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4.3 out of 5 stars87
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 25 April 2004
Read "film-buff" reviews of "Blow Up" and you'll find a huge diversity of opinion. It's a masterpiece... it's rubbish... it's tantalisingly complex... it's hedonistically superficial... what happens in the film is "real"... nothing that happens in the film is "real"... and so it goes. Watch the film and take your choice, but the fact that it still generates such reactions is a testament to its enduring impact. So what does it have?

Well, on the down side, a lot of the acting is weak, the musical soundtrack is too self-consciously "hip", and several of the scenes appear to have been inserted purely for effect - "we do nudity, drugs and rock & roll as well as making films". And on the plus side? David Hemmings acting is superb, the cinema-photography is brilliant, and the use of sound (and silence) to create atmosphere is stunningly effective. But beneath all that's superficially good & bad there's something much, much deeper. Firstly, a riddle that drives it and to which there's no answer - in simple terms, what's real and what's not? Antonioni poses this question throughout the film, from the heavily handed obvious (the play acting of the mime troupe), the subtle (the fact that Hemmings' character is never referred to by name), to the brilliantly tense darkroom scenes where his photos are "blown up" to levels that make interpretation of what he and we are "seeing" impossible. Secondly, and even more subtle, is this man's life simply play acting itself - has he become nothing by having everything - is he still "real"?

Deep stuff and a film that is, as a result, a fascinating enigma in its plot, its execution and people's reaction to it.
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on 30 January 2015
This film was released in 1966. It was a cult movie then, and took London by storm. This is the first time I have watched it since it came out all that time ago. Vanessa Redgrave had top billing but the film really belongs to David Hemmings. He was 25 years old very slim and very beautiful. He has far more screen time than anyone else. A lot of the time he is on his own. Everyone else is just playing a supporting part. An interesting idea, a photographer taking photographs of a known subject accidentally includes another story. The film is set in central London. How different from today. Hemmings drives an open-top Rolls Royce and parks it anywhere without closing the hood. London is practically deserted, very few people and very little traffic. Hemmings became a hugely successful actor following this film and had a very distinguished career as a young man when he was very slim through middle age when he became rather portly. Michelangelo Antonioni directed and was one of the most respected directors of his day. I enjoyed it and feel it really stands up as a good story as well as being a vehicle of what was the new permissive age of youth. There is a lovely scene with a mime troupe led by Julian Chagrin and Claude Chagrin which finishes the film. I remember Marcel Marceau filling theatres with his talent. Yes a lovely reminder of yesteryear.
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on 16 March 2006
It seems that Blow-Up has been re-evaluated somewhat in recent years, no longer being hailed as the iconic classic it once was, and instead being criticised for the meandering plot (more of an anti-narrative than anything else) and the somewhat dated depiction of swinging 60's London. This is a real shame, but at the end of the day, it's a film that I still enjoy so really, I don't care!! For me, Blow-Up is a film that holds up to repeated viewing, with each subsequent re-viewing revealing more and more (possible) interpretations of the plot. It's a film that requires the viewer's participation and imagination to elaborate on the ideas that Antonioni suggests through movements, composition, actions and sound, and mostly works for me because of an obsession I have with British 60's culture... so the chance to revel in the colours and locations is fantastic, with the film standing as something of a cultural time capsule as well as a slight (though no less enjoyable) murder mystery.
The basic plot revolves around a feckless and self-infatuated photographer at the heart of the happening 60's scene, with Antonioni sketching a world of no-ties sex-orgies, pot parties, protesting students, shallow scenesters, chic fashionistas, gaudy colours, bizarre camera angles, extended jazz-numbers, waif-like models and the gradual disintegration of the hippie era and the sense of innocence lost (see the director's follow up Zabriskie Point for more). Amongst all of this, he and co-writer Tonino Guerra manage to comment on the urbanisation of most major metropolitan cities moving towards the 1970's (with the newly built concrete housing blocks that our protagonist drives past a number of times during the film now being an all too familiar presence, particularly in areas around London, Manchester and Birmingham). It also taps into the existentialist idea of a character lost in his own abyss, finding little comfort in the scene he has immersed himself in, whilst simultaneously struggling to find something more tangible and worthwhile within the mire of 60's caricatured excess.
More than that however, the film is a great treatise on the notion of perception... for example, is it really that coincidental that our lead character is a photographer, someone who's entire profession revolves around documenting an abstracted view of reality? Throughout the film, Antonioni is playing with the notion of perception and the way we see things, from the opening scene - in which the photographer emerges black-faced from a factory and dressed in grungy overalls to match his work-mates, before he rounds the corner and jumps into his pristine Rolls Royce - right the way to the end, where a group of students act out a tennis match using mime, in which our hero finally realises the difference between what is seen and what is felt.
The point of the film is not "who was murdered?" or "who murdered who?", but rather, did the murder actually take place at all? Can we trust our central character? And, more importantly, can we trust what we are being shown by the director? The major set-piece here is a tranquil moment in which the photographer (brilliantly played by the late, great, David Hemmings!!) innocently snaps a couple enjoying an intimate moment in a secluded park for the closing chapter of his book. When he is spotted by the couple, the woman, who is much younger than the man she is with, approaches and demands to have the negatives returned to her. Our hero refuses and, in moment of confusion, manages to slink away with the snaps still on his camera. Later, the same woman appears at the photographer's studio and attempts to seduce him in an attempt reclaim the negative. Again, playing off the notion of perception, we assume that the woman's urgent desire to reclaim the photographs stems from a possibly illicit affair, however, once Hemmings has developed the negative and printed the shots he sees a curious shape in one of the bushes that almost resembles a face.
What follows is another tense, low-key set-piece in which Hemmings has large scale blow-ups made of each picture and studies them at length. Antonioni forces the audience to study the pictures along with him and, in a moment of unrivalled cinematic subjectivity, the outline of the face and the possible appearance of a gun begins to become clear. In the last picture, the photographer outlines what could be the shape of a collapsed body, but the images are purposely obscured by the pixilation of the blow-up and the harsh contrast of the picture's black and white. When he should be bringing the photographs to the attention of the police, the photographer instead gets roped into a three way sex-game (an important and historical cinematic moment featuring a young Jane Birkin and Gillian Hills, with the first sight of pubic hair ever glimpsed in a mainstream movie) and later, when he should be tailing the woman from the park, he ends up watching a shambolic performance from the Yardbirds (another iconic moment in the film... though it would have made more sense with Antonioni's original choice, The Who).
The appearance and later the disappearance of a body in the park suggests a possible conspiracy, or it perhaps suggests deeper shades to our hero's personality. Was there really a murder, or was the whole film just part of the central characters need for something more tangible than the routine pantomime of 60's overindulgence? The ending seems to suggest some moment of transcendence for the character, with that aforementioned tennis scene between the mimes and that deep silence that makes the moment into something much more memorable and important than it might have initially seemed. Blow-Up is a slow-paced and meandering film that favours atmosphere over narrative momentum, and, as a result, will no doubt alienate a number of potential viewers. That said, if you're the kind of person who enjoyed the mystery elements of films like Coppola's The Conversation, Argento's Deep Red (also featuring Hemmings) and Brian De Palma's Blow-Out (all of which draw heavily on the influence of this) and can look past the dated depiction of 60's London, then Blow-Up offers a lot be enjoyed.
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on 20 August 2007
Reading the various reviews of Blow Up, some for, some against, prompted me to at least add my tuppence worth on a film I've long liked and would recommend as being at least as honest a representation on 60's London as was made at that time.
The film's music was very hip and the director deserves real credit in getting a then little known(at least in the U.K.)Herbie Hancock and luminaries to write the soundtrack after apparently failing to find anybody here able to handle what was required (although I'm sure Tubby Hayes or Georgie Fame could have written just as suitable scores had they been asked). Not every film of that period would have included a clip of the Yardbirds as well, even if their music by then had veered away from their old R&B trip.
Blow Up was made just prior to the psychedelic era and to a large extent avoids the trap that so many films depicting the 60's fell into by including large amounts of peace, love and hippy imagery.
The clothes are very representative of that time, right down from the girls with their very skinny Mod clothing, to Hemmings' white strides and black Chelsea boots and looking back at the street scenes in London, Antonioni gets pretty well everything spot on, unlike so many others doing 60's retrospectives a few years later. Yes, Hemmings is full of arrogance but his treatment of women in general is once again very true to life and mirrored very closely the prevailing attitudes. Women's Lib was hardly on the radar screen in '66, despite the presence of Germaine Greer in and around town. Politically correct simply didn't come into it.
As for the film and plot ? It must have been the only film that I'd seen not to have any background music running throughout and with it being shot in black and white, simply added to the overall starkness. A strange meandering plot for sure, but who cares ? There have been plenty of whacky plots that nobody understood before without distracting from the overall enjoyment. Even Vanessa Redgrave's very hammy performance at smoking a spliff is worth the watch.
So for students of the Sixties this is certainly worth shelling out for. Not being a film buff or film nerd I've no interest in comparing Blow Up with art house contemporary films from around that time. But as a film that depicts London in '66 and the attitudes that existed, Antonioni gets it as right as anybody could have and gets my thumbs up.
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on 21 February 2015
This is the best film ever made. Michelangelo Antonioni was a famous existentialist left wing director from Italy who made his first film during WW2. As part of a film deal he made an English language production in London in 1966. Blow Up is essentially a philosophical treatise hung around a spooky murder mystery where Thomas a trendy David Bailey like fashion photographer snaps a murder taking place in a park and is then pursued by the perpetrators to steal the evidence he captured on film. Dont worry about the plot though because this film is Antonioni's take on hip happening swinging London as well as an exposition of his other political opinions. I love watching this film again and again.
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on 26 November 2011
I was very lucky to have grown up at this time with great music, films and fashion.

I have always said the girls of this era were stunning and the fashions,well the mini skirt still looks great. The plot is completely over the top and has been copied since but a good look back at that time and not a digital camera in site. "Proper Photography".
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on 29 July 2014
A successful mod photographer in London whose world is bounded by fashion, pop music, marijuana, and easy sex, feels his life is boring and despairing.

Then he meets a mysterious beauty, and also notices something frightfully suspicious on one of his photographs of her taken in a park.

The fact that he may have photographed a murder does not occur to him until he studies and then blows up his negatives, uncovering details, blowing up smaller and smaller elements, and finally putting the puzzle together........

Although De Palma is my favourite director, the fact that he blatantly remade this as Blow Up, is not only a bit of a cheat, but just changing one word from the title is pretty lazy Brian.

But wow, after seeing this movie, it's pretty easy to see why one would want to remake it, because its a wonderful piece of cinema, and not only does Thomas analyse his photos deeper and deeper as his photos become bigger and bigger, but the self realisation of his shallow life becomes more apparent as the film draws to its wonderful conclusion.

Hemmings is great as the troubled photographer, and his evident unhappiness is a pivotal part of the films narrative, because you sense that he hasn't really a goal in life, as his life is false, and content can lead to boredom, so in a sense he is looking for the greener grass.

The murder gives him a new aim, and not only does it make him look 'deeper', it also makes him realise just how false folk are around him, and the only genuine person in his life is being constantly pushed away by him.

The ending is very sobering, just when he thinks he has reached his first goal, he ends up right back at the beginning, empty and shallow.

A brilliant film.
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on 19 April 2012
On the Internet Movie Database this is quoted as being 111 minutes long. The copy sold here is 106 minutes. Where are the missing five minutes? Nowhere is it mentioned that this is a cut version. What is going on?
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VINE VOICEon 10 June 2004
A difficult movie for the casual viewer, due to the eclectic mix of images and events, all with hidden meanings and social commentary.
The imagery is harsh, with a despicable main character, emaciated waif-like models, stark scenery, seemingly unrelated sequences of events, and sudden bursts of motion followed by extended periods of silence.
This certainly would have been a controversial movie in its day, with the semi nudity, casual sexual encounters and drugs, but is interesting today as a time capsule into 1960's London.
Vanessa Redgrave gives a wonderful performance, stealing the spotlight from David Hemmings during their on-screen scenes. Sarah Miles is enigmatic to say the very least.
Despite watching it twice, the ending still puzzles me, but the mimed tennis game was truly brilliant.
An important work of art that should be examined from the point of view of Michaelangelo Antonioni, and then re-interpreted for personal preference.
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on 29 September 2015
This is such a good film. I loved it when It was first released in the late 1960s and my affection, admiration and sheer enjoyment hasn't diminished. This film, I think, manages to convey so many facets of the 'sixties' experience: not only the atmosphere and feel of 'swingin' London, but also the essence , character and by todays' politically correct' standards, casual attitude to women, sex and drugs. The musical score is exemplary: incredibly effective because it seeps into the action and directs an emotional response before one is aware of its presence. The casting of David Hemmings is perfect, although, I can't say that I was convinced by or felt comfortable with Vanessa Redgrave as the mysterious female in the park - providing some subsequent, low key titillation when trying to retrieve the incriminating film from Hemmings. This film can be enjoyed on so many levels: as an exploration of sixties morals and values; as an imaginative and crestive piece of film making or as an intiguing thriller, where the threat is elemental in providing its momentum and shape. Excellent stuff.
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