Friday, January 11, 2008

Breaking the Code: Blow-Up (1966)

In my journey to discover those films that broke the Code, it was imperative that I watch Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966). It's been heralded as the film that not only broke the Code, but threw it in the garbage can and lit said garbage can on fire. A veritable middle-finger in movie form.

Blow-Up is a really quiet film about just that, a blow-up. And it's title has a two-fold meaning. There is the literal blow-up, which is the picture that reveals a murder that Thomas, a visually hungry fashion photographer played by David Hemmings, blows up in order to study hidden details. Then there is the figurative blow-up which results in his discovery of the crime. You could add a third meaning, in the film's "blow-up" of the conception of what a movie is or what it should be.

If it had a precedent or if it had come later in the decade, I'm not sure that this film would have been so important in film history. People could have just seen it as another weird, swinging '60s flick. However, there are some things that make it quite remarkable. Its star, David Hemmings, is probably your best reason for watching the film. He epitomizes what one would expect of a London swinger. A gorgeous stylish man who just doesn't give a damn about propriety and is in search of his conception of the ultimate beauty. Then there is Vanessa Redgrave, who plays Jane, the woman threatened by Thomas' pictures of her at the crime scene. She is amazing to watch as she is the contemporary, troubled '60s goddess.

Finally there is the scene, that is the film, more than the actual film is the film. You know what I'm talking about. Hemmings sits on top of his model (played by Verushka) screaming "yes, yes, more, more" as he takes pictures of her as she writhes seductively on the floor. That one scene is iconic of that decade in film.

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