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More commercial than artistic peak
on 2 November 2012
Blow-up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966, 110')
Produced by Carlo Ponti, Pierre Rouve.
Written by Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra, English dialogue by British playwright Edward Bond, Julio Cortázar (short story).
Starring David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles, John Castle, Jane Birkin, Tsai Chin and Gillian Hills as well as sixties model Veruschka.
Music by Herbie Hancock, The Yardbirds. Cinematography by Carlo Di Palma. Editing by Frank Clarke.
Blowup, or Blow-Up, is about a photographer, played by David Hemmings, who believes he may have witnessed a murder and unwittingly taken photographs of the killing. It was Antonioni's first English-language film. It was produced by Carlo Ponti, who had contracted Antonioni to make three English-language films for MGM (the others were Zabriskie Point and The Passenger). Nominated for several awards at the Cannes Film Festival, Blowup won the Grand Prix.
The American release of the film with its explicit content (by contemporary standards) by a major Hollywood studio was in direct defiance of the Production Code. Writing about Antonioni for Time in 2007, the film writer Richard Corliss states that the film grossed "$20 million (about $120 million today) on a $1.8 million budget and helped liberate Hollywood from its puritanical prurience".
Film director Ingmar Bergman, who generally disliked Antonioni, acknowledged its significance: "He's done two masterpieces, you don't have to bother with the rest. One is Blow-Up, which I've seen many times, and the other is La Notte (my amazon review 22us of 30/11/2011), also a wonderful film, although that's mostly because of the young Jeanne Moreau."
Time magazine called the film a "far-out, uptight and vibrantly exciting picture" that represented a "screeching change of creative direction" for Antonioni; the magazine predicted it would "undoubtedly be by far the most popular movie Antonioni has ever made". Bosley Crowther, film critic of The New York Times, called it a "fascinating picture, which has something real to say about the matter of personal involvement and emotional commitment in a jazzed-up, media-hooked-in world so cluttered with synthetic stimulations that natural feelings are overwhelmed".
Roger Ebert wrote: "What remains is a hypnotic conjuring act, in which a character is awakened briefly from a deep sleep of bored alienation and then drifts away again. This is the arc of the film. Not 'Swinging London.' Not existential mystery. Not the parallels between what Hemmings does with his photos and what Antonioni does with Hemmings. But simply the observations that we are happy when we are doing what we do well, and unhappy seeking pleasure elsewhere. I imagine Antonioni was happy when he was making this film."
With respect to Antonioni's full oeuvre (my review fbus64 - Michelangelo Antonioni: The Investigation 1912-2007 of 18/10/2012), Blow-up is both a success and a turning point of Antionioni's career. I also see the five decades of his work, but with a solitary peak-plateau around the tetralogy (more precisely L'avventura, as the the other three already taper off despite artistic skills). Blow-up is a highly sensitive reading of the signs of the time (and fashion(s)), well - and then, desert only. Like the rather ambivalent, mostly bourgeois, initial Ferrara period, where Quiet Flows the Po ...
205 - Blow-up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966, 110') -More commercial than artistic peak - 3/11/2012