Stephen Bové - Art, Technology, Right Action

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Blow Up Redux

Haunting, recurring memory of a strange movie...

I may have seen it in college, or while living in Manhattan in the late 80s...

There was a cool, arrogant, aloof young photographer strutting about London in mod boots, driving his slant-eyed-pre-Pininnfarina-designed Rolls Royce convertible, talking to people who worked for him through some kind of James-Bondian dispatch radio, doing photo shoots with seductive teenage models in collapsing rolls of purple cellophane, buying rare landscape paintings in off-beat London antique stores, having old airplane propellers delivered to his studio on a whim ("it's art").

In the same memories, the photographer is watching mimes play tennis...they hit a ball over a fence and the photographer runs it down for them, tosses it back...it all has something vaguely to do with a creepy murder...or is it a cheesy metaphor?

What was this mysterious mind collage about? Search engine: "mimes tennis photographer london." Link: homage to Michelangelo Antonioni; film Blow Up; actor David Hemmings. Netflix: rent the movie, watch it twice, stright-up then with the commentry by a stiff film professor...

It's about "style" in a way that must have been revolutionary...the narrative is interesting, but the stylization of settings and "scenes" is either a happy exceptional accident or a brilliant design. Even today, this movie would make a mark. It sits in visual memory alongside the much later Diva & Mona Lisa.

Historical notes:
  • Blow Up was made after the Kennedy assassination by 3 years, the "blow up the photo till you can make out smoking guns in the silver-grain shadows" game had been played out in world-wide mega-media via Zapruder super-8mm.
  • That IS none other than Jimmy Page onstage toward the end of the movie with the Yard Birds including fellow guitarist Jeff Beck, playing a riff that Zep later developed into a hit. Oddly, Beck smashes up a guitar Pete Townsend style -- was this shocking? Did Pete steal the move from the movie or visa versa?
Films with haunting actors and mise en scène, yet unmemorable plot...think of Bowie in The Man Who Fell To Earth or Dern in Silent Running...there's a power in them -- to lodge a partial story or powerful visuals in memory like a dream fragment...like an experience you actually had but can't remember clearly. Is this an accident, or do these filmmakers intend this effect? A strange kind of genius if the later.


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