Saturday, July 01, 2017

Blow-Up (2017 restoration in 4K by Cineteca di Bologna, Istituto Luce – Cinecittà and Criterion)

Blow-Up. David Hemmings (Thomas), Veruschka.

Blow-Up - Erään suudelman jälkeen / Blow-Up - förstoringen / Blowup / Blow Up.
    Director: Michelangelo Antonioni. Year: 1966. Country: Gran Bretagna.
    Section: Recovered & Restored.
    Sog.: dal racconto Las babas del diablo di Julio Cortázar. Scen.: Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra. F.: Carlo Di Palma. M.: Frank Clarke. Scgf.: Assheton Gorton. Mus.: Herbie Hancock.
    Int.: David Hemmings (Thomas), Vanessa Redgrave (Jane), Sarah Miles (Patricia), Veruschka (se stessa), Peter Bowles (Ron), Jill Kennington, Peggy Moffit, Rosaleen Murray, Ann Norman, Melanine Hampshire (modelle), Jane Birkin, Gillian Hills (aspiranti modelle).
    Prod.: Carlo Ponti per Metro Goldwyn Mayer. DCP 4K. D.: 112’. Col.
    From: Warner Bros. Pictures.
    Courtesy of Park Circus.
    Restored in 2017 by Cineteca di Bologna, Istituto Luce – Cinecittà and Criterion, in collaboration with Warner Bros. and Park Circus at Criterion and L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratories, under the supervision of the cinematographer Luca Bigazzi.
    Introduce Gian Luca Farinelli.
    Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna.
    Screened with e-subtitles in Italian by Sub-Ti at Cinema Arlecchino, 1 July 2017.

Peter von Bagh (Rikoksen hehku, 1997, quoted at Il Cinema Ritrovato): "Thomas is a photographer who after a night spent taking pictures in a doss house proceeds to shoot fashion models. During an idle moment he goes to an empty park, with his ubiquitous camera, and shoots a scene in which ‘nothing happens’. Only after having developed his photos does Thomas start to pay attention to its details. He may have photographed a murder."

"There is something objectionable about everything Thomas does. Poverty for him is merely a spectacle. A fashion shoot with the gorgeous Veruschka is a simulated act of intercourse, mechanical, yet perhaps it contributes to bringing into focus a secret truth of photography. Its peculiar emotion belongs, as perhaps all emotions do, to a fragile meta-reality. Even the murder is just routine for other people."

"The mystery of life and cinema is heightened in the enlargement sequence. To what degree has Thomas himself renounced the most important thing, life itself? The woman of the park scene comes to meet him but in the flesh she is somehow less real than in the dense time fragments that emerge on the developed photographs. The blow-ups grow into ever more extreme close-ups of a moment that has disappeared but occupies Thomas’s interest completely. Soon the ‘only’ truth of the woman is in these images. The man – ‘the murderer’ – is never concretized to this extent. Only a couple of photographs of him exist. Soon he moves beyond recollection into the realm of images, the ‘zone’ of Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus."

"The series of images, close-ups and long shots are an adventure in time. A photograph is always an enigma, an astonishing relationship between precise definition and imagination. The camera reaches the zenith of objectivity: it is the sole witness to a crime and thus the only link to the world as it really exists. At the same time, photography offers an ironic miniature of a world governed by ambivalence, precariousness and an almost derisory sense of alienation. This is the paradox and the ‘narrative’ into which the photographer himself, played by David Hemmings, enters." Peter von Bagh (Rikoksen hehku [The Heat of Crime], 1997) edited by Antti Alanen (for Il Cinema Ritrovato)

AA: I may not have seen a good print of Blow-Up since 1970 when I saw it for the first time. It was then still in regular commercial circulation in Finland, but not for many years longer, and it became impossible for film societies to access.

Not even in touring Michelangelo Antonioni retrospectives were the prints of Blow-Up any good, in contrast to brilliant prints of his other works. We even tried to buy a print in 2005, but rejected the print sent to us after a check viewing. It was ironic that of a film called Blow-Up prints were circulating that were lacking in depth and detail. Colour is all-important in this second colour film of Antonioni's, but the lush "evergreen" summer colour of the Maryon Park sequence had turned into autumn colours.

Congratulations to the restorers of this digital interpretation of Blow-Up. This is a film about seeing, about perception, like Alfred Hitchcock's films as analyzed by the Finnish philosopher Heikki Nyman. Blow-Up is a quest about the limits of perception, and it is essential to see a copy such as this, both sharp and refined.

Blow-Up is also a film about the limits of freedom, set in the legendary Swinging London of 1966. It is about the threat of freedom turning into solipsism, a portrait of a self-centered fashion photographer who has an endless number of affairs but no profound human relationships.

Blow-Up shows us the glorious attraction of freedom as well as the void that emerges in a life without commitment.

It has also documentary value in portraying figures such as the model Veruschka (see above) or The Yardbirds (Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Keith Relf, Chris Dreja powerfully at "The Train Kept A-Rollin'" with new lyrics here with the title "Stroll On" due to copyright issues).

Peter von Bagh's remarks on Blow-Up were excerpted in the Bologna catalogue. An image similar to the one above was on the cover of Peter's first book, the anthology Uuteen elokuvaan [Towards New Cinema, 1967] which he edited.

Blow-Up is gaining all kinds of new meanings in our current age when photography is exploding to a previously unimaginable extent. We are photographing instead of seeing and drowning in a stream of photographs. Today everybody is a potential Thomas.

A brilliant digital edition of a classic film.

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