review for Blow-Up on AllMovie

Blow-Up (1966)
by Jonathan Crow review

A masterpiece of 1960s art-house cinema, Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up is a dizzying exploration of images, appearances, and existence amid the mod glamour of Swinging '60s London. Antonioni took his signature influence of existentialist philosophy, seen in such earlier films as L'avventura (1960), La notte (1961), The Eclipse (1962), and Red Desert (1964), and pushed it to full-scale reflexivity: instead of just questioning existence, he questioned the nature of reality itself. Just as Thomas blows up his photographs until they are pure abstraction, Antonioni uses deliberately odd framing, expressionistic use of color, and an extremely long telephoto lens, which crushes depth from the image, to make the film look both striking and opaque. Thomas himself is adrift in this world: absorbed in the surfaces of things yet unable to perceive intrinsic beauty, he finds it increasingly difficult to distinguish objective reality from the simulacra of advertising and fashion photography. By the end of the film, he is no longer certain if distinctions among image, illusion, and reality even exist. The film's brilliantly dense philosophical underpinnings aside, its Rear Window-esque plot makes it a compelling piece of work. Moreover, it features some of the most memorable sequences in cinema: the pantomime tennis match at the end of the film, the naughty ménage à trois on purple paper, and the almost farcically erotic photo shoot at the beginning of the film between model Veruschka and Thomas with his oversized camera lens. Blow Up proved extremely influential on younger generations of filmmakers; and it was later echoed by both Francis Ford Coppola in The Conversation (1974) and Brian De Palma in Blow Out (1981).