MICHELANGEO ANTONIONI's BLOW-UP - Part Five of Analysis

Go to Table of Contents of the analysis. Antonioni's films are rife with themes, peculiarities and incongruities which largely go unnoticed due his deft care in handling them and the abundant and rich audio and visual textures in which he immerses us, but they are also responsible for the sense of mystery that defies a traditional expectation of resolutions, infusing Antonioni's films with enigmatic mythic purpose. And myth is never hampered by logic.

I AM IN PARIS

525 LS of a gate before a house. Thomas enters from screen left, opening the gate and approaching the door. We see a party through the windows in the second floor.

526 MCU from rear of Thomas at the door.

527 LS from inside the party (black and white checked floor) Thomas being admitted by a man in a white suit with a red bow tie. Thomas passes through the milling crowd of upper class youth and middle-aged individuals fashionably dressed. He is familiar with these people and acknowledges some in passing.

528 Thomas enters one of the rear rooms and passes by a fire place. He is moving away from the front rooms part of the party, filled with chatter. He passes through an empty hall into another rear room.

529 In this back room a number of young individuals lounge about on a bed smoking pot.

530 CU of Thomas watching the group.

531 MS of the group smoking and rolling joints.

532 A young brunette woman in white beside a lamp inhaling and holding. Releasing her breath. Pan right over a woman rolling a joint on newspaper. Last, another brunette in white with a pipe.

533 CU of the woman licking the paper of the joint.

534 CU of the woman on the left deeply inhaing again. A lot of chatter in the background. Someone sings.

535 MCU Man smoking. Pan up agin to the woman in white on the right.


Time is slowed here, consciousness altered, reminding of the scene in which Thomas gave Jane the cigarette to smoke, which made her laugh as if she was smoking a joint, and instructed on moving slowly and against the beat.

536 MS from the side of the group of a man in a black and white check jacket standing. Thomas wanders past him to the rear of the room where he sees Ron.

537 MS from behind Ron. He is seated before two women who are on a burgandy color divan. One is lond, the other brunette. Thoams grabs Ron's shoulder.


THOMAS: Ron. Ron. Give me a minute, will you?

Ron rises and faces the camera. He is holding two joints between his fingers, as if smoking both of them. He turns from Thomas to the women.

THOMAS: Ron.

538 MCU of Ron from behind the brunette. He gives her one of the joints, and the blond the other. From behind, Thomas pulls him to the side and leads him out of the room.

539 A hall with a bust of an old man with beard wearing a red jacket or cape. Thomas exits into the hall, pulling Thomas along with him by his lapel. They go into a neighboring room, another clump of partiers.


THOMAS: Someone's been killed. Now, would you...

RON: Okay. Okay.


Thomas has pressed Ron down in a chair by a wall filled with books.

540 CU of Thomas leaning over Ron.

THOMAS: Listen, those pictures I took in the park...

Ron, not paying attention, is looking at something else off to the side. He gestures and snaps his fingers.

541 From approximately Ron's POV, Verushka entering from the hall, smoking a joint, dressed in a snake-skin print bodysuit. Ron gestures with two fingers for the joint. She hands it to him.

THOMAS: I thought you were supposed to be in Paris.

VERUSHKA: I am in Paris.

542 Ron taking a drag.

543 Ron's hand reaching into the frame and handing Thomas the joint.


RON: Here. Take a drag.

Thomas hands the joint back to Verushka. She wanders off screen left.

544 CU Thomas seated across from Ron.

THOMAS: I want you to see the corpse. We've got to get a shot of it.

RON (leaning into the frame): I'm not a photographer.

THOMAS (as if remembering for himself, or reavowing): I am.


Thomas stands and moves away, exasperated with being unable to communicate with Ron.

545 MCU of Thomas by what seems to be the pipes of a pipe organ.

546 MS of Ron.

547 MCU of Thomas looking down on Ron in his chair.

548 Ron as in shot 542, pushing himself up out of his chair.


The two are absolutely out of synch with one another, as Jane and Thomas had been.

RON (to himself or an unseen someone): What's the matter with him? (He walks toward Thomas, stops in front of him and looks at him, uncomprehending.) What did you see in that park?

THOMAS (shaking his head): Nothing.


We have moved from the "someone" Thomas told Patricia he'd seen killed that day, to his having observed nothing. Ron wanders past him to the hall.

THOMAS: Ron...

549 Ron pauses in the smoky hall, before the bust of the old man. He turns back and waves for Thomas to follow him. I believe he is one of the only men with a beard in the film, so to some degree he mirrors the milky white bust. Ron then walks back into the room, grasps Thomas by his tie, and pulls him along.

550 Shot of the hall as Ron pulls Thomas into it and back into the room where the group was smoking on the bed. The girl in the long white skirt and white jacket, exiting, smoking a joint, bumps past Thomas and Ron as Ron takes Thomas back to the bedroom. In her maxi skirt, she reminds of the nuns in their white habits viewed at the film's beginning. We hear a glass being knocked over.

THOMAS' EARS ARE OPENED, AND HE DISAPPEARS

551 LS of Thomas asleep by himself on the bed where the group had been smoking pot the previous night. It's morning. He is alone, clothed, the house apparently empty, the rooms littered with the debris of a very successful party.

Behind him, on the bed, resting against the wall, is a large green dot.

552 He looks up from the bed at the windows through which one can see trees and portions of a building beyond. The camera panning left we see a chimney beyond. Thomas stands.

Recall that at the film's beginning, when the mimes had accosted Thomas wanting money, he had riffled through the newspapers in the back seat, one of which read, "Sniper in Tower". Though what we see is a chimney, I believe we are supposed to be reminded of the tower.

It was on this bed, the night before, that some of the celebrants had been rolling joints, smoking grass, and we had seen a pile of grass on a newspaper. That Thomas wakes up on this bed thus, so it seems to me, identifies him with the "dead" man lying on the grass with a "sniper's tower" above, which we will soon realize is the neon sign looming over the park.

553 Thomas enters the hall and crosses back into the room where he had attempted to speak with Ron and seen Verushka. A window is open on a bay. General debris from the party lies about. We see a painting showing two cherubs. A red/pink scarf hangs from a chandelier. Taking us back to the a leg to hang onto theme, there is a painting of a nude on the wall, she standing on one leg, the other leg lifted into the air. He exits.

554 LS of the park stairway lined with a fence and high grass. Thomas mounts it. We hear the breeze through the trees.

555 MS of Thomas entering the upper level of the park, leaving the stairway. He has his camera with him.

556 LS from behind Thomas of his walking toward where was the dead man.

557 LS opposing view of Thomas approaching. We are in about approximately the same place where the man and woman were standing the day before when they saw him.

558 MS from behind the tree, Thomas coming around it.

559 MCU of Thomas looking down at where the dead man should be.

560 MS of Thomas looking at the tree and the bushes surrounding it. He crouches down to the ground and we see there is no body. The grass, however, appears to be flattened.

Thomas finding no body rather parallels the experience of the audience when they review the death of the older man here, the death of David in The Passenger, the death of Mark in Zabriskie Point, all supposedly by gun, and realize that we never see bullet holes, blood, nothing. Other people are killed and we see blood and bulletholes. But not so with the supposed deaths upon which the films focus. When we return and examine them, in essence, we find no dead bodies.

561 CU from behind Thomas' head of the grass. It is flattened. No body. The night before Thomas had heard a cracking sound, as if a twig breaking on the ground under someone's foot. Now we hear a soft click of as if twigs brushing, not the same as the twig, but there is a correlation to be drawn between the sounds, just as there is a correlation to be drawn with the sound Thomas' camera shutter had made in the park. This also sounds like it could instead be a very muted click of a camera, so subtle it is hardly there. He looks up into the sky.

562 The wind rustles the leaves of the tree. We hear the clicks again. Pan down to show Thomas now standing. He looks to the rear of the park and walks several steps back. We see the neon sign over his head.

563 LS of the rear entrance to the second level.

564 Thomas again as in the end of shot 558, under the neon sign. He looks behind him, back to where the body should be. He looks again toward the rear entrance.

The neon sign suddenly shuts off and we see it distinctly. Thomas looks toward it. We hear more soft clicks.

The camera's focus has been on Thomas. Now the camera's focus makes a quick shift so it includes the sign, as Thomas turns to look at it

The word in the sign doesn't make sense. Antonioni said he only put up the sign to provide light for the park's night scene and that he didn't want it to make sense to the audience. But I'm just not buying the construction of that huge neon sign only for purposes of providing light.

One may, however, see in the sign a gun. If the letters are FOA, or FO and an inverted V, then the F is as a gun, the O as a finger on the trigger, and the A or inverted V is the target.

This towering sign is the tower that the headline said the sniper was in.

565 MS from behind Thomas of him looking back at the tree. He walks past it to screen left. The clicks become more distinct, as if of a camera shutter clicking.

566 LS of the mimes driving into the park, roaring up in the jeep. Perched on the front of the jeep is a man who had accosted him the day before begging money, dressed in black with a black top hat. Their white faces remind of the pallor of the supposed dead man who is no longer there. They roar around the green.

567 CU of the mimes.

568 LS of the mimes passing a black shed and the tennis court.

569 MS behind Thomas as he descends the stairs, the mimes coming into view.

570 LS of the mimes roaring past a white shed by the tennis court as they circle the green again.

571 MS of Thomas approaching the center green, watching.

572 LS of the mimes roaring in the distance past where he had photographed the pigeons the day before, and had first seen the man and woman.

573 MS from behind Thomas with the area where he had chased the pigeons in view. The mimes stop and park across from where he stands.

574 MS of the mimes spilling from the vehicle. A man enters the tennis court with the woman in red and black who had, the day prior, looked screen right, after which there was a cut to Thomas and the other men being released from the doss house. The rest of the mimes standing outside the court, holding onto the fence, these two individuals begin to play a game of imaginary tennis.

575 MS The man and the woman on the court, the area where Thomas had photographed the birds beyond. The other mimes line up to the left. The woman leaps over the net to play the other side. She bats the imaginary ball to the man and he bats it back. She bats. He bats. She bats.

576 MS He bats the ball back. She bats and he misses. The mimes mime clapping.

577 MS of Thomas standing at the far corner of the court, apart from the rest.

578 From Thomas' POV, the woman bats. The man bats. She bats.

579 MS of the mimes watching, a black and white shed to the rear.

The white shed and the black and white shed, to either side of the tennis court, reminds of the photograph found between the white cabinet and the black cabinet. The court is as that area between the white appliance and the black appliance at Thomas' studio where the image of the corpse had fallen

Is it an expression of mutual consensus reality, the tennis game with the mimes? Are they returning Thomas to the mutual reality of the rest of the world, after his "blow-up" experience, his brush with death? Or is this revisiting, in a sense, the entire movie, they having found a player in Thomas, having surrounded him in his open Rolls and he fishing among the newspaper (and its photos) for a quick camera glimpse of a bill he had handed them, whereas others had kept their car windows rolled up. For they involve him now, even train him. He watches as the ball goes back and forth, following the gazes of the others. He watches as the ball several times goes out of bounds and is returned to play. He is drawn into the game.

580 MCU of the mimes watching. They look left.

581 CU of a girl wearing a black hat with white dots, her eyes following the ball back to the left.

582 MCU of a woman in black and white stripes and a black shirt. She follows the ball from left to right.

583 MS of the woman batting the ball.

584 The man runs to bat it back.

585 Several of the mimes rear back as if the ball has hit the fence.

586 The man runs to get the imaginary ball.

587 CU Thomas, watching. He smiles.

588 MS from behind Thomas of the pair playing again. The woman bats. The man bats. The woman misses and goes to pick up the ball near Thomas. She looks at him and shrugs her shoulders.

589 MS from behind the woman of Thomas looking back at her. He nods.

590 The woman bats and the camera pans right. The man bats and the camera pans left. The woman bats and the camera pans right. The man leaps for the ball, batting it back the camera pans right.

591 CU of the woman running to hit the ball. She bats it.

592 The man bats.

593 LS from behind the man of the woman batting the ball back. He steps back...

594 CU of the man batting the high ball.

595 CU of the woman batting.

596 CU of the woman smiling. It seems she has scored again.

597 LS from behind the line of mimes of them miming clapping. We see Thomas beyond. The woman bats the ball.

598 LS from behind Thomas of the man batting. The woman bats. The man bats. It is too high. It goes out of bounds.

599 The camera tracks over the green to where the imaginary ball supposedly lands.

600 MS of Thomas looking in the imaginary ball's direction, all the mime's looking in its direction as well. He looks at them. The woman points for him to go get the ball. He does so.

The silent mimes act as the signs that Thomas has learned throughout the movie to read and follow.

601 LS The mimes all watch expectantly.

602 Thomas runs to where the imaginary ball has fallen, which is in the same location as where the bird had taken flight the day prior, passing over the heads of the mysterious couple. He sets down his camera.

603 Thomas picks up the imaginary ball and hurls it back. He watches it descend.

His eyes follow the ball's play back and forth as we hear now the soft click of the ball on the rackets. He smiles. Then becomes sober, looking down.

Thomas may not be able to express what he has seen so that Ron or Patricia understand, he may have no proof to give of his experience, but he now sees something more than he originally did.

He hears. His ears opened finally. We hear the click of the ball on the rackets loudly.

604 Long shot from above of Thomas standing on the green. He turns and steps over to pick up his camera. Music enters.

Thomas disappears. He fades quickly away. Then he is gone, just as the dead man was gone.

Now the thing with this story is it's a cautious business to go around making finding associations, like the clues Bill said were to be found, because one becomes like Thomas who eventually saw in the photo the form of the dead man, who returned to the park and found him there, but was left with no proof and no way to express himself, to dialogue with any about his experience other than the lively world of signs that have guided him, that he has learned to see, which open his ears and initiate him to another level of comprehension. It can be hard to tell, when looking at stories from the point of death/resurrection mysteries, what is intentionally placed by the director or writer and what is not, because that's the thing about these mysteries, most everything can be fit into their lexicon if one decides, "This is an initiation mystery to do with death and resurrection", as there is nothing which can't be infused with their symbolism, the Osirian body disjointed but hidden in all that is and containing all that is. But what was intentional and what is natural? I do think Antonioni has left enough clues lying about that we can make that assumption here. It's not just a story about sex, drugs and rock and roll in merry old London. It's not just a snatch of time.

The film shows how just as everything may suddenly transform and play out the death/resurrection myth, so do those elements then disappear. One's life is transformed, there is a before and after, but the events that inspired and informed the transformation evaporate.

The magic door to the other world vanishes, just as in fairy tale it is only available on a certain day under precise conditions and never again.

* * * * * *

NOTE ADDED Feb 17 2011 – John Hooton, a photographer who was working for John Cowan at whose studio the film was shot for 3 months, has a blog post up on his experience during that time. The post furnishes point by point details on place, props and people and is a nice read for fans of the film.


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