Tuesday, September 14

Review: Blow-Up

In the early sixties, there were two subcultures that ruled the streets of Britain: rockers and mods. Rockers wore leather jackets and listened to Elvis. Mods wore tailored suits and listened to jazz. They were basically the hipsters of their time, and Blow-Up was their favorite film. They loved it because it was made by an Italian director who made "artsy" movies, because the soundtrack was made by Herbie Hancock and because the people in the movie are photographers who have casual sex and say things like "fab"! But watching it now, it is clear that the movie has not stood the test of time.

The basic story of Blow-Up is actually pretty damn interesting: a photographer makes pictures of a murder without realizing it. It's not until he enlarges the pictures that he sees what went down. Now that's what I call a premise. But the way the movie deals with it is weird and unbalanced. The whole picture-taking scene doesn't take place until about 40 minutes in, and when the movie draws to a close the story is pretty much cut off about 10 minutes before the end.

Then some mimes play tennis without a ball. End of the movie.

No, really.

Also, this happens. For some reason.

The strange thing about this film is that while it's full of random zaniness, it is almost completely joyless. Not once does the movie hit a truly light note, not even when the characters themselves seem to be having fun. The fact that the protagonist is a bona fide asshole doesn't really help either: he is cold, misogynistic and incredibly pretentious. The movie is really disengaging this way: we watch the people go about, but it's more like watching ants in an terrarium. We watch with some sort of morbid curiosity, hoping that something bad will happen. 

Okay, now I'm being overtly mean. The film is not a complete failure by any standards: the cinematography is pretty brilliant and the soundtrack kicks ass as well. Antonioni, the director, is known for both having never much going on and not making this boring to watch, and that is also the case here. And while it might not be a timeless movie, there is definitely some deeper meaning in the movie (although I don't know what it is). What is left is a strange souvenir from a long lost time, when girls wore the strangest dresses in history and movies were allowed to be bland because it was "new" and "artistic". Let's hope the hipsters will have better taste.


P.S. This movie also features one of the first appearances of Jane Birkin, the mother of Charlotte Gainsbourg. And of course she goes topless. I really wonder what that household looked like. The father was Serge Gainsbourg, in case you didn't know.

The music today is presented by Herbie Hancock who, as stated before, is awesome.

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