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Blowup

Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 Blowup recounts about 24 hours in the life of a London fashion photographer (David Hemmings), from early Saturday morning to the next day, Sunday morning. We never hear his name but in the script he is called David. After emerging from a doss house (a sort of homeless shelter for impoverished men), he emerges from this doss house at dawn, only to sneak off to his Rolls Royce Silver Cloud convertible and drive away. We learn quickly that he is a much-in-demand photographer who on the one hand snaps pix of underweight women in ghastly clothes for fashion magazines while at the same time hungering for the respectability that a forthcoming book he is planning will provide him. While on a reconnaissance mission to see whether he wants to buy an antique store he wanders into a nearby park and sees two lovers, a young woman and an older man, frolicking. He takes photos of them. But the young woman, played by Vanessa Redgrave, spots him and demands the film. Later, when David returns to his studio, the woman surprises him. In a long scene of mutual seduction and high-strung nerves, the woman attempts to get the roll of film out of David. The photographer gives her a different roll, and after she leaves David develops the film and tries to find out why she was so distraught over the shooting. In a series of blown-up images, David pieces together a story: that the woman lured the man into the park so that he could be assassinated. Blowup is, like most of Antonioni's films, rather deliberately paced. Actually, one doesn't notice the slow pace at first because we are beguiled by the mime-faced revelers, the mod clothes, the Yardbirds concert, and the glossy lifestyle with its models and pot and orgies. In Antonioni's view, the many impulsive things that happen are a measure of the sheer vacuity of David, a restless man with seemingly no interior life. Antonioni admitted that he was just as attracted to the pot and easy sex available in swinging London as anyone else, and others might view the film as non-judgmental, simply observing the shenanigans of an affluent city rife with cultural clashes. But the film does take a rather delicate moral position, one that doesn't condemn the sex and the drugs so much as indict a capitalist society in which there is such a gap between personal pleasure and responsibility, in which, by the terms of Marx's ethos, man is no longer able to take satisfaction in his work. Besides that, one of the reasons why this is among this writer's all-time favorite films is because of its unnerving accuracy and resemblance to things seen and heard in life itself. It's not a "brainy" film by any means. By exploring the difference between reality and fantasy, Antonioni simply asks: Whom do you believe in a world in which everyone is trying to seduce you? Warner's DVD release of Blowup features a good anamorphic transfer with monaural DD audio that sometimes sounds a little shredded in the high registers. Supplements include a music-only track, two trailers, and a commentary by Antonioni scholar Peter Brunette. Snap-case.
—D.K. Holm

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