Thursday, February 05, 2009


Vanessa Redgrave

The times when I have truly savored a piece of art (music, film, book) have become rare. When it happens, I must remember it. I watched Blowup by myself one uneventful weekday night. I had heard of it before, and knew it was artsy and therefore, possibly quite boring, as I find so many art flicks to be. Not really knowing what to expect, I plopped down in front of my Macbook Pro with a glass of limeade, and was hooked by the first scene. This isn't meant to be a proper review, so if you want that, check out Amazon. The film was slow (normally can't stand that), but the shots were all so thoughtfully composed that I was never bored. It was especially interesting because the main character (not named) is a pro photographer in the 1960's, and he used a camera that is similar to my Canon AE-1P. He was played by David Hemmings, who I previously had not heard of, and was absolutely charming in a cruel and bored sort of way. He wasn't very handsome in the traditional sense, but there was an attractive vexation about him. And, I do love the mod men's fashion, buckle boots, high-water pants, tight clothes and all. Yes, overall he is a bad man who yells viciously at his emaciated models and has no real relationships. Props to Antonioni for making a somewhat likeable anti-hero.

When this film came out in 1966, it garnered a lot of attention for its explicit portrayal of the sex, drugs, and rock and roll era of the 1960's in Britain. A mysterious and striking woman the hero photographs in a public park also show up at his doorstep (played by a stunning Vanessa Redgrave), demands for the negatives, and attempts to seduce him. She sheds her top and wanders about his studio. Before she leaves, she coyly kisses the photographer. They continue kissing passionately. It appears to be a perfectly constructed scene to illustrate cinematic fantasy love, but the two are merely strangers using each other. Later on, two young women arrive begging to model for the photographer and in little time, all strip each other of their clothes in a partly violent, partly playful manner. An implied threesome follows and ends with the joyless protagonist returning to his work. Granted, compared to movies nowadays, these once-racy scenes may seem bland and induce a kind of embarrassment due to their datedness. But what was astonishing to me about these scenes was not how much flesh was revealed, but how Antonioni succeeded in portraying such a raw and emotionless sexuality. The musical score is by Herbie Hancock, but in many scenes, such as the sex scenes, there is no music. The camera does not zoom in on the women, even though they are beautiful. They do not stir up desire in the viewer, but rather, expose the meaningless and repetitive actions of the protagonist and his generation wilting away with ennui.

There were many quirky events in the film, notably a carful of college kids/mimes who drove around town, a Yardbirds concert whose crowd seemed eerily sedated, and the purchase of an old, defunct wooden plane propeller. It was weird without being alienating or pretentious. I have to admit that like a well-trained modern moviegoer, I was expecting.. some sort of plot, but there wasn't really one. More like half of one. In the end, I was left with many questions, but it was OK. I was content with the mystery of this odd film. I look forward to watching his other films, which apparently are also about rich, bored people.

The other film of note I enjoyed lately was The Wrestler. Having not seen other films about wrestling/boxing/ violent and manly sports (because of lack of interest), I was surprisingly engrossed in the story. It was starkly depressing and thankfully, never made the mistake of being maudlin. It took me a while to realize what a complete loser the protagonist was, but even after that, I didn't lose empathy. For someone with a very sensitive stomach, I felt that it was gritty without being obscene. Definitely one of the better new movies I've seen this past year. It's difficult coming to agreement with B on what movies to watch, because I prefer to be more discerning and would rather not watch a mediocre movie, since I have a limited amount of free time and don't like wasting it that way. But he would elect to watch even a bad movie just to get distract from reality for a while. Maybe I'm just more comfortable with facing the facts of life: that it is boring and sad a lot of the times. Ha.

Img source: Time

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