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Is Blow-Up a great movie?


slaytonf
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Can't say.  It's certainly a film by a great director.  And it has all the earmarks of his pace, composition, and themes.  I know I've watched it many times (and, no, not just for the sexy bits).  I admit there's a lot I don't pick up on his intentions.  I've figured out a lot over time.  There's more to explore.  That's one thing that keeps me watching a movie.  Robert Osborne and Drew Barrymore talk about the film being a murder mystery.  But that's only a pretext for Antonioni's usual exploration of bourgeois despair, the search for meaning in modern life, and reality, what we know.  How do you decide what is real?  Is something real only if we can prove it?  Does reality change with the physical evidence for it?  It's these considerations, and their corrosive effect on the the not-too-likeable central character that form the core of the film.

 

I have to say, the park scene is one of the queerest, queasiest, in film.  The way he has the wind shuush through the trees is unnerving--reminiscent of the atmosphere of a Val Lewton movie.  Wonder if he rented big blowers for that, or does the wind flow like that in London?

 

One note about Sarah Miles, and her extraordinary presence in the movie.  She has very little time on screen, and as little dialog.  But she does more with it than any of the other actors.  Her character is obviously attracted to the photographer, but afraid to express it.  She is clearly disenchanted with her present situation.  She communicates her feelings of disenchantment, ambivalence, and desire subtly and powerfully with her expressions, posture, and movement, more like dancing.

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Beautifully said, slaytonf.  (I'd love to hear you discuss it with Robert Osborne!)

 

For me, yes, it's a great movie.  I don't think I fully grasp all of it, but perhaps a little more each time I see it.  I agree that it's not predominately a murder mystery and to look at it in that way seems to miss the point.  "How do you decide what is real?" really sums it up.

 

Sarah Miles was brilliant.  It's breathtaking to watch her convey so much with so little dialog. 

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Can't say.  It's certainly a film by a great director.  And it has all the earmarks of his pace, composition, and themes.  I know I've watched it many times (and, no, not just for the sexy bits).  I admit there's a lot I don't pick up on his intentions.  I've figured out a lot over time.  There's more to explore.  That's one thing that keeps me watching a movie.  Robert Osborne and Drew Barrymore talk about the film being a murder mystery.  But that's only a pretext for Antonioni's usual exploration of bourgeois despair, the search for meaning in modern life, and reality, what we know.  How do you decide what is real?  Is something real only if we can prove it?  Does reality change with the physical evidence for it?  It's these considerations, and their corrosive effect on the the not-too-likeable central character that form the core of the film.

 

I have to say, the park scene is one of the queerest, queasiest, in film.  The way he has the wind shuush through the trees is unnerving--reminiscent of the atmosphere of a Val Lewton movie.  Wonder if he rented big blowers for that, or does the wind flow like that in London?

 

One note about Sarah Miles, and her extraordinary presence in the movie.  She has very little time on screen, and as little dialog.  But she does more with it than any of the other actors.  Her character is obviously attracted to the photographer, but afraid to express it.  She is clearly disenchanted with her present situation.  She communicates her feelings of disenchantment, ambivalence, and desire subtly and powerfully with her expressions, posture, and movement, more like dancing.

One of the most boring films I've ever seen

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First, I think this thread belongs in the Essentials area, or else under Films and Filmmakers. 

 

Second, I thought Bob and Drew had one of their most intelligent conversations at the end of this film (a rarity for them, because Drew is often too busy chewing gum and passing notes to do her studying). Maybe it was better this time, because they were both in agreement and seemed to both admire the ambiguous elements of the film. The discussion flowed more freely.

 

At any rate, I am eager to go back and re-view this film now.  I am glad it was chosen and broadcast as a TCM Essential.

 

P.S. It is currently number one the top ten list of most-searched titles.

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One of the most boring films I've ever seen

 

Now whaddaya talkin' about here, finance?! What?! You're not into watching a guy and two young semi-dressed young ladies rolling around on a large sheet of crumpled up wrapping paper for what seemed like five minutes or somethin'???!!!

 

(...why, I can't BELIEVE this!!!)

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Now whaddaya talkin' about here, finance?! What?! You're not into watching a guy and two young semi-dressed young ladies rolling around on a large sheet of crumpled up wrapping paper for what seemed like five minutes or somethin'???!!!

 

(...why, I can't BELIEVE this!!!)

The film seemed to be taking itself seriously as high art, at the expense of anything else. I preferred BLOW OUT to BLOW UP. ( and not because it was set in Philly).

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The film seemed to be taking itself seriously as high art, at the expense of anything else. I preferred BLOW OUT to BLOW UP. ( and not because it was set in Philly).

 

Yep, gotta agree with ya here.

 

(...well, except for maybe your comment about rip-off artist Brian De Palma's flick, anyway)

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Great post, slayton. Very nicely written and insightful.

This is the kind of discussion I originally thought we'd be having all the time on these boards. And no, TopBilled, I don't see why this should be in the "Essentials" forum and not this one. We're free to discuss movies anywhere on this website (I assume), and it's a simple fact that the "General Discussions" forum attracts more viewers and posters than any of the others.

But I don't want this to turn into a conversation about that. 

 

So, Blow-Up  (or "Blowup" or "BlowUp" or Blow Up". I think Mad magazine once called it "Throw Up".)

 

However you spell it, it's a problematic film on a number of levels.

What the hell does it mean? Does it "mean" anything? Is it a load of pretentious mid-60s rubbish, trying to pass off its abstruse "story" as profound, when in fact, it really is just the self-indulgent meanderings of some Italian guy who thinks he's the centre of the cinematic universe (circa 1966)?

 

Or does the film, beyond all its mystifying, and, as finance would see it, slow-paced (read "boring"), narrative, really offer something to think about?

 

After several viewings, I've come around from the first assessment to the second. The first couple of times I saw Blow-Up, I too thought it was boring and unfathomable. And not worth doing the work to try and figure it out, because (I then thought) at the end of the fathoming, there was just more of the same. Like that onion analogy, where you keep peeling layers off the onion in the expectation that you'll wind up with something substantial, but all you finally get is a pile of onion layers.

("That said" I like onions and cook with them all the time. I do not look to this ordinary allium for philosophical ponderings.)

 

However - I've changed my mind. I now like this film, and find that, as slayton suggests, there's more to explore every time I see it.

For one thing, if nothing else, it's got the Yardbirds doing "Train Kept A-Rollin' ". Good song, fun scene, especially when you see Hemmings tossing away that guitar Jeff Beck threw into the crowd, after all the clamouring others went through to try and get it. (of course, it was Pete Townshend who used to wreck his guitar, not Beck. But this is a quibbling onion layer of a detail.)

 

For another, it's just an entertaining film from a visual, "cinematic" point of view. The way it's filmed, the editing (especially when Hemmings is closely examining the "blow up" of the photo he took in the park, and trying to figure it out), and the swinging mod London '60s atmosphere that Antonioni so effectively captures.

 

There's also, after you've seen it a few times, a fair bit of humour in it. Ok, very low-key humour but it's still there. How 'bout the bit where Vanessa Redgrave is hanging out with Hemmings: he puts on a jazz record (I think it's some Herbie Hancock piece) ? The photographer starts "grooving" to the music, exclaiming to his lovely bemused visitor at one point how great the rhythm is.

Redgrave, whose character clearly knows next to nothing about jazz, tries to get into the spirit of the thing by moving her head and hands to the music, and it's so clear she doesn't "get" it, it's kind of funny.

Also, the part where he becomes enamoured with the giant oar - he just has to have it ! - it's pretty funny, and I think, a comment on how arbitrary the concept of "great art" can be, especially in the pretentious and somewhat over-blown (couldn't resist) milieu of the mid-60s art world.

 

But mostly, I've developed a respect and an interest in Blow-Up because I agree with slayton, it really does try to examine, or at least pose,  those eternal questions. What is real? Is reality subjective? Does it change if some detail that records it changes?

 

I used to be annoyed at the mime tennis players in the final scene. (Mimes can be so annoying.) But now I think it's a perfect ending for the film, as everything they do is pretended reality. And who's to say what's real and what isn't, was that man in the trees in the park stalking that couple or not. was anyone really killed. blah blah blah...

 

Thanks, slayton, for raising these interesting points about the film. If nothing, else, I think Blow-Up is worthy of discussion.

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Great post, slayton. Very nicely written and insightful.

This is the kind of discussion I originally thought we'd be having all the time on these boards. And no, TopBilled, I don't see why this should be in the "Essentials" forum and not this one. We're free to discuss movies anywhere on this website (I assume), and it's a simple fact that the "General Discussions" forum attracts more viewers and posters than any of the others.

But I don't want this to turn into a conversation about that. 

 

So, Blow-Up  (or "Blowup" or "BlowUp" or Blow Up". I think Mad magazine once called it "Throw Up".)

 

However you spell it, it's a problematic film on a number of levels.

What the hell does it mean? Does it "mean" anything? Is it a load of pretentious mid-60s rubbish, trying to pass off its abstruse "story" as profound, when in fact, it really is just the self-indulgent meanderings of some Italian guy who thinks he's the centre of the cinematic universe (circa 1966)?

 

Or does the film, beyond all its mystifying, and, as finance would see it, slow-paced (read "boring"), narrative, really offer something to think about?

 

After several viewings, I've come around from the first assessment to the second. The first couple of times I saw Blow-Up, I too thought it was boring and unfathomable. And not worth doing the work to try and figure it out, because (I then thought) at the end of the fathoming, there was just more of the same. Like that onion analogy, where you keep peeling layers off the onion in the expectation that you'll wind up with something substantial, but all you finally get is a pile of onion layers.

("That said" I like onions and cook with them all the time. I do not look to this ordinary allium for philosophical ponderings.)

 

However - I've changed my mind. I now like this film, and find that, as slayton suggests, there's more to explore every time I see it.

For one thing, if nothing else, it's got the Yardbirds doing "Train Kept A-Rollin' ". Good song, fun scene, especially when you see Hemmings tossing away that guitar Jeff Beck threw into the crowd, after all the clamouring others went through to try and get it. (of course, it was Pete Townshend who used to wreck his guitar, not Beck. But this is a quibbling onion layer of a detail.)

 

For another, it's just an entertaining film from a visual, "cinematic" point of view. The way it's filmed, the editing (especially when Hemmings is closely examining the "blow up" of the photo he took in the park, and trying to figure it out), and the swinging mod London '60s atmosphere that Antonioni so effectively captures.

 

There's also, after you've seen it a few times, a fair bit of humour in it. Ok, very low-key humour but it's still there. How 'bout the bit where Vanessa Redgrave is hanging out with Hemmings: he puts on a jazz record (I think it's some Herbie Hancock piece) ? The photographer starts "grooving" to the music, exclaiming to his lovely bemused visitor at one point how great the rhythm is.

Redgrave, whose character clearly knows next to nothing about jazz, tries to get into the spirit of the thing by moving her head and hands to the music, and it's so clear she doesn't "get" it, it's kind of funny.

Also, the part where he becomes enamoured with the giant oar - he just has to have it ! - it's pretty funny, and I think, a comment on how arbitrary the concept of "great art" can be, especially in the pretentious and somewhat over-blown (couldn't resist) milieu of the mid-60s art world.

 

But mostly, I've developed a respect and an interest in Blow-Up because I agree with slayton, it really does try to examine, or at least pose,  those eternal questions. What is real? Is reality subjective? Does it change if some detail that records it changes?

 

I used to be annoyed at the mime tennis players in the final scene. (Mimes can be so annoying.) But now I think it's a perfect ending for the film, as everything they do is pretended reality. And who's to say what's real and what isn't, was that man in the trees in the park stalking that couple or not. was anyone really killed. blah blah blah...

 

Thanks, slayton, for raising these interesting points about the film. If nothing, else, I think Blow-Up is worthy of discussion.

Without being too groveling, missw, I am in awe of your writing. (As I am about so many posters here.)  You make so many observations on things I feel, but can't quite articulate.  Anyway, I loved reading your take on this movie.  TCM needs you and slaytonf to hold forth next time it's on!

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Thanks, slayton, for raising these interesting points about the film. If nothing, else, I think Blow-Up is worthy of discussion.

 

Well, anybody who so effuses about my posts is certainly going to get a 'like' from me!  And thank you, missw2, for your in-depth examination.  It was most illuminating.  This is what I hope to inspire.  I find learning of other's take on movies, even if they don't like them, helps me understand and appreciate them better.  

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I thought you might. I think Jimmy's hair in the movie was a tad

shorter and more slicked down. I went to Bing to look at some

photos and Jimmy's hair is now completely white and he looks

like a distinguished older English eccentric, which maybe he is.

like most men he kept his hair the same style for way too many years (think robert redford) wearing the same 70s do well into the 90s. he finally changed it as he entered his golden years. and yes he does have an elder statesman look about him now.

 

in the movie it was shorter, like mike nesmith without the knit cap. and he wore mutton chop sideburns.

 

i just read that the who declined to appear and the yardbirds were the 3rd choice after some other band id never heard of.

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So what WAS Robert Osborne's comment that he wanted to save until after the movie so as not to spoil anything for a first-time viewer? He alluded to this in the introduction to the movie, but I went to bed before the end of the movie and missed it.

Was it something about the sounds of the mimed tennis balls at the end?

 

I watched the movie on WATCH TCM ON DEMAND the next day.

The introduction with Robert Osborne and Drew Barrymore was included, but their discussion at the end of the movie was not. 

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Jackson Browne had that medium length hair with a middle part for years and years. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

 

According to Wiki, the Velvet Underground were also considered

for the movie as they were singed to MGM records at the time,

but it would have been too much of a hassle to bring them over

to England.

 

(The more I ponder the meaning of Blow Up the more I think the

main theme of the movie can be summed up, if such a movie

can be summed up, as 'To be a rock and not to roll').

That same old haircut some guys wear for 20 or 30 years may not be broke but it certainly is stale.

 

I have to correct my earlier post wherein i said the Yardbirds were the third choice after The Who (for Pete's guitar smashing prowess) and another band I've never heard of. The band in question was The In-Crowd, Steve Howe's pre Yes band. According to a Yardbirds fan site, Steve's band got as far as showing up at the club to do the scene only to learn they'd been replaced by the yardbirds, a more well known act.

 

Its been awhile since I last sat through Blow Up but I would summarize it as "a day in the life."

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Jackson Browne had that medium length hair with a middle part for years and years. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

 

According to Wiki, the Velvet Underground were also considered

for the movie as they were singed to MGM records at the time,

but it would have been too much of a hassle to bring them over

to England.

 

(The more I ponder the meaning of Blow Up the more I think the

main theme of the movie can be summed up, if such a movie

can be summed up, as 'To be a rock and not to roll').

That same old haircut some guys wear for 20 or 30 years may not be broke but it certainly is stale.

 

I have to correct my earlier post wherein i said the Yardbirds were the third choice after The Who (for Pete's guitar smashing prowess) and another band I've never heard of. The band in question was The In-Crowd, Steve Howe's pre Yes band. According to a Yardbirds fan site, Steve's band got as far as showing up at the club to do the scene only to learn they'd been replaced by the yardbirds, a more well known act.

 

Its been awhile since I last sat through Blow Up but I would summarize it as "a day in the life."

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HoldenIsHere,

 

(*spoilers ahead*)

 

Another point that Robert made after the film was a problem he had with David Hemmings' character, a professional photographer, returning to the park without a camera the time when the body is seen.  But Robert adds that this had to be done this way so there is no evidence of the murder in the end, which turned out to be something R.O. really liked about the movie.

 

As a very infrequent commenter, I should also take this opportunity to say how much I too enjoy MissW's many thoughtful posts.

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Geez I'm going to have to revisit this movie!

 

I recorded it last time it was on TCM, watched it and liked it ok, but it seems worthy of revisiting based what I'm reading here.

One of the most important points to me is that it shows REAL PHOTOGRAPHY, in a real darkroom. Real photographic processing is incredibly difficult to explain to today's kids.

 

Who would have guessed it all would disappear & be forgotten in 30-40 years?

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Another point that Robert made after the film was a problem he had with David Hemmings' character, a professional photographer, returning to the park without a camera the time when the body is seen.  But Robert adds that this had to be done this way so there is no evidence of the murder in the end, which turned out to be something R.O. really liked about the movie.

 

It's understandable he might not grab his camera, considering the psychic shock he received, discovering the murder.  And he knew he had pictures to prove it already.

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Real photographic processing is incredibly difficult to explain to today's kids.

 

 

It is not the job of adults to explain everything to kids. Doesn't hurt them to look it up and research it on their own. It is their job to learn more about history, which will only help them understand their place in it today.  :)

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The point Mr. Osborne saved to the end was that the mystery of the murder was never solved, in line with his misinterpretation of the movie being at core a murder mystery.

This is very similar to the ending of GOSFORD PARK although in that movie the viewer learns the identity of the killer even if the detective does not. Robert Altman excelled at taking on a genre and subverting it, in the case of GOSFORD PARK making a murder mystery movie where the solution of the mystery is not the primary focus. 

 

As for BLOW-UP, I do think the ending with David Hemmings's character apparently hearing the sounds of mimed tennis balls is a key to the story. The mimed tennis match becomes real to him once the mimes bring him into the action---by asking him (silently, of course--they are mimes after all!) to throw them the imaginary ball that was hit out of the court. 

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That same old haircut some guys wear for 20 or 30 years may not be broke but it certainly is stale.

 

I have to correct my earlier post wherein i said the Yardbirds were the third choice after The Who (for Pete's guitar smashing prowess) and another band I've never heard of. The band in question was The In-Crowd, Steve Howe's pre Yes band. According to a Yardbirds fan site, Steve's band got as far as showing up at the club to do the scene only to learn they'd been replaced by the yardbirds, a more well known act.

 

Its been awhile since I last sat through Blow Up but I would summarize it as "a day in the life."

So if Robert Osborne has been wearing the same haircut for, like 20 or 30 years, it may be time for a Mohawk?

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