Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Criterion Collection Spine #865
(Foreign language film)
Now to discuss a deeply metaphorical film that I just thought was ok.
I think just about everyone who watches this movie knowns the majority of the plot going in, so the mystery is how it will all turn out. And I don't think it is a spoiler, more of a warning that NOTHING comes of it.
The story It is about a British fashion photographer who lives a comfortable life taking pictures of beautiful women and in some cases taking advantage of the ones who are begging to work with him. He seems bored by this life and goes out to the park to take some pictures. He spots a couple kissing and begins to take their picture. The woman spots him and wants the film, and She later tracks him down to his home and is willing to do anything to get the pictures back. After giving her the wrong roll of film he develops the pictures and thinks he notices something. So he blows the image up more and more until he discovers a gunman and a body.
Apparently this film is similar to De Palma's 'Blowout' and Coppola's 'The Conversation', so I will be curious to see if I like them any better.
After thinking more about the film and listening to some interpretations I have three themes I want to explore.
(Reality VS an artist projecting visions into their art)
The most interesting part of the film is the possible murder, but to Antonioni the idea of showing us that this is just an idea in the protagonist's head is more interesting. I do think the long scene were he is going back and forth developing the photos and getting truly wrapped up in his art is the best part of the movie. This is confirmed by the group of mime's that play a pretend game of tennis at the end, complete with the main character throwing the imaginary ball back onto the court.
(Then there is the theme of what is considered art)
I thought the broken guitar was an interesting example of this. There is a scene where a silent audience is barely reacting during a rock concert, until a piece of a smashed guitar is thrown to them and they go after it like a crazy mob. The main character ends up picking it up and going outside where he throws it on the side walk. Then when other people walk by they see it as junk, being unaware of why the crowd considered it so valuable. This has an interesting comparison to today's technology where so many concert goers focus on recording the event on their phone instead of just enjoying the experience. Then what happens next, do they cherish this amateur video or just discard it.
Another example is the large propeller the main character buys from an antique shop, which leads to an interesting conversation about how it is art.
(The final theme is voyeurism in its many different interpretations)
We get the erotic photography at the beginning where the main character is straddling his model. Him sneaking into a slummy location to take pictures of homeless people. And finally, him snapping shots of the couple in the park. All hint at the idea that the public has the right to look into the lives of others whenever they want to see their misery, pleasure, comfort, or horror. So in this sense the idea of privacy in many ways does not exist, especially in the public realm or for celebrities.
These are all interesting ideas that are hinted at in this subtle and slow film, but do not really go anywhere. It is more of just a voyeuristic journey with this main character as he explores his own work and fantasy.
I may appreciate Blow-up more if I saw it again, but I am not sure if I really want to because it was a pretty hallow experience for me.