Sunday, April 17, 2016

Retro Review: BLOW-UP

Welcome to another installment of RETRO REVIEW where we take a look at films made before the year 2000.  Today we review the 1966 British film, BLOW-UP.  Enjoy!

Hitchock on Michelangelo Antonioni and Federico Fellini: "Those Italian fellows are a hundred years ahead of us. 'Blow-Up' and '8½' are bloody masterpieces".

There probably isn't a better way to describe what "Blow-Up" represents. It is film that is so ahead of its time, and remains, even now in 2016, something that could still be viewed as ahead of us. The timelessness that Antonioni achieves in his directing is sure to make any viewer's mouth drop in awe and when you reach the end, there probably will not be a time where the exclamation "What the hell did I just see?!" could be more suiting.

That is probably why reviewing such a film is so difficult. Its surrealism is so shocking and encompassing you are left without words. "Blow-Up" makes you feel and experience. It has a baffling sensuality, and there's not much space left for your brain to think too much.

This is one of the films that reminds you what great directing can be, what it can achieve, but especially, what it consists of. The shots are all so fittingly perfect and complex. This is probably one of the best examples of visual storytelling in the history of cinema. The dialogue barely exists in the film and it is always really disconnected, yet you won't realize this until you think back at it. That is because the cinematography and the editing of the film work together so flawless and ingeniously, you won't think of a void to fill, you will just look at this and constantly feel something happening, the story forwarding, the characters developing.

I cannot stress enough how clever the staging is. This is really one of the films that should be studied to become a filmmaker. It has absolutely everything, actors blocking, camera movement, editing, story beats, you name it, you will learn it from here. That is why Anotnioni manages to keep your attention span constantly up, even when a scene on paper would not communicate anything to the viewer, he comes in and stages scenes that could be watched on repeat forever. There's such a rhythm to his editing you cannot possibly take your eyes off screen no matter what's on it.

Moreover the way in which every actor, from David Hemmings to the smallest extra, plays the role to perfection is another representation of Antonioni's masterful directing. Of course a lot of the merit has to go to the casting and the actors themselves, yet to me, what it proves the most is how incredibly confident and versed the director is in his vision. He knows exactly what every scene must do to the audience, what and how much information it must convey and he manages to get everything of it, to the the point that there's not a single beat in the film that feels out of place. He manages to give us the only what is strictly necessary to build tension and leaves the rest in a gray area. The effect is a film that constantly feels like it is about to explode, but moment after moment keeps building to the point that if there is one fault it can have is not giving the pay off you wish. Yet that is still disputable since the very fact that there is no pay off is the whole thematic core the film is exploring.

It is so mysterious and cryptic there is literally an infinity of interpretations anyone could give that could all be right in their own way. This is an incredibly difficult balance to strike in a film without being annoying and "Blow-Up" does it perfectly. Still, I must say that in these cases movies end up either making your brain explode in curiosity and thirst of knowledge or they leave you slightly wordless and confused. In the case of this one, for me it would be the latter even though it is still quite enjoyable to be left so, I must admit it reaches a level of indecipherability at times that left me scratching my head. Yet, I really look forward to trying to revisit that and break it because whilst some of those moments might have left me puzzled, I cannot ever define myself to have been underwhelmed or bored, on the contrary, I was always thrilled and eager to watch what was going to happen next.

Still, the best part has yet to come: this film was made in 1966. To even think that makes my head ache. The surrealism and sensuality, which are without a doubt and almost bluntly the fathers of Sorrentino's cinema today, are so crazily original it is disarming to think someone actually did this such a long time ago since it still feels new and fresh today. That really speaks to the power of the cut and the frame used by Antonioni. Whilst watching it I repeatedly thought that almost every shot in the film could be hung to the wall.

I cannot recommend this film enough to any movie fan. No matter if you've never seen older movies or if you think you have seen them all, "Blow-Up" will floor you either way and even better, it will teach you something about filmaking.

James's Score: 8.5/10

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