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The Flaw in Blow-Up


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I know some people might respond with, 'Which one?', but there's something that just nags at me whenever I watch it, or consider it in depth.  And that is, here's this photographer, who has a camera in reach all the time.  Everywhere he goes.  And then, going out to verify a murder, one of the most vital events in his sorry life, he takes no camera with him to verify it with a clear hard close-up.  Huh?  Of course, you could say he was shocked out of his habits, confronted with such starkly real thing, him existing so much in a sphere of pretense and image.  And from a purely functional standpoint, you could also say, 'Simple, stupid, if he takes a picture of the corpse, then the whole thing about what is real and what is imaginary, and how do you establish a fact, and the irony of needing an image to verify reality is made pointless (No delay, no play).'  I know, I know.  But still. . . .

 

And how about Sarah Miles?  She outclasses everyone else in the movie.  She doesn't have much time on screen, or much to say, but with a few deft moves and glances, she tells us all we need to know about her character.

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Have you seen my thread MY INABILITY TO "GET" DAVID HEMMINGS?

 

After all my talk about the fact that I wanted this to be a murder mystery, wouldn't you know -

 

Sister Rose mentioned that she thought it would have been interesting to explore the murder but that the director got caught up in the 1960s sex scene?

 

So I am not the only one!

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I know some people might respond with, 'Which one?', but there's something that just nags at me whenever I watch it, or consider it in depth.  And that is, here's this photographer, who has a camera in reach all the time.  Everywhere he goes.  And then, going out to verify a murder, one of the most vital events in his sorry life, he takes no camera with him to verify it with a clear hard close-up.  Huh?  Of course, you could say he was shocked out of his habits, confronted with such starkly real thing, him existing so much in a sphere of pretense and image.  And from a purely functional standpoint, you could also say, 'Simple, stupid, if he takes a picture of the corpse, then the whole thing about what is real and what is imaginary, and how do you establish a fact, and the irony of needing an image to verify reality is made pointless (No delay, no play).'  I know, I know.  But still. . . .

 

And how about Sarah Miles?  She outclasses everyone else in the movie.  She doesn't have much time on screen, or much to say, but with a few deft moves and glances, she tells us all we need to know about her character.

 

Aside from that, that corpse would have been littering a public park, in a fairly open location, for several hours - can't believe that someone's pooch (out on walkies) wouldn't have taken an interest in the dearly departed, long before Hemmings sauntered back to the scene of the crime sans-camera.

 

Mind you (whether by intention or otherwise), like the mime tennis, it could be taken as merely another surrealist touch...

 

As for Sarah Miles - well, she usually adds value to most things that she pops up in.

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Have you seen my thread MY INABILITY TO "GET" DAVID HEMMINGS?

 

After all my talk about the fact that I wanted this to be a murder mystery, wouldn't you know -

 

Sister Rose mentioned that she thought it would have been interesting to explore the murder but that the director got caught up in the 1960s sex scene?

 

So I am not the only one!

 

 

Yes, and posted in it.  But this was different enough to rate its own thread.  It won't last long anyway, so don't be too upset about my poaching.  As for what Sister Rose said. . . .all I can respond is that it's hard of her to impose on Mr. Antonioni objectives he had no intention of pursuing, and to criticize him for her not getting out of it what was not in it to get.  If you want a murder mystery, watch The Maltese Falcon, or The Thin Man.  Approaching the movie from this perspective will naturally lead a viewer to misapprehend the movie and be disappointed.  The murder is not the point of the movie, but the pretext for what Antonioni wanted to explore.  It's one of his characteristic strategies.  A similar criticism is aimed at L'Avventura.  The movie is taken as the search for a woman who has disappeared while on a boating excursion.  The lack of a resolution frustrates many people, expecting a conventional mystery and investigation.  But the disappearance is not the point of the story, but the pretext for creating a condition to examine the reaction of the characters connected to her.

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Mind you (whether by intention or otherwise), like the mime tennis, it could be taken as merely another surrealist touch...

 

Wouldn't say there was anything Surreal in this movie.  Just the usual Antonioni stylization and detachment.

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Wouldn't say there was anything Surreal in this movie.  Just the usual Antonioni stylization and detachment.

 

If you took the movie in the context of a linear murder mystery, than that stylized detachment tends to come across as surrealistic. Whether or not the viewer is supposed to take that context, is a different question. Not necessarily disagreeing with you - more trying to explore how films like this get viewed in different ways by different folks. 

 

I don't believe that I've viewed any of Antonioni's other works (like L'Avventura) - I am sufficently curious enough to go hunt down some to see what they're like.

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Right, slayton, I thought of that too; why didn't he take his camera when he returned to the park to see if the body was there ? (which it was, at that time...) His camera is almost a part of his body (um, just think of the scene at the beginning with the Veruschka scene. Well, not always that part. )

 

As for the guest host's comment that Hemmings' character was too "obsessed with sex" to take the time to pursue the mystery, with respect to Mary Rose, I think she's got it all wrong.

 

First, as you said, if you approach this movie as if it were a mystery story, you're going to be disappointed. That was never Antonioni's intention (to make a mystery film). It seems pretty obvious from the start that it's not that kind of movie.

 

Second, something that is conveyed very clearly in the film is the photographer's lack of interest in almost everything. Ok, he gets pretty worked up about that propeller, but for the most part he seems to epitomize a certain '60s ennui. Or at least, as you called it, "detachment". He rarely seems to work up much enthusiasm for anything, including sex.

 

Someone who's "obsessed with sex" pursues it, actively seeks it out. It's more like sex seeks him out.I really got the feeling he could take it or leave it, but since it's there (the simulated sex in the photo shoot with Veruschka, the teeny-boppers who pursue him, the Vanessa Redgrave character taking off her shirt...) he'll take it.

 

I suspect some people today will be offended with the sex romp with the two teenage girls who walk in, unannounced and uninvited, into his apartment. But they put up very little objection, and their excited shrieks soon turn to giggles, until it's they who are tearing off his clothes.Looks pretty "consensual" to me.

But if they'd decided they  weren't interested and had left before anything happened, I don't think he would have cared much one way or the other.

 

I used to dislike Blow Up, but now, after about four viewings, I kind of enjoy it. 

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If you took the movie in the context of a linear murder mystery, than that stylized detachment tends to come across as surrealistic. 

 

 

I know it's a lost battle, but the application of the term 'surreal' to anything not strictly conforming to conventional rationality, is grating to me.  Surrealism is a specific philosophy about industrial society and culture, and its effect on the individual, and how to cope with it.  It has expressions in various arts--painting, sculpture, literature, and film.  Practitioners of Surrealism that made films include Man Ray, and Luis Bunuel.  Michelangelo Antonioni was decidedly not a Surrealist.  Compared to the filmmaking in America and England that most always strove to create an impression of the three-dimentional world we experience, his work certainly seems exotic, stylized, and even arty and pretentious, as some would have it.  Terms I would use for anything unconventional might be 'unreal', or 'abstacted'.  But, as I said, the misuse of the word 'surreal' has become general, and I will just have to bear up with it, and hope it dies the death of over-use like other trendy expressions.

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I know it's a lost battle, but the application of the term 'surreal' to anything not strictly conforming to conventional rationality, is grating to me.  Surrealism is a specific philosophy about industrial society and culture, and its effect on the individual, and how to cope with it.  It has expressions in various arts--painting, sculpture, literature, and film.  Practitioners of Surrealism that made films include Man Ray, and Luis Bunuel.  Michelangelo Antonioni was decidedly not a Surrealist.  Compared to the filmmaking in America and England that most always strove to create an impression of the three-dimentional world we experience, his work certainly seems exotic, stylized, and even arty and pretentious, as some would have it.  Terms I would use for anything unconventional might be 'unreal', or 'abstacted'.  But, as I said, the misuse of the word 'surreal' has become general, and I will just have to bear up with it, and hope it dies the death of over-use like other trendy expressions.

 

Rightly, or wrongly language usage evolves - so, yes - losing battle,

 

From www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/surrealistic

Full Definition of surrealistic
  1. 1 :  of or relating to surrealism

  2. 2 :  having a strange dreamlike atmosphere or quality like that of a surrealist painting

The bold part is the impression I referred to.

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  1. 2having a strange dreamlike atmosphere

 

 

Yes, and that phrase represents the corruption of Surrealism.  Again, I look forward to the death of its use like that.  What's that university that publishes an annual list of trendy language gizmos that are out, or should be on the way out?  I think I'll recommend this to them.

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Yes, and that phrase represents the corruption of Surrealism.  Again, I look forward to the death of its use like that.  What's that university that publishes an annual list of trendy language gizmos that are out, or should be on the way out?  I think I'll recommend this to them.

 

This, perhaps?

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You make a good point.  The film is not, strictly speaking, a surrealist film, but it is derived from a famous story written by Julio Cortázar called Las Babas del Diablo (The Devil's Drool), which owes a debt to surrealism.  Of course, Antonioni departed from the original story,  as he himself affirmed: "I discarded the plot and wrote a new one in which the [photo] equipment itself assumed a different weight and significance."  Cortázar's story is firmly rooted in the imagination, whereas Antonioni shifts the ground, but both works focus on the relationship between creator and protagonists, the nature of narrative construction, etc.  

 

I like most of the movies that have been chosen for this month's "Condemned" series, but I am afraid that the commentary leaves a great deal to be desired.  I dont wish to offend, but the sister's comments are rather sophomoric and the questions she asks sound like the sort of thing one hears in a High school classroom.  She really does not understand these films very well, as is evident from what she said about Blowup.  Her comments about Viridiana were equally clueless.  To call Buñuel a cynic because he chose to depict the invaders of the household as ingrates and blasphemers (the mockery of the Last Supper is not just a hilarious touch, it is quintessential Buñuel) is to miss the point of the movie entirely.  Buñuel's attack on the church is centered on Viridiana's objectification of the poor as innocent wayward children, thus denying them their individuality and humanity.  They are merely objects of her desire to redeem herself and the world in an image borrowed from a corrupted theology. Her fall from grace is the consequence of her own naiveté and illusions.  It is a common theme that runs through many of Buñuel's films.

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When I first saw Blow Up twenty years ago I was drawn in by style over substance. I wanted to appreciate every aspect of the film making and the culture it was portraying.  Seeing Antonioni's Red Desert first I had witnessed the full package:  style and substance.  That film transports you into the alienated world of its character.  Blow Up didn't do that for me. 

 

But watching it again it really blew me away (pun intended).  Most people walk out with a sense of style over substance because that is exactly what the film intends to do. This is the least surrealist film I can think of.  The style is extremely realistic.  No soundtrack, only ambient music, hardly any dialogue, the sounds of the city and nature. Don't confuse symbolism with surrealism. The body being untouched and then not being there are not difficult to imagine.  Its only a handful of hours that transpire. Why does it matter anyway? The observation being made is that in the face of something truly "real" the main character fails to experience it and realizes to a small degree all his other failures as a photographer, artist, lover and human being. Symbolically, at the end, the main character participates in the mime troupe's pretend game. He has his camera with him at that moment but he doesn't shoot the mime's, he finally gets it too. He's experiencing something real.

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When I first saw Blow Up twenty years ago I was drawn in by style over substance. I wanted to appreciate every aspect of the film making and the culture it was portraying.  Seeing Antonioni's Red Desert first I had witnessed the full package:  style and substance.  That film transports you into the alienated world of its character.  Blow Up didn't do that for me. 

 

 

Perhaps because the central character in Red Desert was sympathetic, whereas in Blow-Up, he's intended to be shallow and unappealing.

 

 

Don't confuse symbolism with surrealism.

 

 

An excellent way of stating it.

 

 

Symbolically, at the end, the main character participates in the mime troupe's pretend game. He has his camera with him at that moment but he doesn't shoot the mime's, he finally gets it too. He's experiencing something real.

 

 

The illusion becomes real.

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No, I was not upset about the poaching  Seriously, why would I object to anyone taking over talking about someone and a movie that \I don't like?

 

Now, if you were to start a thread about called THE HANDSOMENESS OF GREGORY PECK, I would want the thread to remain active at all times.

 

Surrealism, existentialism, etc.

 

All this is beside my point in my post which was this:

 

How am I supposed to digest the information that Sister Rose and I agree about wanting more  made of the murder mystery given that she is making all these errors?

 

 

She does not 'get" Blow Up either.

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I know some people might respond with, 'Which one?', but there's something that just nags at me whenever I watch it, or consider it in depth.  And that is, here's this photographer, who has a camera in reach all the time.  Everywhere he goes.  And then, going out to verify a murder, one of the most vital events in his sorry life, he takes no camera with him to verify it with a clear hard close-up.  Huh?  Of course, you could say he was shocked out of his habits, confronted with such starkly real thing, him existing so much in a sphere of pretense and image.  And from a purely functional standpoint, you could also say, 'Simple, stupid, if he takes a picture of the corpse, then the whole thing about what is real and what is imaginary, and how do you establish a fact, and the irony of needing an image to verify reality is made pointless (No delay, no play).'  I know, I know.  But still. . . .

 

And how about Sarah Miles?  She outclasses everyone else in the movie.  She doesn't have much time on screen, or much to say, but with a few deft moves and glances, she tells us all we need to know about her character.

Maybe he did not have high intensity film for night shots?

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I think I've watched too many movies since last nite while watching "Blow Up" for like the 15th time I started hearing tennis balls being hit in the early scenes where no one was at the tennis court, and I also heard the lens clicking sound during many of the scenes where Hemmings was not even using a camera.

 

Hallucinations or just mental anemia?

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I have to agree with some of the views posted here in that the Sister who hosted TCM's "Condemned" series completely missed the point and theme of Blow-Up.  I was disappointed by the commentary she provided before and after the movie. I was hoping, as with other forewords and concluding remarks by TCM hosts on learning some trivia concerning the film's production or something about the film's director or stars.  Whole books have been published concerning what the imagery in Blow-Up symbolizes and even with all of the films available, Blow-Up is still a staple in many films schools. None of this was mentioned in the commentary.

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I think I've watched too many movies since last nite while watching "Blow Up" for like the 15th time I started hearing tennis balls being hit in the early scenes where no one was at the tennis court, and I also heard the lens clicking sound during many of the scenes where Hemmings was not even using a camera.

 

Hallucinations or just mental anemia?

 

Me too.I could have sworn I heard the tennis ball and rackets softly thudding even before Hemmings throws the imaginary ball back to the players.

But apparently - according to my husband and Sister Mary Rose - the court is silent until the bemused photographer returns the ball.

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Maybe he did not have high intensity film for night shots?

exactly, so many answers if needed. I definitely see the body as "real" and the sequence of events adds up: while he is out someone is removing any evidence from his loft, then while he is out again "they" realize they need to remove the body which wasn't important until they realized he knew (when they found the blow up).  Its a pretty neat subplot to explore but inconsequential over all because what his forgetting the camera that night reveals is that for a moment he had a bit of humanity that wasn't caught up in his quest for fame and accolades. Believe-able or not its up to individuals to decide.

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Me too.I could have sworn I heard the tennis ball and rackets softly thudding even before Hemmings throws the imaginary ball back to the players.

But apparently - according to my husband and Sister Mary Rose - the court is silent until the bemused photographer returns the ball.

Golly gosh, Miss Wonderly are you and I both enroute to the loony bin?

 

And I wonder if they play tennis there?

 

Just think, we won't even need rackets or balls.

 

There's an opening for a joke there. Too bad Dargo is not here today.

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exactly, so many answers if needed. I definitely see the body as "real" and the sequence of events adds up: while he is out someone is removing any evidence from his loft, then while he is out again "they" realize they need to remove the body which wasn't important until they realized he knew (when they found the blow up).  Its a pretty neat subplot to explore but inconsequential over all because what his forgetting the camera that night reveals is that for a moment he had a bit of humanity that wasn't caught up in his quest for fame and accolades. Believe-able or not its up to individuals to decide.

Not to say Antonioni cared anything about the Kennedy assassination, but the body on the grass did remind me of a lot of the many blowup photos of the grassy knoll with a supposed gunman and his gun. Wonder if Antonioni was thinking of that at all with this scenario?

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Not to say Antonioni cared anything about the Kennedy assassination, but the body on the grass did remind me of a lot of the many blowup photos of the grassy knoll with a supposed gunman and his gun. Wonder if Antonioni was thinking of that at all with this scenario?

 

I would bet that those images were burned into the subconscious of everyone alive at the time, so the answer is most likely yes.

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When at the end of the film Hemmings picks up the seemingly

imaginary tennis ball, he actually picked up the seemingly

imaginary cricket ball next to the seemingly imaginary tennis

ball. I didn't notice this on the first viewing. It took me a couple

of times before I realized his mistake.

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