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“Blow-up,” by Peter Brunette, from The Films of Michelangelo Antonioni (Cambridge: - page 8 / 11





8 / 11

absolute, mysterious reality that nobody will ever see. Or perhaps, not until the       decomposition of every image, every reality.

Therefore, abstract cinema would have its reason for existing.24

Here we can see the way that the varying projects of Hemmings the pho­tographer, Bill the abstract painter, and Antonioni the filmmaker neatly


When Hemmings returns again to the park and there is no body, another question arises: if there is no body and no evidence of the crime (except for a photo with a bunch of dots, which only has meaning in the context of the narrative that is already gone and is no longer available for scrutiny, and in the context of the larger photos that have all been stolen), has there been a crime? Again, it is a question of shared social reality, as with the mimes5 tennis game at the end of the film. Thus Hemmings's desire to have his friend come and look at the body in the park is understandable; since reality is constructed intersubjectively, this external verification is crucial for the photographer, and when it does not take place, he cannot ever really "know" whether -the murder occurred or not. When Hemmings realizes that his friend is completely stoned, and thus not a good candidate for the intersubjective verification he seeks, he replies, out of frustration, but sig­nificantly, that he saw "nothing." (The complicating, asymmetrical factor here is that the camera [and thus the audience] did actually see something, even though it is no longer there.) Interestingly, the director told Playboy that the photographer, through his photographs, shows an element of real­ity that seems real, and it is. "But reality has a quality of freedom about it that is hard to explain."25 This very "quality of freedom" seems to represent the free play, the bad fit, between any "reality" and its representation, and this is perhaps figured, in the film, in the asymmetry just mentioned. In a similarly ambiguous vein, Antonioni told Aldo Tassone: "I wouldn't say that the appearance of reality equals reality, because there can be more than one appearance. There can also be more than one reality, but I don't know it, and I don't believe it. Maybe reality is a relation [rapport]."26

French critic Marie-Claire Ropars-Wuilleumier has developed a compli­cated but fascinating reading of this obviously crucial segment of the film. In an early essay entitled "L'espace et Ie temps dans la narration des années 60: 'Blow up' ou Ie negatif du récit," Ropars discusses the Antonioni film in the context of avant-garde film and fiction of the i96os. Her project is to outline the response of cinematic language to the deconstruction of clas­sical narrative brought about by the French New Novel during this period, and more specifically, to chart exactly how Blow-up "intervenes in the conceptual displacement precipitated by this crisis."27

For Ropars, what is interesting about the montage of enlargements at the center of the film is that it has to proceed differentially, each image canceling the previous one. The pictures are pure fragments of space, but the enlargements cause the detail to erase the whole, thus allowing multiple, contradictory lines of narrative to be posited. Filling in some holes invaria­bly opens others. For example, although it is true that the photographer "finds" a revolver through this process, it is impossible to determine whether the revolver, at this point, is merely threatening or has already been used to murder someone. This montage, which she calls a "negative mise-en-abime," a negative mirror within a mirror, will be opposed by another at the end of the film, when the mimes play tennis. The earlier montage contradicts the finale by showing the lack of connection between looking at the object and the object itself, which results from trying to find the exact connection between them (unlike Hemmings's concentration on the invisible ball, which almost seems to produce it). For

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