“Blow-Up” (1966)

Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
MGM
UK, 111 minutes
Starring David Hemmings, Venessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles

Thomas (David Hemmings) is a bastard in this film. He mistreats women left and right and is so disconnected to this world that the only way he can seem to communicate with people is by causing confrontations.

Blow-Up is about how Thomas, a photographer, takes a photograph of what might be a murder – but it might also not be – and he decides to try to find out what happened. That’s it. And it doesn’t even start until you’ve sat through the first thirty minutes of film.

It’s all typical Anotnioni. The story, what little there is, is hardly there. He makes it impossible for the audience to even care about Thomas. Here is a man who tears the clothes off women and can’t even fathom the idea of giving Redgrave’s nameless character a deal on the pictures. How can we care about this man? Also in a typical Anotnioni way, the film is completely open to any interpretation you like. Again, this is the idea of the filmmaker giving the audience only some (not all) of the pieces to a puzzle (taken to an absurd extreme in Alain Resnais’ Last Year At Marienbad). The incredibly, beautiful tennis-match at the end of the film can either mean that Thomas has given up on reality, realizing that he has no connection to it or that he suddenly realizes that there are other ways to interact with people than controlling them in photographs. Whichever you chose (and those are just two of the zillions of ideas that passed through my mind), there is no denying that this sequence is one of the most amazing, arresting sequences in film. It is indescribable how amazing this sequence looked on my 42″ TV using my BluRay player.

Warner owns the rights to this film and they really didn’t treat it all that well. The DVD, which is now out of print, has just two video supplements –  a teaser and theatrical trailer that are both derived from one another (the theatrical trailer is just an extension of the teaser). There are two additional audio options. You can watch the film with a music-only track, which is useless considering that a vast majority of the film has no music. The second is a commentary by author Peter Brunette. I have followed DVD Verdict‘s advice by skipping it “at all costs”. I did listen to him talk about the swingers interlude sequence, where instead of talking about how ground-breaking it all is to see that much nudity on a screen at once, he says “Oh, that’s typical Antonioni” and “Oh, Hemmings sure looks happy there.” Now, that’s some intense analyzing. Warner also never bothered to upgrade the packaging from their ridiculous cardboard snap cases from the early days of DVD.

The Verdict: While we can all hope and pray that Criterion will get a shot to release a BluRay of this, Blow-Up can only be had on a less-than-stellar Warner DVD. The transfer is less than stellar, although blown-up (he he) on my big screen, HD TV it looked passable. This is a brilliant film and if you did just get Criterion’s release of Red Desert, you’ll definitely want to get this.

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