on June 28, 2004
The film may look good - but you've got to be able to hear it to enjoy it.
The main audio only comes from the center speaker (the only DVD I own that does this) and is incredibly low in volume. Even when you crank your amp up to near maximum to hear it, you'll find that sole center signal sounds suspiciously like it's meant to be part of at least a 2.1 soundtrack. It completely lacks bass and the music has no presence.
I've seen Blow-Up on the big screen in recent years, I know it can sound as good as it looks. Someone at Warners has made a big blunder in mastering this DVD. In its present format it's not worth buying or owning.
on August 24, 2002
"Blow Up" was a sensation when it was released in 1966. Critics and moviegoers hotly debated its enigmatic story. Three and a half decades later, its meaning is no clearer. I have seen it several times, and I remain clueless. The movie has fallen into relative obscurity, and, so, the few people I've met who have seen it have been unable to offer any satisfactory insights. If you are looking for pop entertainment, you certainly want to avoid this one because the plot is so puzzling.
Why, you may ask, do I rank it so highly? It's because it is one of the most visually stunning movies I have ever seen. Every single shot is composed with the utmost care. The framing is amazing. The colors are beautiful. The sound, too, is meticulously constructed. Although the sound technology back then was primitive compared to today's, the movie manages to make background noises very much a part of the whole.
The story revolves around a bored but brilliant London photographer, played by David Hemmings. He is a genius at his craft, but his life is an empty place. One day he wanders into a lovely park, where he spies two lovers. He follows them and photographs them. The girl [Vanessa Redgrave] sees him and demands he give her the film. He refuses. When he develops the photos, he sees a blurred image, which, when blown up, looks like it might be a body. He also blows up an images that looks like a hand holding a gun. He has accidentally photographed a murder. Or has he? The girl finds his studio. She seduces him. He pretends to give her the negatives, but later finds his studio has been vandalized. By the girl? By an accomplice? And for what reason? Who will believe him? Or is there anything to believe? It's left to the viewer to supply the answers.
The lively and unusual music tracks are by jazz great Herbie Hancock. The movie was directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, an Italian. To the best of my knowledge, his only other English language film is "Zabriskie Point" . His Italian films include "La Notte" , "The Eclipse"  and "Red Desert" . Brian De Palma's 1981 movie, "Blow Out" was inspired by "Blowup".
Highly recommended to those who believe movies can be an art form.
on July 17, 2004
Another film that brings out the moral venality in Amazon "reviewers". I particularly love the one who was "forced" to watch it in a friend's film class & found it a "waist" of time. Let's see...the waist is where things ingested pass through on their way to the digestion process. But I doubt he was being that profound.
Then there are the ones who find the film dated, London too empty & the main character a horrible nasty. Well folks, it's true there are no friendly wizards, cute goblins or funny ogres in this one, so it may taste like harsh medicine to some. But Blow-Up was a real slice of the 1960s, take it or leave it. Not just the "life-style" (clothes, decor & behavior) which is perfectly rendered (& is probably what dates the film the most) but the sheer fragmentation of time & space, of event & response. This was Antonioni's particular area of expertise: space & emptiness filled with random human collisions supposedly suffused with "meaning".
Well, we certainly have adopted different attitudes today, haven't we? Everything with its socio-political subtext. The big problem, I think, with a movie like Blow-Up is that it doesn't easily let you pick which Side to Be On. It's very European in that way (Old Europe, to use current parlance).
Hey folks, when you look at a De Chirico (you should, you know), do you find the streets too empty, the perspectives too stark & arbitrary?
Michelangelo Antonioni's "Blow-Up" features David Hemmings as the photographer. This film follows the photographer into a park where he takes photos of a couple embracing and playing. It is later when he develops the photos that he finds out that he has evidence of a murder in the backgrounds of the photos.
The movie is as much about the photgrapher in the film as it is about Antonioni, who is also the photographer of the movie. In the movie when Hemmings develops the photos he is trying to put together the reality of the scene, and he is trying to impose a narrative on the scene he has viewed just as the director himself through a sequence of scenes is creating a narrative. Can reality ever really make sense though? Here, the photographer is going over photo after photo in order to try and recreate the past moment that he witnessed. Interestingly enough while we are watching the scenes there is no sound or music except the haunting sounds we heard in the park of the leaves of the trees rustling in the wind. Through these sequences of shots a marvelous build up of drama is created as we speculate about what he is going to find. Eventually he does find a man in the woods holding a gun, and believes that he has prevented a murder. It is through a series of shots like these that Antonioni's genius for film making is conveyed. After blowing up a few more photos he finds a body and realizes that someone was killed after all.
There is a scene that is important in the film that shows an artist in his studio who makes a comment that he often doesn't know what he has made until after the fact. And it is only after he has had some time to view the painting that some aspect of it begins to have meaning for him. It is at this point that he has then imposed meaning on the image. This could be said to be the way Antonioni works through his own work as a director. When the photographer goes back to the park to see if the body is there it is to verify the reality of what he has seen in the photos. After he sees the body in the park he then must find someone else in order to verify his view because reality only has meaning in a social context. But then when he goes back to his studio he finds that someone has stolen the photos, and so the evidence of the murder is gone. When he returns to the body in order to photograph the body it also is gone. Now he can't prove that there was a murder. The blown up photos look like one of Bill's abstract paintings where there was no meaning until the artist imposed one on the image, just as Hemming's character too has imposed meaning on the photos he has taken. By blowing up the photos it is as if he has revealed layers under layers to find meaning, but has he found any meaning if he can't now prove it to anyone else? Vanessa Redgrave's character appears again and then disappears. Constantly we are led through this labyrinth where the truth remains elusive. Meaning is shown as only having meaning if it is in a social context as meaning is a social construction. Hemming is never able to verify his reality since he can never get anyone to see the corpse.
In the last scene, with the mimes, we have a group of people participating in the illusion of a tennis game which the photographer witnesses. We are shown that the imaginary tennis game has meaning because this group of mimes buy into this reality. Eventually Hemming's character also buys into this reality as he goes to retrieve the imaginary ball that was hit over the fence. Even the camera buys into this reality as it too follows the flight of the imaginary ball which flies over the fence and rolls over the grass. Ultimately Hemming's character disappears which seems to reaffirm that this is the director's reality that he has created.
Blow-Up is about these layers of meaning that are constantly being pealed away as if there is no true reality that can be seen since reality is constantly shifting depending on the context or point of view.
on June 7, 2004
As though I were Thomas, the protagonist of the piece, only fragments and minute visual clues capered through my subconscious for 38 years. I saw BLOW UP its U.S. release in 1966. I was 15 years old then and I'd not since BLOW UP since. Not until acquiring this DVD, which is an outstanding presentation with superb video and audio specs. I've only heard 15 minutes of the commentary track thus far, but it promises to be a worthy analysis of this intricate cipher of a film.
I won't offer my analysis here as it's a film that demands its own unique relationship with the viewer. Suffice it to say that both the teenager and the middle-aged man in me still find this masterwork utterly fascinating. I vividly recall patrons walking out of the theater in 1966 chuckling over the film's enigmas: "What the hell was that?" was the common utterance.
In the case of BLOW UP it is the questions asked and not a futile fumble for logic that holds me today and well as it did 38 years ago. See this one. If you "don't get it" then just give it a decade or two...
on June 3, 2004
This may be the most emblematic movie to come out of the 1960's.
It reduces everything we associate with the Psychedelic 60's...
consciousness expansion, the individualism,
the flamboyance, the hedonism and the self-indulgence... to a single philosophical question: "What is Reality?" and answers it with a resounding: "Who knows?"
David Hemmings plays a successful fashion photographer in "swinging 60's London" by day, who moonlights as an "artiste" in his off-hours. His fashion photography is done in color, his artistic work in black-and-white. One of Antonioni's key themes
is the contrast of the stark, unforgiving play of light and shadow in black and white film with the vivid garishness of color. One day, while shooting off a roll of film in Greene Park, Thomas, our photographer, follows the path of two lovers,
seemingly engaged in an illicit affair. When he develops the pictures and blows them up, he discovers what looks suspiciously like a murder. These suspicions are only exagerrated when the girl in the pictures (Vanessa Redgrave) shows up at his door and tries to seduce him out of the roll of film. Needless to say,
nothing proves to be exactly as it seems. The continuous frustration of expectations, the denial of human responsibility and compassion were, unfortunately, what the 60's came to be all about.
From the rollicking, partying mimes who open and close the picture, to the snake-like seductiveness of Verushka in her photo
shoot, to Yardbirds' guitarist Jeff Beck destroying his guitar in an angry fit near the picture's end, there's a surrealism to everything that's vertiginous. This movie just continually makes your head spin!
My one complaint is that no transfer I have yet seen has managed to restore the lushness and vividness of the original color print. That's a shame, because the greeness of the grass in the scenes in Greene Park is so surreal, it is "psychedelic," and that's essential to what's going on.
Watch this movie and be AMAZED!
"I thought you were supposed to be in Paris."
"I AM in Paris!"
on May 31, 2004
Michelangelo Antonioni's seminal 1966 film "Blow-Up" influenced the generation of filmmakers who came of age during the counter-culture era of the 1960s and 70s (Francis Coppola's "The Conversation" in particular). While it hasn't exactly aged very well, its sheer dated-ness is part of its charm.
The late David Hemmings portrays a young, jaded, wealthy, misogynist fashion photographer who's life of nonstop sex, drugs, parties and beautiful women bores him to tears. While snapping photographs of a couple locked in an embrace, he inadvertantly discovers that he may--or may not--have photographed a murder, and is pestered for the negatives by a mysterious woman (Vanessa Redgrave) who may know more than she lets on.
The film is set in the "Swinging" London of the 1960s, which comes off as surprisingly dull. The buildings and the weather are grey and depressing, the drug parties are boring, and the audience at a Yardbirds concert (featuring Jeff Beck and a pre-Led Zep Jimmy Page) is practically catatonic. I couldn't help but think of the "Austin Powers" movies while watching "Blow-Up", and how Hemmings seems like a sullen version of MI5's groovy special agent.
What titillated audiences in 1966 no doubt was the smoking of marijuana and the threesome featuring Hemmings and two young girls, complete with a brief shot of pubic hair. That's probably why the film was such a hit back then. The sex and drugs by today's standards are pretty tame, to be honest. What shines through today is the storytelling, particularly the story of the alleged murder, told silently through a series of Hemmings' blow-up photographs.
"Blow-Up" also has a metaphysical aspect to it, namely "What is reality?" That subject is simply TOO complicated for one humble, unpaid Amazon reviewer. While the slow pace and unconventional ending to "Blow-Up" will no doubt aggravate some viewers, it is certainly a film that has left a permanent mark on cinema today.
on May 29, 2004
I'll be honest, I don't know if he was even nominated, but Mr. Hemmings' is the best (and grooviest) portrayal of a fashion photographer I've yet seen on film. I also think his character is very much misunderstood by both viewers and critics alike. While I certainly agree with anyone who thinks Dave's character was shallow and that his attitude towards his models was nasty, I definitely don't feel that he was a man who felt contempt for women, as critic Roger Ebert wrote in his praise for this film. As a guy who works for a professional fashion photographer I can tell you from personal experience that this particular business is very stressful, especially if you're working with models who are picky and overly worried about how they're gonna look in the end. The photographer, like the character in the movie, must be the one completely in charge of the shoot if the pictures are to come out right. A great photographer, like my boss, can make a pretty model look more attractive than she really is, but that can only happen if the ladies who model for him take him seriously and listen to him. And while my boss and I love our job and get along with the ladies we work with, there are times when we both wish he could act a little more like Hemmings' character. Peace, bro.
on May 16, 2004
Are we sure of what we see? Or is what we see actually what we THINK we see? Can we distort our perceptions in blowing up a photograph to expose a not-so-defined area and see something we think is something else? The moral seems to be that like the game of tennis played with an imaginary ball by the rag week students in clown/mime makeup, is that we believe what we see, and we see what our perceptions tell us.
Michelangelo Antonioni's first English-language film follows Thomas (David Hemmings), a jaded and bored fashion photographer who depending on his mood, is brusque with his models, though he is civil with his Girl Friday, with whom he communicates on a two-way.
Things get exciting after he shoots a couple in the park and the woman demands the photos he snapped. The scene where the woman enters his studio trying to get the photos he snapped of her is an interesting look at Antonioni's technique. No, it's not the scene of her shedding her blouse, but the way Antonioni photographs the woman among the clutter in Thomas's apartment, signifying a claustrophobic and tense atmosphere played out in their cat-and-mouse game. Clearly, the 60's was a time where established stars baring themselves was taboo. Hence Vanessa Redgrave's placement of her arms over her breasts and her bare back shown in rear shots establishing that she is indeed topless.
The moments of near silence become more effective as the viewer is drawn into Thomas's developing the photos. As he develops two photos in particular, he notices something in the way and direction the woman is looking as she embraces her lover. The trips to the darkroom to blow up certain portions draws the viewer in, which mirrors Thomas's excitement. For him, an artist, this is the moment, the present, the work in process. The montage of photos, originals and blowups, is a highlight in this scene, as the photos tell a story. And the things with blowups is a reminder of what Kennedy conspiracy theorists did with blowups of the Zapruder film frames, where they claimed a gunman's head and rifle could be seen in as in Zapruder Frame 413.
One interesting comment that arises is Thomas's visit to an artist friend's place. The artist Bill remarks on a piece of Pollock-like abstract art that it's like a detective story. Later, when Thomas shows one of his blown up photos of whom he thinks is a murdered man, Patricia, a woman whom he yearns for, says that it looks like one of Bill's paintings, completing the symmetry full circle. So art, like truth, is totally dependent on our interpretation.
This film also benefits from Herbie Hancock's hip score, clearly very 60's, and the appearance of the Yardbirds, where they perform "Stroll In." There are a few closeup shots of Jimmy Page and where Jeff Beck smashes his guitar at the end of the performance. The fashions of the time, such as the colourful Mary Quant minis and hairdos worn by Gillian Hills (the blonde) and Jane Birkin (the brunette), the latter who gained notice after the playful romp with Thomas. Hemmings's character also sets the stage for his playing handsome but arrogant male leads such as in Barbarella and Profondo Rosso, where he's an artist of another kind. Peter Bowles, who plays Thomas's friend Ron, would later find fame in the BBC series To the Manor Born, Rumpole of the Bailey, and The Irish RM.
A different kind of film, a hallmark of the stylish and swinging 60's of England, Blow Up has the Antonioni's trademark introversion, sparse dialogue, scenes of total silence, followed by bursts of louder scenes. A classic period piece.
on May 2, 2004
Watch Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 classic "Blowup" in the wrong mood and you could be in for a long 111 minutes.
The pace is glacial, the main character is rude and cryptic and the first time I saw it, in college, the audience of talkative, frustrated students (myself included) was just about ready to riot by the time the final credits rolled.
But "Blowup" was designed to spark debate. It questions the nature of reality and critiques decadent lifestyles and, when approached with the right amount of curiosity and patience, becomes a steadily engrossing cinematic puzzle. Over the years, I've wound up seeing "Blow Up" about four or five times and it's only now, after many viewings and a dozen or so years beyond academia, that I'm able to appreciate the movie's puzzles.
David Hemmings plays a callous fashion photographer in swinging London who believes he may have snapped a picture of an unlikely murder in progress. The film follows him through one long Saturday as he enlarges the negatives looking for clues, and is diverted by all kinds of distractions - groupies, doobies, models, mimes, a mysterious femme fatale and even The Yardbirds. Has he uncovered a conspiracy? Or is he losing his mind? The movie, which plays fast and loose with the concepts of perception and time, offers no easy answers when it supplies answers at all -- which is part of its appeal and controversy.
It also directly inspired at least two classic thrillers (Brian DePalma's "Blow-Out" and Francis Coppola's "The Conversation"), not to mention quite a few of the gags in the "Austin Powers" series.
"Blowup" was finally released on DVD with great restored picture quality but a curiously hard-to-hear 1 Channel audio track. I had to crank the volume to be able to hear the dialogue. Even the commentary track -- an off-the-cuff analysis by Peter Brunette, Antonioni-biographer and English professor at George Mason University -- is in 2 Channel and, when he's not talking, you can hear a good sample of how this movie should've sounded.
There's also a "music only" track (which allows viewers to focus on Herbie Hancock's jazzy score) and, given that Hancock is still around and active, it's a shame he wasn't brought in to talk about the score during the gaps between cuts (much like Danny Elfman does on the excellent music-only track on "Pee-wee's Big Adventure."