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Blinded by the Light
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A brilliant, thoughtful, cinematic masterpiece. I love Antonioni and this louche film set in swinging London has all of the style, sophistication, and philosophical ruminations typical of the work of this auteur.
This is exactly why I so rarely watch oldies. No matter how
highly touted. Because 19 times out of 20, you end up sitting through shit like this.
If you like mimes and open mic poetry nights, this may be your thing. A total relic of its time, when experimental film making was hip, no matter how lousy the results. It would have been better if Antonioni just stuck to the main storyline and dropped all the quirky weirdness. How long does the scene in the studio with Redgrave and Hemmings have to go on? Vanessa being twitchy and not getting to the point (and moving weirdly to music). At the moment Hemmings finds he may have photographed a murder, he takes time out for a useless romp with two women, pulling their tights off. Of what use is that, and all the scenes in the antique shop? Nothing and no one in this behaves in anyway like a real human being. I ‘get’ what its about, and the ‘artsy’ thing. But it doesn’t add up to anything but Antonioni saying ‘look what I did! Isn’t it different and meaningful?’. Um.... different, yes. Meaningful? No. Watch this as a historical curio if you’re a film buff, but don’t expect to be entertained or engaged.
Pretentious yet deceitfully and deliberately light and heavy at the same time. All of this goes into making this the success it is. What does it mean if no one knows what it means? We are taken on a delightful, colorful, absorbing journey through 1966 London, again allowed to see the agony and the ecstasy of it all.
This film was great!
Blow-up might have been ground-breaking in 1966, but today it's a bore. Even the scene where Jeff Beck smashes his guitar is flat.
Another guilty pleasure... A very enjoyable movie.
I jumped back and forth quite a few times when I saw this film for my first time. At first, I thought it took too long to get going, but after looking up a few critical essays, I decided to revisit it as I felt like I'd enjoy it more, having learned of more insight. As expected, I found more merits with it on my 2nd viewing. Now, I consider it to be pretty good, but it's not without its flaws.
Thomas is a photographer who's bored with his job. One day while taking photos in the park, he takes several photos of a woman who demands he gives back the photos he took of her, to which he refuses. After he goes home and prints them out, he notices something out of the ordinary on one of them. After he blows several of them up, he comes to realize that he might've just photographed a murder.
I get why people think as highly of this film as they do. As for what I think, however, I more or less think it works. After I watched this movie for my first time, I looked up different critical essays to see what other people thought of it. From what I found, many people brought up the fact that Thomas seems to find a way to escape his boring job only to be thrust back into it since he didn't solve the "murder" or whatever it was which he photographed (film critic Roger Ebert argued that what Thomas photographed is ambiguous). I was a bit confused after reading these interpretations, because I didn't remember Thomas showing much boredom at all.
I decided to watch the movie again, specifically the opening scenes where he was at his job. The first scene at his job showed him photographing a female model. As he did so, he proceeded to climb over her as he took them. I was confused by that scene, because he didn't seem bored at all while doing it. He seemed to be having a blast. The next scene showed him slumped down on a couch. Admittedly, Thomas shows a clear sense of boredom in that scene both by his facial expressions and his body movements. Then, the next scene at his job showed him photographing 5 models. While he clearly didn't seem excited here, I wouldn't describe his reaction as boredom. He actually seemed kind of angry and hostile towards the women. Relative to showing how bored Thomas was with his job, however, I think that, despite a couple unfitting parts, this aspect was represented pretty well. The "point" of the film may have had a greater impact on me if Antonioni reshot a couple of scenes and removed a couple parts, but what I got was pretty good.
In addition to this, there were quite a few other aspects to the film which I loved quite a bit. For instance, the final scene was a great way to conclude the film as it summarized the "Briefly woken from a boring life" point which the film that came before it was based around. I thought the meaning of the ending was a bit obvious, but I still think it was a clever way to end the film since it lingered in my head long afterwards. Also, I felt an enormous amount of dread at the ending since, a few days before watching this film, I watched another Antonioni film, one where the protagonist died at the end (I won't reveal which one it is due to spoilers). I thought for sure that this movie was going to go in the same direction.
Also, the middle scene where Thomas blows up the photos he takes and discovers the truth about what happened in the park is a well-edited and captivating sequence which would make Hitchcock proud. Since some of the objects in the photos were small and near-indecipherable, I paid extra close attention to them and I had to carefully scan those objects as they may've been murder weapons or blood stains. When Thomas printed out more blown up photos, the sequence got more suspenseful up until Thomas discovered the murder weapon, a shot which is the climax of the scene.
However, another scene, which is my other criticism with the film, was inserted between the middle scene. While Thomas was studying the photos, he had a romp with 2 female models who turned up at his studio. I found this scene to be pretty out-of-place. I get that he's likely in a good mood since he believed he prevented a murder, but he should've reported his findings to the police at that point. Since he gave Jane (who was a potential accomplice to murder) the wrong photo reel, his life could've been in danger. For that reason, I found that scene particularly odd.
In conclusion, while I enjoyed this movie quite a bit, it doesn't quite reach greatness for me. It has several fantastic scenes and a compelling meaning behind it. There may have been a few weaker parts which took me out of the film, but in my opinion, the good far outweighs the bad. Not my favorite Antonioni, but it's still a must-see.
1966 was an incredible year for a nascent cinephile and although I was just entering that precarious time of life we all must transverse the teen years. My tastes in movies were beginning to broaden from the science fiction, spy films and action flicks preferred my friends. I still enjoyed mainstream movies of those categories whichpremiered that year. Watching movies such as 'Fantastic Voyage,' ' 'The Plague of the Zombies' and 'Murderers' Row.'filled the seats with my friends but for those of us destined to devel deeper into the artistry of the cinema many enduring classics were premired. Iconic works including 'A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,' 'Seconds' and the movie under consideration here, 'Blow-up.' As a foreign film, it was unnoticed by most of my classmates tempered only by the fact that it recieved the C' rating, condemned, in the weekly movie listing appearing in the Catholic newspaper, 'The Tablet.' It was handed out by the nuns each week, but the only reason a teenage boy had for it was that list. Any movie condemned by the church for contentent including violence, nudity, and inappropriate language were deemed ideally targeted by us for are forays to Times Square that weekend. While I did accompany my friends on those incursions, I also ventured forth to Greenwich Village were a select group of Art House theaters specialized in independent and foreign films that were becoming increasingly attractive to me. 'Blow-Up' will always hold a treasured place in a movie that significantly impacted the viewing preferences that would remain with me for many decades. This film was my introduction to the renowned auteurs of Europe specifically, Michelangelo Antonioni. It was fortunate that this director, screenwriter, and editor took a respite from his usual work in Italian to apply his considerable ingenuity and vision to a British murder mystery. As a kid from Brooklyn with an affinity for spending countless hours in the darkness of a movie theater this experience as transformative, opening a vista that continues to grow half a century later.
The sixties was an explosive period of change unlike any the world had seen in many years. Fashion had permeated youthful generation combining with popular music, anti-war protests a psychotropic experimentation creating what had become known as 'the counter culture.' Thomas (David Hemmings), was one of the new breeds of high fashion photographers who at attained a rock star-esque social status. This character inspired by one of the most influential artists in that profession, David Bailey, one of the founders of the 'swinging' social scene that exploded out of London to take over the generation a; over the world. Thomas was imbued with the 'Mod 'vision that turned photos usually restricted to glossy fashion magazines into highly sort after works of high art. Thomas effortlessly traveled in the rarefied social circles dominated by such pop icons as Mike Jagger and Andy Warhol.in spite of the wealth and extravagance his association conferred on him Thomas has just spent time in housing that we would refer to as a flophouse. He was compiling photographs for a book he was assembling.
Usually, films created by Italian filmmakers were exceptionally intense psychological dramas or driven by beautiful and enigmatic imagery. Many audiences were clamoring for action, particularly the growing trend of spy movies that would dominate much of the decade and exist as a viable genre for decades afterwards. Can the success of this film be in its pacing, Signor Antonioni demonstrated his great insight into the movie as an artistic expression by setting the time span for the story to be a day in the life, Thomas. Such a restriction on the chronological boundaries of the story places lots of pressure on the filmmaker. There is room for any extravagance; no film seemsed to help establish the exposition or develop the characters. Every frame of this masterpiece was integral to the plot providing the audience with clues to the mystery to the subtle manipulation of the nuances of every aspect of making the film from the lighting, set design and costuming. This reflects the driving force of the mystery, a nearly in detectable detail in one of the many photos Thomas took that day.
Thomas was late for a high profile photo shoot one of the first supermodels of our time; Veruschka von Lehndorff would work some of the most incremental people of the error including one of the most prominent papers in the surrealistic movement, Salvador Dali. Adding to the authenticity of the film Veruschka played herself. This is not the only use of people contemporary fame found in the film. Devotees of classic rock will be thrilled by the infusion of performance by the Yardbirds into the movie. So the founding members of rock 'n roll were present including the seminal group, Keith Relf and Chris Dreja and arguably one of the more exciting rare performances by rock legends Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. An altercation during the performance contributes to the fickle and temperamental major great artist that contributed to the incredible changes that occurred in that decade. Thomas becomes bored while shooting Veruschka and wanders off. Before leaving the studio, he is approached by two teenage girls hoping to be models, a brunette (Gillian Hills) and a blonde (Jane Birkin). Both of these young women were well known especially among the youth as singers, actresses, and popular personalities. There is a seem to photographs being taken against the backdrop of purple paper that has become one of the more memorable scenes in cinematic history, demonstrative of the growing freedom of sexual expression permissible in the film.
While meandering around the streets of London Thomas comes across a pair of young lovers in Maryon Park and takes some candid photographs of them. A young woman, Jane (Vanessa Redgrave), notices him and becomes upset with such an intrusion upon the privacy. Thomas sets off to meet his agent Ron (Peter Bowles) for lunch but becomes very uneasy as he notices a man following him. Upon returning to his studio, Thomas is approached once again by the woman who is adamant in her demands for the film that he took in the park. He comes to realize that something is drastically wrong, Thomas hands her a different role film retaining the images he took at the park. She reciprocates the deception by giving him a telephone number to contact her. Convinced that there's something on one of those pictures that Jane desperately needs to recover he develops the film, scrutinizing it at first to the magnifying glass which reveals something suspicious in the background. He begins to make some enlargements, blowing up the frame that despite the grainy appearance eventually can make out what is undoubtedly a dead body in the grass nearby somebody holding a gun. This movie is a mystery in the classic sense of the term requiring the audience to pay attention to every detail meticulously placed by the filmmaker. Underlying the entirety of the narrative is the concept that reality is a construct of perception. The idea that 'seeing is believing' is often not as axiomatic as commonly understood. The stark realities surrounding murder with a touch of surrealistic conservatism demonstrated when Thomas watches mimes, (Julian and Claude Chagrin) in the midst of an imaginary game of tennis. When one of the mimes 'misses'a volley,' Thomas bends over to pick up the imaginary ball and return it to the mines. Also so heavily dependent upon imagery for its construction including the scene at the film's conclusion is both exceptionally crucial to the story and frustrating to the audience. An imaginary construct has become real to a man who has built his career and life around depicting aspects of reality on film.
This is Signor Antonioni's first foray into English-speaking film. It was also his only commercial success as he was so successful in juxtaposing his renowned artistic ability within the framework of a story that provides a commercially viable framework of the storyline. The character of Thomas represents the prototypical creative genius of the time, nihilistic, moody and bored with his enviable lifestyle and being rich and famous. Many would envy the life he is built for himself earning incredible sums of money taking photographs of beautiful models for high fashion magazines. When not surrounded by beauty professionally Thomas finds no shortage in exceptionally attractive young women to engage in his routine of casual sex and recreational drug use. Typical elements of a classic murder mystery seamlessly woven into the fabric of the story. When Thomas returned to the park to examine the area captured he does indeed find a corpse which disappears before you can return for verification and further investigation. This movie is a classic, the epitome of the increasing influence art house film has continued to have on commercially produced movies. It was noteworthy because it crystalized the effect of the youthful counter culture had upon what was once regarded as commercially viable films. It became a substantial element of a new use of film infusing a mainstream progress with the cutting edge aspects of the ephemeral art festival offering. It has deserved its long overdue induction as a member of the lauded Criterion Collection of the most influential.
bullet New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
bullet New pieces about director Michelangelo Antonioni's artistic approach, featuring photography curators Walter Moser and Philippe Garner and art historian David Alan Mellor
bullet Blow Up of "Blow Up," a 2016 documentary on the making of the film
bullet Conversation from 2016 between Garner and actor Vanessa Redgrave
bullet Archival interviews with Antonioni and actors David Hemmings and Jane Birkin
bullet PLUS: A book featuring an essay by film scholar David Forgacs, an updated 1966 account of the film's shooting by Stig Björkman, the questionnaires the director distributed to photographers and painters while developing the film, and the 1959 Julio Cortázar short story on which the film is loosely based
Interesting document of London in the swinging '60s where a photographer is never short of models to snap. The conclusion is a bit dis-satisfying but that is the only liability in an otherwise intriguing movie.