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“Blow-up,” by Peter Brunette, from The Films of Michelangelo Antonioni (Cambridge: - page 2 / 11





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different until he suddenly jumps into his Rolls-Royce. Thus the interrelationship among truth, reality, appearance, and art that will become increasingly important in the film is also posited from the beginning.

Politically speaking, the film's stance is less than obvious, since any overt reference to local politics is, as in the opening workers' strike of Red Desert, reduced to a nearly empty signifier. Here, the Hemmings character comes briefly into contact with a "Ban the Bomb" parade and just as easily passes through it, when one of the protestors' signs, significantly, flies out of his open car. But as the astute Italian critic Lino Micciche has pointed out, the film is political in its own way, in its demonstration of the dissatisfaction that led to the political and social explosions of 1968.5 Micciche also be­lieves, as mentioned in the introduction, that Antonioni more than fulfills the primary responsibility of the filmmaker, that of being respon­sible for his means of expression rather than simply' relying on regressive formal models.

A more consistent and perhaps more important way in which Antonioni expresses his politics, as was the case in the earlier films, is in his explora­tion of gender issues, though now, for the first time, the director's focus is resolutely, even claustrophobically, on his principal male character rather than the female one.6 Critic Sam Rohdie believes that "the change from female to male protagonists... is accompanied by a change from a subjec­tive camera and narration to a rigorously objective camera and objective narrative position" (p. i84).7 By "a rigorously objective camera and objec­tive narrative position" Rohdie probably means that the film is shot from a perspective that is outside the characters, in contrast to the perspective of the earlier films, but this claim is not borne out by a close analysis of individual shots. The easy equation of male with objective and female with subjective may also show evidence of gender stereotyping that has more to do with the critic than with the filmmaker.8

The Hemmings character is in any case the complete narcissist, and one "socioethical" reading of the film might focus on his trajectory, throughout the film and culminating at its end, toward a more social sense of shared, participatory meaning. Since we see everything - with one or two tiny but significant exceptions - from Hemmings's point of view (pace Rohdie's claim that the perspective in this film is "rigorously objective"), Blow-up is also about perception, specifically, artistic perception, and even more spe­cifically, male artistic perception. Consequently, the director's self-placement here (especially since Hemmings is a photographer), as well as his own emotional identification with the central character (who is now, like him, male), is more complicated than in the films discussed thus far. (Or actually, in the case of identification -- male with male - it is presuma­bly less complicated, at least in gender terms, than in the earlier female-centered films.) In fact, Antonioni himself has referred to this connection:

"I came to know reality by photographing it, when I began taking it with the movie camera, a little like in Blow-up; in this sense, I think that it's my most autobiographical film."9

Hemmings's still camera and the movie camera used to make the film that the audience is watching are directly linked, visually and physically, as well as thematically. Thus, when Hemmings begins his erotic photo shoot of supermodel Verushka, Antonioni's camera performs a minicrane shot (the camera head, alone, seems at first to be tilting upward, but actually the whole camera is moving) directly alongside Hemmings's still camera, which is sitting on a tripod. Admittedly, this is a brief moment in the film, but the effect is to make Hemmings's still camera itself appear to be moving down in tandem (it

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