One of those films that has been sitting on my shelf for a few months but never really got around to watch until last night. I was made aware of this by one of my lecturers at art school during a crit-group of another students work, which saw a portrait being blown up gradually to the point that there is only an abstract image that only a photocopier would ever produce, picking up the detail. Blow-Up (1966) was the natural film interpretation to make really when you think about it that sees a photographer Thomas (David Hemmings) who witnesses more than he had ever considered after being caught photographing a couple in the park.
What starts out as just another successful photographer in up and coming London, it’s not the image of the swinging sixties that footage today shows us. There’s an edge of something more sinister at play on the streets as a group of mine artists run riot through the city. Before focusing on an arrogant young photographer Thomas (Hemmings) who expects more from his models that they know they can give. He a typical example of the affluence of a new generation who are breaking through in the decade. Spending his money on antiques and photographing factory workers to couples in the park, constantly inspired, not held back by social restrictions, a free spirit with the confidence of the day.
Yet it’s that couple in the park which catches his attention, mainly that of Jane (Vanessa Redgrave) a siren in the park with a much older man, seemingly free to enjoy each others company, until they realise they are being photographed by a stranger who dodges about in comic book style from tree to tree, gauging those angles and shots that will complete his work. A confrontation is not enough to hand over the negatives, something that he will later wish he had done.
Later on she finds him after he has drive around London in his open-top Rolls-Royce, a symbol of the power that he has. Jane will not leave until she has her film so no one can see the photos. Something that Thomas won’t allow, knowing his way around women he believes he can fool her and still have his way. An element in the film that at times can feel frivolous, which comes in handy later on in the film.
When left alone the film really hits its peak when the creative energy and investigative energies are unleashed when Thomas starts to develop the photographs, to reveal something more than just a couple in the park. More dark tones are revealed in the images. He is transfixed to them, wanting to find out more. Studying them scrupulously with intense detail and time. Blowing up sections to reveal more than he had first captured through a small lens of a professional camera. A simple image can reveal more when you start to study it in great detail. Opening up new aspects of the world that he never knew existed, away from the sex and drugs that fill his, lays a darker one where lives are at stake. And he has the power to reveal all, start with a camera and an enlarging machine that can reveal more than before.
Technology that is used to capture beautiful images of live can also capture the darker sides, an image can have many interpretations as our photographer learns. The power to capture a simple image, to the hidden truths that lurk in the shadows. Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni who lets the camera just roll, capturing live just as it happens at times. With minimal dialogue it replicates the sometimes emptiness of our day, allowing us to process the information and images. To enjoy and think more than anything, something which I enjoyed previously with The Passenger (1975) and find here again on the streets of London where we are left thinking that our creative passions can lead us into trouble when we let ourselves loose seeing where they lead us. Creating an intense thriller that takes us where the average guy would never dream of finding himself.