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“Blow-up,” by Peter Brunette, from The Films of Michelangelo Antonioni (Cambridge: - page 4 / 11





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nothing more than an unproblematic stand-in for Antonioni and his own artistic problems and sees Hemmings as a creative artist, in completely positive terms. The most negative thing Chatman can think of to charge the rapacious Hemmings with is "childlike amorality."12

The orgy scene, especially, has elicited from these critics vastly different readings from the one offered here. William Arrowsmith, anxious to defend the film against the moralists, thinks that the whole sequence of sexual rough-and-tumble on the violet paper is meant to convey the sense of animal high spirits and childish gaiety. Nothing is salacious or offensive about it; the dominant note is child­ish play, animal hilarity. . . . The whole scene is intentionally amoral, not immoral: there is no moral consequence to a tumble in the waves between two teenage Nereids and a would-be frogman.13

Nowhere does Arrowsmith consider the imbalance of power and vulnera­bility that now, at least, seems so painfully evident in this "innocent" scene.

A continual blur of movement, the photographer is a crasser, nastier version of Piero in L'eclisse, never content, never able to stay still for even a moment. Hemmings tells his editor that he is "fed up with those bloody bitches!55 as though it is all their fault, and, most naively and unconvincingly of all, "I wish I had tons of money, then I'd be free." (At the moment he says this, the camera shows a photograph that he has taken of a home­less man: the jarring juxtaposition of visual and aural tracks here seems implicitly to call into question the nature of freedom, as least as it is defined for someone like Hemmings.) The polar opposite of Giuliana in Red Desert, so ill at ease in her reality, the Hemmings character is, in Penelope Hous­ton's description, "a man who accepts, exploits and enjoys the contradic­tions of his society."14

Related to the exploration of gender relations is the reprise of Antonioni's long-standing depiction of marriage as a trap, especially for the female partner, and the character played by Sarah Miles is shown briefly in two scenes as apparently caught in an unfulfilling relationship with the painter, Bill, while helplessly in love with Hemmings. The photographer asks her at one point, "Did you ever think of leaving him?" "No," is the simple, un­developed response. Appropriately for the swinging ambience of Blow-up, this couple does not actually appear to be formally married, but the rela­tionship is in any case constricting. Hemmings is himself divorced and in speaking to Redgrave about his former wife can only brandish riddles.

On a more formal level, aspects of the graphic and visual dynamic that we have been tracing reappear as well, as with the identical binary color scheme structure of Red Desert, which, in Blow-up, shows the buses and many of the houses in bright, sharply contrasting primary colors that alter­nate with ugly, gray cityscapes.15 Even the sickly looking grass with which Blow-up opens and closes is reminiscent of the picture of an unhealthy and corrupted Nature that was developed in Antonioni's film made two years earlier, and the opening binary opposition between the doss house and the revelers places the former in depressed urban surroundings (note the single, skinny tree Hemmings passes) and the latter amid a sparkling new down­town filled with modern skyscrapers reminiscent of L’eclisse. Similarly, the striking, long-held extreme long shots and the visual and aural beauty of the wind in the trees, so much a staple of films such as L'eclisse and La notte, reappear in the scenes set in the park, investing them with a similar foreboding and existential resonance.

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