Directed By: Michelangelo Antonioni
Starring: David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles
Tag line: "Sometimes, reality is the strangest fantasy of all"
Trivia: This was Antonioni's first English language film
Blow-Up introduces us to a photographer named Thomas (David Hemmings) who is convinced that, while snapping pictures in the park one afternoon, he inadvertently captured a murder on film. Aside from noticing a blur in one of the developed photos that looks a bit like a dead body, the woman who was in the park at the time (Vanessa Redgrave) tracks Thomas down, and is quite desperate to buy the pictures from him. Obviously, she’s trying to hide something. Or is she?
This is but one of the avenues traveled by director Michelangelo Antonioni in Blow-Up, a movie as conscious of style as it is story. Along with its tale of a possible murder, Blow-Up takes us deep into the London mod scene of the 1960s, where fashion photographers were apparently as popular as rock stars. Thomas revels in his lifestyle, taking pictures of gorgeous models and enjoying the vast wealth doing so has brought him. And yet he remains curiously unfulfilled. Never content with what he has, Thomas is always on the lookout for more. On a whim, he purchases an old bi-plane propeller at a small antique store. He needs the propeller because it’s beautiful, and the fact it's too big to even fit in his car is of little concern. After all, it just might be very important to him someday. Maybe.
Soon enough, we realize both aspects of Blow-Up, the supposed killing and Thomas' boredom, are joined at the hip. Did Thomas' camera actually capture a murder in progress? Whether it did or not really isn’t the point. Unhappy with his life, Thomas wants to see more in his photos, certainly something besides a romantic tryst in the neighborhood park. He wants it to be true because getting a killer on film would be pretty special, and might even make him special as well. At long last, his work would mean more than what the latest fashions are. He would have finally made a difference.
With Blow-Up, director Antonioni has constructed a movie that simultaneously glorifies and condemns the lifestyle of its main character. We witness the power and prestige that went hand-in-hand with being a '60s fashion photographer, just as we see the longing and search for purpose that might have resulted from engaging in such a profession. Thomas' life is as empty as a spent cartridge of film, and what bothers him most is he knows it. If helping to catch a murderer can change all that...well, why not?