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“Blow-up,” by Peter Brunette, from The Films of Michelangelo Antonioni (Cambridge: - page 9 / 11





9 / 11

Ropars, this real­ization is tied up with the ontology of photography itself, a medium and form of representation that is based on a negative that reverses light, stops time, freezes gesture, and so on.

The "blow-up" section differs not only from the ending but also from the rest of the film. All of the shots the photographer has taken in the park seem slightly different from what we ourselves have seen through Antonioni's camera. And besides, how can one of the photographs show the corpse if they are all represented in the film as being taken while the older man was still living? Ropars points out that "the body will be successively confirmed (at night), then erased (during the day)," but death itself can only be there as a kind of trace, an absent presence, a ghost that is both there and not there. It is this problematic, contradictory space or interval that interests her: "The instant of death can only be seized under the form of a trace (that single photo that remains hanging on the wall and which actually resembles a painting); it comes always either before or after, in the interval between the photograph and the filmic image: death can't take place, can't have a place, in the writing of Blowup."28

There is thus always another story beneath the surface that "doubles" the temporal thrust of the primary narrative, just as Hemmings's photos double Antonioni's cinematic image while calling it into question. "The center of the film thus defines itself as a decentering exercised on the film," Ropars explains. This process also results in a kind of a counter-meaning, a "subtle discontinuity" that runs throughout the<narrative embodied in the cinematic images and that disturbs it.29

Ropars gives two examples of what she means here. The first is "the doubling of the look," which derails the look of the character, Hemmings, from one shot to the next. The way this works is that the film constantly shows the look of the photographer, doubled by the look of the camera lens, but rarely gives the spectator the chance to look with the very same look as the photographer, and thus to identify with him. And it is within this difference that the look of the filmmaker, the camera, the film inter­venes: "Between the aim of the [photographer's] eye and the represented vision what inserts itself is the interval of another look, which is absent yet active, a look of a camera that is distinct from the subject, which it dou­bles" (p. 215). The best examples of this particular doubling, Ropars says, are the pictures taken in the park, where there are gaps - for instance, when, after a cut from the photographer looking, the film shows a new, different shot of the photographer, when we expected a shot of what he saw, or when a succeeding shot shows him looking in the opposite direction from the one that "we expected. Another good example of this gap between the two "looks," not mentioned by Ropars, is the bit of self-reflexive play near the end of the film when Hemmings returns to the park the morning after the party to find that the body is no longer there. The camera, shoot­ing down on him, shows him suddenly looking up at something. We cut to the familiar Antonioni shot of the tops of the moving trees, ostensibly from the photographers POV. But then, the camera pans back down, in the same shot, back on him, now standing up, indicating that he was not the source of the look (since he cannot be looking at himself), not the motive of this particular shot, as we had thought. One could also add that this doubling of the look is the only real resemblance between the film and the Cortazar short story on which it is based, where a similar result is accomplished by an explicit and regular alternation between first- and third-person narration.

This impossibility of a unified vision is reinforced, Ropars points out, by temporal ellipses that are vague and uncertain (unlike the ellipses in classic narrative, which are always present but are usually clear and well marked). An example occurs when we cut from Redgrave with her naked back to us, to a shot of her laughing on the sofa. In this manner, according to Ropars, both the logical and the chronological, which Roland Barthes identified as the

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