1966’s “Blow-Up,” directed by Michelangelo Antonioni (his first English film), is both timeless and a perfect time capsule of 1960s mod London at its zenith.
“Blow-Up” was produced and released by MGM, one of the first major studio films to feature sexually explicit material and nudity. This was a direct fly against the production code which was still in place. “Blow-Up” was a critical and commercial success, which helped to start dismantle the quickly growing old code, showing that audiences were ready for Hollywood to “grow up.” Within two years the production code would be replaced with the ratings system we still have today.
“Blow-Up” is a day in the life of a successful fashion photographer (David Hemmings), who lives moment to moment, chasing the perfect visual. Jetting around London in his expensive convertible, with a private messaging service to keep up with this busy life. Despite having all the trappings of a glamorous lifestyle around him, with everything he could ever want, he’s found life boring. Telling his agent at one point “I’ve gone off London.” After a morning spent shooting models, he goes out to shoot a few landscapes in a local park, where he focuses his lense on a couple he sees walking around.
The female pair of the couple (Vanessa Redgrave) notices this going on and chases after the photographer, incensed that her picture was taken. Our photographer shrugs her off and goes on with his jet-setting day. Later she shows up at his home/studio, demanding the negatives, to which he agrees but actually substitutes for a roll of unexposed film. Having satisfied the mysterious female, he develops what he shot in the park, and notices he that he might have more than just a couple’s stroll in the park. He might have photographed a murder.
“Blow-Up” has an beautiful color pallet that really stands out in the new blu-ray release by The Criterion Collection. The blu-ray features an incredible restoration created from both the 35mm original camera negative, and a 35mm interpositive. The soundtrack, with a jazz score by the great Herbie Hancock–and a cameo in the film by rock band The Yardbirds, from that short era in which both Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page were in the band–sounds clear and sharp, restored from the first generation magnetic 24 track elements.
Criterion has packed their edition of “Blow-Up” with numerous special features including archival interviews with both its director and cast. Trailers, featurettes, and a 2016 documentary on the making of the film, plus a book that includes essays, and the short story the film is loosely based on.
The most amazing, and I don’t want to call it a trick but for a lack of better words I shall say trick, that “Blow-Up” pulls off is how deeply dated it is, set in Swinging 1966 London, but still feels fresh and not dated at the same time. One of the best films to have come out of the 1960s, “Blow-Up” is a must, especially in this new blu-ray edition from The Criterion Collection. A must own.