Sunday, February 1, 2009

BLOW-UP (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966, UK) Thomas experiences the world through the sharp focus of empty eroticism and carnal delight, his perspective a f-stop removed from reality; to fill the void of apathy he imagines a murder and elaborate plot to destroy him. Or does he? Director Michelangelo Antonioni guides us through London chic: from a fashion model’s mannequin beauty to the livewire underground of Page and Beck, the diegetic vinyl score of Herbie Hancock, and ending upon an empty park’s soft dire whisper. Thomas captures an affair through his telephoto lens, an emotional close-up that a woman would rather keep discreet; she is unable to seduce him, his curiosity piqued, he develops the photos and believes he has stumbled upon a murder. As he enlarges the pictures vague and amorphous forms become ominous: an obscured visage peering through branches, a pool of reflective light a body, and is that a gun? A stranger walking away from a cafĂ© window is an agent, his stolen photos a conspiracy, and the mysterious woman walking the busy night streets more than coincidence. When he finally arrives back to the scene, Antonioni shows us the body from Thomas’s perspective bathed in stark moonlight. But are we to believe in the omniscient observation or understand that Thomas has willed himself to subconsciously fabricate this tale? When he arrives again, there is no sign of the body except matted grass, which could have been made by the wind, or a lover’s daytime affair. There is no trace of blood or other evidence to offer objective proof. As he wanders into the park he stumbles across a troupe of Merry Pranksters who begin to mime a tennis match. As he watches with sublime understanding, he realizes that the boundary between reality and imagination is indeed tenuous and malleable. Thomas disappears into thin air while acknowledging the power of make-believe. (A+)

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