Blowup (1966)

This review contains SPOILERS!
There's a large problem with Michelangelo Antonioni's film "Blowup" besides the fact that its plot, ending, and lead character make no sense: it's boring. Sense has often not been made in movies, it's something that we find forgivable, particularly when it comes to the greats. With Kubrick we claim that it all means something, with Bergman we claim that it all means something, and with Antonioni it must all mean something. Sadly, I don't think it does and if I'm wrong, I really couldn't care less.
For some reason, I couldn't get Tarkovsky's "Solaris" out of my head as I watched "Blowup", I still can't point my finger at the reason why this is, but I assume it's because of the long stretches of the film when nothing is said. In the moments that the jazz score doesn't fuel the film there is an almost palpable quiet.
Thomas (David Hemmings, irksome and pretentious) is a photographer who really likes to spend his life in a state of defiance. He thumbs his nose at the rules, the law, and other people. He wants what he wants and he's not above asking for it or simply taking it. He's a selfish character and never really explained. Not wearing his heart of his sleeve, the viewer has to hypothesize the thoughts running through his head. The power that Antonioni gives his viewer is normally something that I would normally find attractive; but not here.
For much of the first part of the movie, nothing happens and for the second part not much happens either and in there somewhere is a murder and what tries its best to be a thriller.
In the early scenes of the movie, Thomas drives back and forth in town in his nice car. The actual opening of the movie gives us a company of mimes mobbing a crowd. They run back and forth and harass people, apparently looking for money. This is juxtaposed next to what seems to be Holocaust victims walking out of a concentration camp. I just don't get it...and the film is so reluctant to even hint at what it's saying that it becomes a chore to watch instead of a joy.
Sticking with his mule-headedness and pompousness, Thomas goes to a park and takes several photos of a couple in a romantic moment, they don't realize they are being photographed. When he is spotted, the woman runs up to him and demands the film, citing her right to privacy. But Thomas doesn't care, he just shrugs his shoulders and walks off...what a gentlemen.
There's a lot of scenes that don't seem important like Thomas buying a large propellor because he thinks it's beautiful. He visits an antique shop and doesn't buy anything. There are two girl who want him to photograph them, but he just won't...because he won't.
But the pivotal moment of the movie comes when the woman from the park (Vanessa Redgrave) tracks Thomas down and demands the film again. He toys with her a lot, telling her that she's be a perfect model. The scene seems to take a large part of the entire screen time of "Blowup" but not much happens in it and the actions that do occur are completely insane.
Midway through their conversation, Thomas turns the music on and the woman can't help but start dancing but Thomas asks her not to. Then they smoke a cigarette and she takes her shirt off...what?
Eventually, he tricks her into thinking that she's got the film, but he hangs onto the negatives. He starts developing the pictures, which are beautiful and he discovers hidden people when he starts to blowup the pictures...hence the name.
Not sure what to do, Thomas makes no rational decisions. The two girls who wanted to be photographer arrive at his studio and what ensues is a rape-threesome in which the character violently undress each other while screaming and laughing. This added onto the way that Thomas treats his exclusively female models like furniture gives the film its chauvinism or chauvinistic commentary that is the final nail in its dismal coffin.
I'll give it this, it has a great ending, though it makes no sense whatsoever. The mimes reappear and play tennis and Thomas watches. For whatever reason, he accepts their fantasy and as the final frames fade out the viewer can hear the imaginary noises of a tennis game.
Dissatisfaction is hardly the word. "Blowup" isn't a let-down because it was never exciting enough to be promising. The irrationality of the characters is what the movie is shooting for, no pun intended. It's about a character making decisions that don't seem logical. It's about fantasy and it's about photography.
But it's also an exercise in futility because, while somewhat odd with its perspective changes—sure to inspire works like "The Conversation"—it's never interesting enough to be any good.

Score: ★★

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