what happens afterward or what happened before. By then, the beautiful illogic has taken hold. So has the beautiful Vanessa Redgrave, who plays the mysterious girl in the park.

This central interlude in the park is one of the most masterful scenes in all cinema history. Interestingly, it's the quiet sound of the wind rustling the leaves of trees in the park that creates the intensity of the scene (and in so doing heightens the mystical quality of wind). Absolutely nothing is rushed as Thomas, expertly played by the late David Hemmings, snaps the secret photos. Strangely obsessed by the couple, Thomas takes photo after photo until confronted by the girl, who demands that he give her the pictures. He refuses, wherein a certain psychological tension develops and never lets up.

The photographer later develops the film, his obsession over the incident completely consuming him. Though used to beautiful women, this mysterious, ravishing girl who had so boldly confronted him seemed particularly intriguing to Thomas. Was she hiding something? Why was she so concerned about the photos? Was her romantic stroll through the park with the man evidence of an illicit affair? The more she wants the photos, the more he wants them. After Thomas "blows up" the film, Antonioni slowly focuses in on the developed photos. So unhurried is the filmmaker's approach that the result is jarringly effective and engrossing. Audiences very rarely see this style of slow, patient, deliberate artwork. Filmmakers are usually more concerned with the plot than to bother with this type of thing.      

The photos reveal what appears to be a murder in progress, as someone hiding in the bushes is pointing a gun at the man, but the images are very grainy. We soon get a sense that it might be illusory, that Thomas' obsession and wild imagination might be taking hold. Again, the viewer is completely content with the intensity of the moment only, and is unconcerned about what will transpire. Any structure here will steal the art. The structure doesn't belong. It's as if the rest of the film could have simply been Thomas obsessively studying the photos over and over again and it would have been just as effective.

He soon goes back to the park to see if there's a body. There is, but is it really there? Though the vague feeling of a murder mystery develops, you're still wondering what the whole thing is about. You mean nobody else sees the body? Nobody heard the gunshot? After all, this is a park in the middle of London. Other scenes follow indicating that we are probably inhabiting the mind of Thomas only, and what we see may not be the reality of his world. He later sees the girl, for instance, on a crowded London street whereupon she suddenly vanishes. In the end, a slew of unresolved questions leaves doubt as to whether Thomas actually witnessed a murder. We even question whether the entire pivotal incident in the park was an illusion. Who's the murderer? Is the girl involved? What's the motive? Who's the victim? No answers. We don't really want the answers, either. Resolutions are not part of the scheme of things for this film. Thomas' subsequent experiences at the rock concert and the party flowing wildly with marijuana, scenes that are as reminiscent of the 1960s counterculture as anything you're likely to see, are essentially mere events in time. They have no meaning other than to show the superficiality of his existence.

Then there's the memorable mime scene in the same London park at the end. Personally, I thought this was overkill -- a little too much pouring on of the art. Clearly Antonioni is asking us to question what is real and what isn't with the mimes' imaginary tennis game. Then again, the scene is fascinating in so many ways, as is almost every scene in Blow-Up. It's completely unexpected, and comes from nowhere. Everything is unexpected in the film. The ending mime sequence is just more beautiful illogical artistry. It makes you think. Makes you sense and experience art. Many will not get into the art of Blow-Up, but it's bound to leave most people thinking. It certainly left me thinking for a long time.
There must be an endless backlog of reviews written on Michelangelo Antonioni's iconic 1966 film Blow-Up. It's definitely one of those "you're not a true cineaste until you see it" kind of films. I had intended to place it in my Netflix queue for quite some time now but kept putting it off. Finally it arrived in that red and white envelope thing, and I could check it off on my never-ending list of required films to see.

Beautiful illogical artistry was the first description that came to mind immediately after watching this phenomenal film. Many other descriptors danced in my head, some of which include "mysterious," "cerebral," "unique," "bold," and "inscrutable." The illuminati certainly must have had a field day with Blow-Up over the past four and a half decades since its release.  I've no idea what they've said, nor am I particularly interested. I just know that immediately after watching the film, I wanted to write about it.

I lied about one minor detail, though. I rented it before -- about two years ago or so. After having watched roughly the first 45 minutes, I had removed the disk, disheartened and feeling as though I missed something. I just couldn't get into it. There was no structure. No plot. No meaning. Events in the film occurred haphazardly in no coherent order, as if Antonioni's camera was simply following an arrogant young fashion photographer around the streets of London. What's going on here? What's the big deal? What was I missing? Usually, I don't give films a second chance. There's so much out there that it's best just to move on to the next flick. But there was something about the illogic of Blow-Up that stuck with me.

If there's anything resembling a story that can be found in this film, it revolves around a central incident in a London park. The episode involves the main character's accidental sighting of a possible murder in progress as he surreptitiously takes photographs of a couple romantically frolicking about in the park. Great premise, isn't it? Most would probably agree, but they wouldn't agree with the illogical timing and placement of this vital scene, almost halfway through our picture with nothing of significance happening before then. Ah! But therein lies the beauty of Blow-Up. Slowly after seeing this legendary long, languid, drawn-out scene, the viewer realizes he's in Antonioni's illogical world only, and it doesn't really matter what happens afterward or what happened before. By then, the beautiful illogic has taken hold. So has the beautiful Vanessa Redgrave, who plays the mysterious girl in the park.

This central interlude in the park is one of the most masterful scenes in all cinema history. Interestingly, it's the quiet sound of the wind rustling the leaves of trees in the park that creates the intensity of the scene (and in so doing heightens the mystical quality of wind). Absolutely nothing is rushed as Thomas, expertly played by the late David Hemmings, snaps the secret photos. Strangely obsessed by the couple, Thomas takes photo after photo until confronted by the girl, who demands that he give her the pictures. He refuses, wherein a certain psychological tension develops and never lets up.

The photographer later develops the film, his obsession over the incident completely consuming him. Though used to beautiful women, this mysterious, ravishing girl who had so boldly confronted him seemed particularly intriguing to Thomas. Was she hiding something? Why was she so concerned about the photos? Was her romantic stroll through the park with the man evidence of an illicit affair? The more she wants the photos, the more he wants them. After Thomas "blows up" the film, Antonioni slowly focuses in on the developed photos. So unhurried is the filmmaker's approach that the result is jarringly effective and engrossing. Audiences very rarely see this style of slow, patient, deliberate artwork. Filmmakers are usually more concerned with the plot than to bother with this type of thing.      

The photos reveal what appears to be a murder in progress, as someone hiding in the bushes is pointing a gun at the man, but the images are very grainy. We soon get a sense that it might be illusory, that Thomas' obsession and wild imagination might be taking hold. Again, the viewer is completely content with the intensity of the moment only, and is unconcerned about what will transpire. Any structure here will steal the art. The structure doesn't belong. It's as if the rest of the film could have simply been Thomas obsessively studying the photos over and over again and it would have been just as effective.

He soon goes back to the park to see if there's a body. There is, but is it really there? Though the vague feeling of a murder mystery develops, you're still wondering what the whole thing is about. You mean nobody else sees the body? Nobody heard the gunshot? After all, this is a park in the middle of London. Other scenes follow indicating that we are probably inhabiting the mind of Thomas only, and what we see may not be the reality of his world. He later sees the girl, for instance, on a crowded London street whereupon she suddenly vanishes. In the end, a slew of unresolved questions leaves doubt as to whether Thomas actually witnessed a murder. We even question whether the entire pivotal incident in the park was an illusion. Who's the murderer? Is the girl involved? What's the motive? Who's the victim? No answers. We don't really want the answers, either. Resolutions are not part of the scheme of things for this film. Thomas' subsequent experiences at the rock concert and the party flowing wildly with marijuana, scenes that are as reminiscent of the 1960s counterculture as anything you're likely to see, are essentially mere events in time. They have no meaning other than to show the superficiality of his existence.

Then there's the memorable mime scene in the same London park at the end. Personally, I thought this was overkill -- a little too much pouring on of the art. Clearly Antonioni is asking us to question what is real and what isn't with the mimes' imaginary tennis game. Then again, the scene is fascinating in so many ways, as is almost every scene in Blow-Up. It's completely unexpected, and comes from nowhere. Everything is unexpected in the film. The ending mime sequence is just more beautiful illogical artistry. It makes you think. Makes you sense and experience art. Many will not get into the art of Blow-Up, but it's bound to leave most people thinking. It certainly left me thinking for a long time.

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