- Published Date
- by Loron Hays
Blow-Up might have been writer/director Michelangelo Antonioni’s first British film, but it was far from English. The Italian director was far from home, but neither is it an Italian film. Blow-Up, being one of the first films to document the effect of images upon a culture, is a meditation upon movement. It is soaked in photography and, in a critical style, examined the new waves of modern British cool as the culture turned toward images as a way to communicate.
Ironically, the murder that is discovered in the black-and-white photographs that Michael (David Hemmings), a fashion photographer, enlarges in a classic 11-minute sequence of tension is not the focus of the movie. Antonioni’s film is a murder mystery, but it is more mystery than murder. The murder occurs in the peripherals and it is there, in spite of the discovery of the body hours later, where it will remain. While it is true that Michael believes his photographs have thwarted a murder, the opposite is true. A victim is gunned down and he has the only proof of the crime.
And the woman, Jane (Vanessa Redgrave), he believes he has saved, offers him a shot of her topless in exchange for the roll of film. How’s that for a show of thanks? Or is she, too, hiding something from the fashion photographer?
While on the subject of nudity, Blow-Up is also a study in eroticism from a passerby’s view of things. Michael takes photographs of a lot of models. The opening scene is so charged with sexuality that Antonioni choreographs the whole shoot with the German mode (Veruschka Von Lehndorff) as if the two – the photographer and the model – are engaged in a passionate afternoon of foreplay and sex. As the shoot ends, Michael collapses upon her and rolls away, exhausted, just like a lover.
He also – as a photographer – witnesses a lot of things; the discovery of his wife in bed with his best friend is one that he probably could have done without. Combine these highly-charged scenes with a concerned from The Yardbirds and Herbie Hancock’s jazz score and you have the makings for a very modern film. Teenage craze is all over this. From the opening situated around the Economist Plaza in which a group of students drive through to the young mimes at the end of the movie, teenage craze is a big factor in this scene specific piece of cinematic art.
The film is co-written by Antonioni and Tonino Guerra who tapped into the British counterculture with a peculiar honesty thanks to sheer artistry in the compositions of each and every frame. Lines descend into the horizon and crisscross as Michael makes his way out and about the swinging scene of London in 1966. He has a frame of mind and his lens reflects the way it works. There are few answers, but there are a lot of colors; he’s a painter rocking out to the bands on the Ricky-Tick club’s stage.
Blow-Up is ALWAYS ready for rediscovery by new artists and new talents, regardless the medium. Knowing this, Criterion has restored this masterpiece with a new 4K digital transfer, complete with an uncompressed monoaural soundtrack. Through this, the self-appointed “poet of loneliness” can be heard once again.
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Runtime: 111 mins
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Writer: Michelangelo Antonioni and Tonino Guerra
Cast: David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles
Genre: Mystery | Crime
Tagline: Sometimes, reality is the strangest fantasy of all.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Someone's been killed. I want you to see the corpse."
Theatrical Distributor: Premier Productions
Release Date: December 18, 1966
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: March 28, 2017
Synopsis: A mod London photographer finds something very suspicious in the shots he has taken of a mysterious beauty in a desolate park.
Home Video Distributor: Criterion
Available on Blu-ray - March 28, 2017
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
Subtitles: English SDH
Audio: English: LPCM Mono
Discs: Blu-ray Disc; single disc
Region Encoding: Locked to Region A
Presented in 1.85:1 and featuring a crisp new 1080p transfer, Blow-Up arrives thanks to a pristine 4K digital transfer from Criterion. The following text appears inside the blu-ray book: This new digital transfer was created in 4K resolution on a Director film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative and a 35mm interpositive. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI Film's DRS. while Digital Vision's Phoenix was used for small dirt, grain, noise management, jitter, and flicker. The monaural soundtrack was remastered from the original magnetic 2-inch 24-track DME/MFX track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX.
Criterion pleases fans who have long waited for Blow-Up to make its blu-ray debut with a disc that is loaded with great information. There are new featurettes about director Michelangelo Antonioni’s artistic approach as told by those who know best: photography curators Walter Moser and Philippe Garner and art historian David Alan Mellor. There is a 2016 documentary on the making of the film, a NEW interview with Vanessa Redgrave. Archival featurettes are include and, while dated, offer interesting interviews with Antonioni and actors David Hemmings and Jane Birkin. A 64-page book with photographs and essays is also included.
- Vanessa Redgrave (45 min)
- David Hemmings (27 min)
- Jane Birkin (9 min)
- Antonioni's Hypnotic Vision (47 min)
- Blow Up of "Blow Up" (54 min).
- Michelangelo Antonioni (6 min)