Today's movie is Blowup (1966), directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. It's about a fashion photographer who seems really bored and apathetic to everything around him. Ebert describes him as being "mired in ennui and distaste" (The Great Movies, 77). He goes about photographing models, having sex with cute girls, but seems to view these things with a general sense of "meh". He has money, he makes his living photographing sexy women, he is used to it and bored of it, it seems. One day he is out at a park and notices a couple, kissing and dragging each other about, so he photographs them. The woman is enraged and wants the film from his camera, which he denies her. He eventually gives her a different roll of film so he can see why she wanted his shots so badly. Once he enlarges (or, hurf durf, blows up) the images, he sees what appears to be a dead body. He is fascinated, and this seems to be the only thing that he has any emotion for the entire film.
I cannot find words or reasons for why I liked this movie. Ebert writes in his essay about how "It was the opening salvo of the emerging "film generation," which quickly lined up outside "Bonnie and Clyde," "Weekend," "Battle of Algiers," "Easy Rider" and "Five Easy Pieces." It was the highest-grossing art film to date, was picked as the best film of 1967 by the National Society of Film Critics, and got Oscar nominations for screenplay and direction" (The Great Movies, 74). I'm glad he gave it some historical context for me. I was a bit lost watching it blind.
The movie was part of a big group of movies that were unconventional and new, they showed drug culture and violence and sex and were a far cry from the traditional Hollywood movies that most people were used to seeing. People ate up movies like this, the change was, as I am to understand, more than welcome. It helped me to understand why this movie was important and very popular, since now most people are not shocked by sex and violence in films, so the "newness" of movies like Bonnie and Clyde are sort of lost on modern audiences.
Maybe it's my sort of half-awake brain, but I cannot give you one reason why I liked this movie. But I liked it. I would buy it. I would watch it again. I just don't know why! It reminds me of Bret Easton Ellis' novels, especially Less Than Zero. I have similar feelings for it. I don't know why I like Less Than Zero - the characters are stupid, spoiled rich kids, and generally bad people. The hero of Blowup is rich and boring and unexciting to watch most of the time (as one would imagine watching apathy is). The point of Less Than Zero has more to do with what sort of sick things people who have everything have to do to get their kicks. When you can go out and buy whatever you want, have any women you want, what's fun anymore? The same is true for the photographer in Blowup. Sexy women aren't new or exciting, nor are parties or rock concerts. The only thing that can excite him and draw his attention is the mystery of the dead body. There, finally, is something new and different. It reminded me of a tamer version of the famous scene in Less Than Zero where the characters watch a snuff film (and worse). It shows how far the characters have to go to feel anything, since normal life leaves them feeling empty.
The photographer in Blowup is less depraved that Ellis' characters but I cannot help but think of these two things together. The main characters are hard to relate to because you dislike them, but you find yourself liking watching them all the same. I'm not sure why this is. Maybe it's being able to glimpse a life that most people don't live. I for sure don't have enough money to be bored of everything. Could it be that I'm fascinated to watch and read about people who do? I'm not sure. Like I said, I really have no explanation for my love of this movie. It's highly worth a rent, especially if, like me, you like stories about bored, unlikeable, wealthy people. :)
Have any of you seen this movie? Share your thoughts with me in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie essay on Blowup