Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Antonioni's "Blow-Up" Puts Mod World in Focus

Cleveland Press February 6, 1967

Italian film director Michelangelo Antonioni has invaded the synthetic world of swinging, decaying mod London for his latest work, "Blow-Up."

Through this cluttered setting of the big beat, the phony and the erotic moves his mop-haired, totally adjusted protagonist, actor David Hemmings as a free-lance photographer.

Things happen and he reacts and it is his reactions rather than the happenings that concerns Antonioni.

He tears around London in his open Rolls leaning on his horn, stopping to look, jumping in and out of whatever mainstream exists in his life.

On one excursion he stops for a saunter in a public park. In the distance a girl and a man are walking hand in hand, occasionally embracing. He takes a quick series of photographs and turns to leave. But the girl (Vanessa Redgrave) has spotted him, chases him and demands the film. He refuses.

The girl appears at his studio. So desperate is she to have the film that she is a willing partner in seduction. He gives her a roll of unexposed film and develops the other.

THE NEXT SEQUENCE is ingeniously presented and is bound to be copied in a suspense movie within the next year or two. Noticing in one print that the girl is distracted. he follows her gaze, blows up that portion of the photo to discover what it is.

Blow~up after blow-up follows and he discovers a hand holding a gun and in another enlargement a body lying in the bushes. Apparently he has photographed a murder as it happened.

The entire sequence happens in silence -- no dialog, no music. There is no tremor of strings, no crash of percussion to tell you that THIS IS IT. You know everything he knows and within the same time period.

This germ of a plot is more plot than any previous Antonioni movie. Some reviewers have referred to it as a Hitchcock element in the movie. "Blow-Up" is good Antonioni (ranging from excellent to fair) but bad Hitchcock.

TRUE TO HIS DIRECTORIAL form, this incident has the same value as all others in the movie. But because it does promise more suspense than it delivers, it throws the movie out of balance. This is a minor flaw. Inconclusiveness has always been one mark of this man's work.

There are other incidents in the film, seemingly unrelated, but all of them contributing to a total impression. There is the photographing of fashion models in mod outfits, a curiously bloodless group symbolizing a dispassionate eroticism.

There is a rock-and-roll session with the attention of a hypnotized audience shattered as one of the performers stomps on his guitar.

The movie is stunningly photographed in color. Seldom is color used as tellingly and intelligently as this.

THE ACTING IS EXPERT, it has to be with sparsity of dialog and the necessity of making every word count.

While there are lagging moments, the movie has more pace than previous films by this director. In his earlier works Antonioni developed his movie languidly.

In "Blow-Up" he has achieved some of the frenzy of the dizzily hip society he portrays. Some of his symbols are still a little much, leave one with the impression that he is occasionally putting us on.

THE MOVIE WAS REFUSED a Motion Picture code seal because of several overly explicit incidents

While some moments go beyond the bounds of taste, the movie is far less objectionable than some of the leering products that have been granted the seal -- witness "Arrivederci, Baby," and Murderer's Row."

Specifically "Blow-Up" is strictly adult fare, but not even for all adults. Like most of this director's works it is ahead of its time, is a masterpiece of techniques from which others will borrow.