Antonioni’s “Blow Up”

This analysis has been updated extensively and republished over in the static pages portion of the website because of the number of images used.





16 responses to “Antonioni’s “Blow Up””

  1. Jim McCulloch Avatar

    Kay loved this movie, but I remember almost nothing about it. I should see it again. Strange that the only strong visual memory I have of the movie is of an empty park with the wind blowing in the trees. Knowing how tricky memory is I suspect that if I saw the movie again that scene might be missing.

    Your remarks about twinning and an almost throwaway sentence that Thomas=twin, started me thinking about Judas Thomas again. Thomas, also called Didymus Thomas (which means Twin Twin in Greek and Hebrew), was actually named Judas. Judas Iscariot is supposedly another guy, but suspiciously, if I remember apostolic lists correctly, some apostolic lists have yet a third Judas. At any rate–maybe I’ll have to read up on this as well as see the movie again–I remember thinking at one time, “what if Thomas was Jesus’ twin brother AND Judas Iscariot?”
    Would this deepen the betrayal? Would it not be betrayal at all, but part of the larger plan?
    I suppose I could have written some best-selling fiction with this sort of thing. But your discussion of the movie led me to idly wonder if Antonioni had some crazy lapsed catholic ideas similar to this in some way informing the movie. Probably not.
    Anyway, I guess I’ll have to see the movie again.

    Absolutely not apropos of the movie, but going on with the nonlinear-thinking Thomas business, the feathered serpent was a deity that existed in Mesoamerica before the Aztecs and the words they chose to translate the concept of a quetzal-serpent was Quetzalcoatl which does mean feathered snake in Nahuatl, but also means precious twin. So Nahuatl speaking people in Mexico after the coming of the Spanish came to identify St. Thomas with Quetzalcoatl. This belief was apparently widespread in the 17th century.

    Speaking of birds.

  2. Idyllopus Avatar

    Jim, you remember correctly. The sound of the wind rustling the trees in the park is beautiful.

    It’s insisted that Didymus Thomas and Judas Iscariot were two distinct people…but I don’t think of them as people at all so…

    I personally believe a thoughtful natural progression is Jesus > Thomas the Twin (the double, the soul mirror, the one who believes, who has seen) > Judas Iscariot (the betrayer, classically portrayed in a negative light but of course without the betrayer there is no cross, no redemption) and examining the relationships.

  3. nina Avatar

    I haven’t seen this movie, nor had I heard of Antonioni until he died. Which is not surprising as I think I am fairly out of touch with an awful lot of things. I’ve been reading this entry a little at a time, had been doing so while at work this week. I still haven’t finished it but one of the things that really struck me was the frame you isolated with Thomas in profile and the bust behind him as echo of the same. What struck me was that the actor looks so much like the drawn profile images in ancient Greek art.

  4. Idyllopus Avatar

    Nina, rent this film immediately. It’s one of those main staple hinges that referenced a lot of pop culture and then became something that was itself extensively referenced.

    The spaces Antonioni creates in his films are amazing.

    “The Passenger” is another great film of his but I think much is missed on the small screen. I think of it as a companion film to “L’Avventura”.

    I did a digital painting referencing his “Zabriskie Point”, a film that had a number of bad reviews, but it sticks. I need to watch it again, haven’t seen it in many years, but there is something about this film that stays with you. I always think of Ayn Rand’s “Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged”, with “Zabriskie’s Point” as Godzilla’s foot stomping them.

  5. Peter Avatar

    The membrane that separates illusion from
    reality is so thin.911 was the greatest lie ever told.UA 175 didn’t hit the South Tower.The videos were fake.But the whole world believes it did indeed fly undecellerated through the South Tower.I wonder if Antonioni ever read Orwell’s 1984.

  6. Michael Avatar

    I’ve seen this movie twice now and both times I was squinting my eyes wonder what it all meant. The style of the movie is easy enought to interpret. It really is a picture of the times in a revolution of sex, art, and music. But what is the message? How is Thomas’s inablity to find proof and truth in his photographs a critique on our perception of reality? Maybe I have it all wrong. I just don’t understand whats happening here.

  7. Patricia Avatar

    From an interview with Antonioni in 1978:

    Interviewer: Giovanni Fusco, who composed the music for L’Avventura and Red Desert, among other films of yours, has complained of the difficulty of working with you.
    He once said, “The first rule for any musician who intends to collaborate with Antonioni is to forget that he is a musician.”
    What, then, is your view on the use of music in films, since directors sometimes use it to buttress a weak or at least less than scintillating performance?

    M. Antonioni: Even though I have studied music ever since I was a boy, every time I have music in films it means a terrible sacrifice for me.
    In my opinion, the image is not enriched but rather is interrupted, even, I’d dare to say, vulgarized.
    The image loses its purity. If I could, if a producer would let me, I’d assemble a soundtrack with only natural noises, in which noise itself would be music.
    And I’d get a conductor to orchestrate the sounds for me.

    Interviewer: But in Blow Up, for the first time, music played a significant role in the story. And the same was true of Zabriskie Point.

    M. Antonioni: The rock music you’re referring to was natural at the time. It was a kind of new language for young people.
    But even in these instances I was hesitant, suspicious, because rock music in the end – And especially in America – has less to do with rebellion or even revolution than big business.

    “Noise itself would be the music”: the wind blowing the leaves of the trees in the park scene, pure music! It’s no coincidence that this scene has such a strong appeal, it is an example of Antonioni’s attempts to grasp the purity of an image.

    1. L Powell Avatar
      L Powell

      Could you please tell us what the source is for this interview? Would like to look it up. Thank you!

  8. Roer Jones Avatar

    Wow. I just composed a response to your analysis, and then just as in Blow Up, it disappeared! Great job – you point out details that it never would have occurred to me to look for in my numerous viewings of this film since the 60s.

    It’s fun to compare Blow Up to L’eclisse; there’s the same “pure music” of wind blowing through the tree leaves, a lot of the same style and atmosphere that Antonioni would use int he later film.

  9. admin Avatar

    Roer, so sorry your comment disappeared. And for some reason I didn’t receive a notice that you’d posted, thus my delay in response.

    I have seen “L’Eclisse” and it’s a fascinating film. I don’t yet own a copy and so haven’t been able to study it but I recollect noting several themes that become prime fodder in later Antonioni movies. Just visually, “L’Eclisse” is a feast. I need to put it in my Netflix queue and watch it again.

  10. Steve Wright Avatar

    The Mimes are “Rag Week” students, collecting money for charity,A yearly occurence, You are reading way too much into this story, It mirrors the attitudes of the time,Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll, a throw away society, one momement its important the next discarded, well illustrated by the guitar incident,The use of wind, light,and shadows gives it the “now you see it now you dont” emphasis, Its a really wonderful movie, enjoy it at face value without reading things into it that are at best obscure. Incidently the “tower out of the left window” is chimney pots!

  11. John Hooton Avatar

    What an in depth description of this iconic film! In 1966 I was John Cowan’s assistant, which to me is akin to saying in a phrase of the time “I was Lord Kitchener’s Valet!”; for it was fashion photographer John Cowan whose studio was used as a location for the studio interiors. Thus I was privileged to witnessed at first hand, over a three month period, much of the making of this film.

    I have written about how the film tied up with a working studio at the time on my own blog, along with more stills from the film.

    I am delighted to have discovered this extensive review of Blow-Up. Hope you don’t mind if I give your website a mention.

  12. admin Avatar

    John, thanks so much for commenting. I’m loving this. (Of course I don’t mind if you mention my website.) I’m over right now looking at your posts but have some other things to do. So, I look forward to returning later this evening and reading what you’ve written. Quite exciting! In several respects, what a privileged position you were in! I’m so glad you commented here so that I am able to follow back and read your experiences.

  13. Steve Wright Avatar

    Watch the 2010 documentary- David Bailey – Four Beats To The Bar, some interesting insights, particularly regarding the script.

  14. admin Avatar

    Steve, I see it was on Sundance earlier in the month? But I don’t find another screening time–and I don’t get Sundance. I’ll keep it in mind and hopefully I’ll be able to see it via another avenue. Maybe it will be released on Netflix.

  15. Steve Wright Avatar
    Steve Wright

    Or Amazon as a DVD. Also if you havent seen it yet, go to Amazon books and enter Verushka — wonderful book on the worlds most beautiful woman,only one thousand printed. Spectacular,large format,an epic book. Baileys book, “Saraband for the Sixties-Goodbye Baby and Amen” is another good one,out of print,used copies on Amazon.

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