DVD TUESDAY: Blow-up and the Dark Side of the Cool, Swingin' 1960s
DVD Tuesday: Alienation, miniskirts and Swinging London: The late Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-up wraps a mystery in an groovy existential enigma.
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Blow-Up courtesy Warner Home Video
My tiny tribute to the late
who died last week on the same day as fellow film great
(1966), the film that spaked many a heated argument about what it all meant, this week's DVD Tuesday pick. And of course, the photo-shoot sequence featuring star
and pioneering superstar model
regularly turns up on lists of the sexiest movie scenes, so there's something for everyone.
Based loosely on a short story by Argentine experimental writer Julio Cortazar, it's set in London in the mid-1960s, when London's scene - music, fashion, art, clubs - was the coolest in the world,
revolves around a successful fashion photographer (coldly impish Hemmings) who discovers evidence of a murder when he blows up the casual snapshots he took in a public park of a young woman (
) apparently meeting her older boyfriend. Or has he? By the time he's blown up the tiny part of the picture where he thinks a body lies so it's large enough to examine, the grain is so big that the image looks like an abstract painting. Maybe he's just seeing a body because he thinks that's what's there. And in circles where consciousness altering drugs, head games, distrust of the apparent and general disconnection are
- which is to say
circles the story about the murder in the park is a hard sell.
The first time I saw
was a little more than a decade after it was made, which was long enough for all that counter-culture, mod London stuff to look dated to me. Almost 30 years after
, the grooviness is distant enough that it doesn't bother me and the film's sense of atmosphere of hipster alienation seems prescient rather than passé (I still hate the mimes, but now I think you're
to hate the mimes). Star Hemmings, who died in 2003, never looked better than in
(he became a positive gargoyle as he got older) or fit a role better than photographer Thomas, reportedly based on David Hamilton, a photographer turned filmmaker famous (or perhaps notorious) for his gauzy, eroticized images of young women. Hemmings was one of the iconic faces of '60s movies, as was Redgrave, whom you may recognize as Julia's (
) self-centered, pop-psychologist mom on
(Joely is Redgrave's real daughter, as are movie actress
). Together they were the epitome of hipness beautiful, bored, soul sick and so,
impossibly cool. Hidden in a small scene involving two would-be models you can see
, soon-to-be international style icon, in one of her earliest roles: The insanely sought-after Hermes Birkin bag was named for her. And the club band is The Yardbirds, featuring both Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck.
's weightier elements, its themes of alienation, disgust at a culture of surfaces and reckless rejection of the reassuring, regimented world of previous generations, are obvious. Not because Antonioni was crude, but because he was ahead of the curve: What was radical then is all too apparent now. Discuss over espresso.
Things to consider:
Who do you consider the greatest filmmakers? When did you first see their films and what impression did they make?
In the 1950s and '60s, many moviegoers sought out challenging films, and Hollywood sought out people like Antonioni - MGM financed
in hopes of appealing to a younger audience that was rejecting what we now call "popcorn movies" as stupid and irrelevant. What's changed?
Does entertainment inherently mean "turn your brain off"?
Previously in DVD Tuesday:
Ace in the Hole
Eyes Without a Face
Gone in 60 Seconds
Bob le Flambeur
The Girl Who Knew Too Much
I'm Not Scared
Shocking Grindhouse Double Bill! - Scanners and The Candy Snatchers
Don't Look Now
Kiss and Make Up
Kiss Me Deadly
The Long Good Friday
What Alice Found
The Devil's Backbone
The Devil Wears Prada
The Thief and the Cobbler
Panic in the Streets/Jack Palance Interview
The Pusher Trilogy
In Cold Blood
This week's new DVD releases