I understand how groundbreaking “Blow Up” is but I think that “Blow Out” takes the idea further with the story and the technical execution. I actually think “The Conversation” does too.
I didn’t know that Blow Out contained similarities to Blow Up. I absolutely adored Blow Up and The Conversation. I’m definitely looking forward to watching Blow Out even more now.
Yeah there is no doubt about it when you watch the flick that Depalma was a huge fan of “Blow Up” and wanted to make a homage to it but also play with the idea quite a bit. Actually “Blow Out” is very much the love child of “Blow Up” and “The Conversation” since it came out in 1980.
great classic Depalma score too
Absolutely not. And Dario Argento’s Deep Red (another Blow Up homage) is also better than Blow Out.
No. I think BLOW UP is the finest example of the “Cinema Of Surveillance”. Better than even REAR WINDOW, THE CONVERSATION, THOUSAND EYES OF DOCTOR MABUSE, BLOW OUT, ENEMY OF THE STATE/DEJA VU, MINORITY REPORT, etc, etc, etc. Even though REAR WINDOW preceded it and provided the basic framework (and excels in a number of areas BLOW UP doesn’t even address), I think BLOW UP is still the quintessential entry. BLOW OUT’s, like, cool and all, and has tons of cool stuff and split-screens and whatnot riffing on BLOW UP, but…man, De Palma sure is empty, all said and done. Maybe my favorite De Palma, but still, no Antonioni. Ultimately, I love that BLOW UP is an outsider’s take on London during a transitional era of gentrification, and I don’t see as much commentary about Philly going down in BLOW OUT.
Might want to add Peeping Tom as one of the best of “Cinema of Surveillance.”
I much preferred Blow Out to Blow Up. It was one of my favourite films of the 80s and my favourite DePalma film by far.
No. Blow Out is interesting but the end sequence is played poorly. I don’t know if Travolta couldn’t pull it off or if whatever cynical statement DePalma was trying to make was half-baked but it certainly isn’t as masterful as Blow-Up.
Blow Out is exceptional DePalma and an unusual example of a major Hollywood production from that decade that ended on a downer. DePalma seems either to hit a dinger out of the park or strike out. Has the guy ever gotten merely a base hit? For every Scarface there is a Mission to Mars. And I was bitterly disappointed in The Black Dahlia. Ellroy has been done right only once — by Curtis Hanson in L.A. Confidential.
Hmmm…I’m on a tangent.
Blow Up is artfully made and intriguing to watch on a first viewing. Love the rare Yardbirds footage of Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck wailing on duel lead guitars. But ultimately, it is arid and more than a tad pretentious like so much of Antonioni’s work. Badly dated, too. The guy just intellectualizes himself out of reach. Just try slogging through Zabriskie Point sometime. Lots of tedium interrupted only by a cool montage set to Pink Floyd’s eerie “Careful with that Axe, Eugene.”
I’ve always thought so. Blow Up is a more historically important film, no doubt, but Blow Out hits me at a more visceral level.
You are welcome to your opinions on this somewhat banal topic, but I’d say Antonioni’s film is more interesting and thoughtful, but De Palma should be proud of his movie too. Blow Out might be just a straight-forward thriller (unless I missed something; which is possible), but what the hell’s wrong with that? Some of the best movies ever made are thrillers.
Oh, and to Cinematic Cteve, I’d say that you’re looking at his films too intellectually. I’ll give my take on his movies and if you don’t find me pretentious (and I hope that you don’t) then maybe you’ll give Michelangelo Antonioni another chance. There is nothing pretentious about the man whatsoever, in my opinion. There is a meaning, perhaps, but you’re looking for too much symbolism or something, I don’t know. Zabriskie Point might be difficult for you to sit through, but it’s not intellectual. It’s a painterly and poetical (to some extant) film. Abstracted and fragment, ZP starts as a gritty documentary and ends in a pure fantasy. The rest of the film rotates from these two points. There has always been this struggle in Antonioni between abstraction (not surrealism or satire) and documentary. If you want a good comparison with ZP, I’d say that Robert Frank’s photo series"The Americans" is the place to start. But the difficulty you’re having is not due to over-intellectualization.
And as far as dated goes, I’d say that Antonioni sought to recreate the world in his films, not film it as it was. It’s an exaggerated vision of things. Here’s what he said about ZP: “Perhaps my movie, my film, is the historv of a search, an attempt for liberation, in a private, personal sense, but this attempt for liberation in front of the reality of the entire America.” -Michelangelo Antonioni, March 1970. So Zabriskie is more of a historical impression, than a historical document. It certainly isn’t politically contemporary and it was never meant to be for very long. That’s really, when you read the quotation above, not the point. Antonioni said that while he was filming the movie the landscape was changing too quickly for any filmmaker to keep up with. It was “dated” politically before it even was released. But the that’s the issue: it’s not about that world’s politics, but how that world informs his characters.
The world of Blowup was already vanishing as he was filming ZP, and by the time of The Passenger the world of ZP had changed. He loved to give his character’s a social background and saw that as crucial to understanding them. If I wanted to make a film about you, I’d do the same today. It’s common in literature (Dickens, Joyce, Fitzgerald, Flaubert all offer us a world that has passed; why is this so taboo in film, but not literature? Funny how that works) The neorealists used the INDIVIDUAL to make a leftist social/poilitcal commentary about the SOCIETY that man/woman lived in. Antonioni is just the opposite: he used the SOCIETY to help illustrate his protagonists. In this sense, Antonioni is less dated than the neorealists because his films are about the individual (his thoughts, feelings) above all else.
In this case I’d say that Zabriskie is a film is not about America, nor its inhabitants, but about how Antonioni looks at things in America and what he has learned from doing so-on a different, more personal plane, than mere political sniping. He had no “message” he only wanted to view the country and record what he felt on a cinema strip. That’s all.
I’ve written this recently someplace else. Perhaps, you’ve already seen it. If so, I’m sorry about that. This is Blowup in own Antonioni’s words:
“I think it’s important that we let Antonioni, not some smarmy critic, describe and explain his movie.
Antonioni said: “The photographer in Blowup, who is not a philosopher, wants to see things closer up. But it so happens that, by enlarging too far, the object itself decomposes and disappears. Hence there’s a moment in which we grasp reality, but then the moment passes. This was in part of the meaning of Blowup.”
In other words, the movie is less a mediation on “reality and perception” and more about identifying Antonioni’s personal cinematic manifesto: finding an Objective Truth inside a medium of perspective and subjectivity. Antonioni always said (like the painter, not the photog, says in Blowup) that the “meaning” of his films (whether it be L’avventura, La notte, L’eclisse, Red Desert, Zabriskie Point, The Passenger…oh, all of them except this one which is about that search) came after the editing was done. Sarah Miles even equates the last remaining image of a grainy dead body with her boyfriend’s abstract paintings. It should also be noted that Antonioni frequently used the phrase “reality” when talking about the temporal/spatial reality in front of his lens-it’s not existential by any means in its usage.
Antonioni said he instinctively shot his movies (the photographer in this movie doubles for Antonioni himself, and as you can see in the park scenes that the character’s actions were impulsive, not planned) like a still photographer or painter his actions are according to his instant whims. It became coherent for him when he rearranged the frames and began cutting, editing the films-hence that’s why we have the famous blowup scenes. In those famous scenes we see Antonioni’s search in his other movies (not this one as much; he said he made this film with his head, not his gut: self-reflexive) represented dramatically, visually, poetically. We see Hemmings find a Truth in the pictures he shot earlier. For Antonioni this is the reason why he made his films the way he did: to LEARN SOMETHING about the world, not preach about what he already knows.
Of course Antonioni’s overall point is that the photog blows up the image too far and the moment passes. He never can find out the whole Truth, only a part of it. He never knows who Redgrave was, what her involvement was, who the killer was, why the killing occured, who was killed, who profited from this crime. In other words the whole of the movie is metaphor for Antonioni’s own cinema pratices and aspirations. It certainly explains the openness that defines his style. It doesn’t seem to me to be a philosophical film, an intellectual film. Just an honest one. Maybe 3-5% of an Antonioni film has something like a moment of Truth, maybe it’s an accumulative discovery, but that number is massive for a fiction, feature film. I just made that percentage up, but you get the idea: most films are all artifice-on the inside and on the outside. That is what made Antonioni so special-he never lost that documentary conception of movies. It followed him forever and helped him see things most directors ignored. We learn much from an Antonioni film, but it’s not philosophical (in the above statement Antonioni divorces himself from abstract, philosophical concepts). We learn from Antonioni’s attentiveness. His films are poetical, after all. Even mundane things like a tree or lamp are interesting for Antonioni to study and if you linger on them in the right light you might just see something about yourself you never knew was there, but that’s painting, that’s poetry. Not usually cinema. In cinema we are used to action and drama. Antonioni was a gaint, because everything was fascinating to him and everything could be illuminating. It’s a world of possibility.
Of course, the film is also a fine murder mystery and you can feel free simply to view it as that if you’d like, it doesn’t matter. It is also a good character study. Hemmings is a blind character. Antonioni once said: “For me a director’s job is to see.” It would be the same for a photographer, but this character doesn’t care about anybody else, he doesn’t think about anybody else. It’s all about him-like Piero in L’eclisse. He can’t think of anything, but himself and his own immediate needs. He takes advantage of two young girls, abuses his models, and decides to get high and party rather than take moral action and tell someone about the body in the park. As you can tell he is the opposite of Antonioni’s personality (which is why Antonioni has the painter character talk about meaning; his central character is too egotistical and self-absorbed; he similar to Antonioni in that he photographs the world). He tells the models to shut their eyes for no reason (maybe to be like him), he sees Redgrave vanish, the photos vanish, the body vanishes, and in the end he vanishes.
But the tennis-match scene is a beauty of a scene. I’ve always seen it poetically. These are not mimes, actually, they’re university students who run about collecting money for charities for something called Rag Week in Britain. They ask Hemmings for some money at the beginning of the film and he grants them this request without really caring (like he later lets the protesting students put a sign on the back of his car without noticing that it falls off in transit). In the last scene the students pretend to play tennis (Why? Because Antonioni was a tennis-star in his youth, I guess, and he thought to be interesting to film) and Hemmings watches them. When the ball flies over the fence and he throws it back this is not meant to “symbolize” that his idea of the ball is good enough and that there is no Truth, but that the artifice of cinema (and all art) can find a Truth; a redemptive quality even if it is all make-believe. You can see the character’s self-reflection in his face after he tosses back the ball; he’s learned something about himself, about his behavior, and now he sees.
There’s something Picasso famously said about art which I think is relevant here: “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.”"
“If you want a good comparison with ZP, I’d say that Robert Frank’s photo series”The Americans" is the place to start."
They’re fantastic companions.
I wrote this a minute ago somewhere else:
“Would you say that Rossellini sought truth in his films and hated artifice? I would, certainly. I remember that he once told an “actor,” to “just show up in your regular work clothes for filming.” The man did. The next day he came in a different set of clothing. It was the same very scene being shot. Rossellini didn’t mind. It was the truth. It was a document of a world.
Antonioni is much different in that he recreates that world through careful and meticulous design. Rossellini loathed this aestheticization and it no doubt contributed to Rossellini holding that famous press conference in 1963 in which he said cinema was dead.
On another hand one can see Blowup as recreation of a world so intense and accurate (even though Antonioni painted the streets, painted the grass, built apartments) that everyone who sees it mistakes it for the real McCoy! Imagine that, it was a painted, false London by a guy from Rome and even the locals were impressed with its accuracy. In a way one can see Antonioni as defending his technique and approach in Blowup. As to who’s ideas about “truth” are superior-well, let’s leave that open for debate.
I remember another occasion where Godard was driving Rossellini home after a screening of Vivre sa vie. When Godard asked him what he thought, Rossellini replied: “Jean-Luc, you are falling into Antonioni-ism!” Godard almost drove clear off of the road. That’s a famous story, isn’t it?
Of course, Rossellini admired Antonioni’s L’avventura and was the first name on the list to support it after the disastrous screening at Cannes. However, I think he saw La notte and L’eclisse as abandoning the documentary style that so much of L’avventura endorsed. In a sense, he was right, as Antonioni was moving more and more toward abstraction over the course of the sixties.
no, but both are great