Thursday, November 17, 2011

Blow Out vs. Blow Up

Michelangelo Antonioni got it started with Blow Up, a 1966 mystery set in London, thus his first film without subtitles. 15 years later, Brian De Palma, the legend who makes great movies from great movies, made Blow Out from Antonioni's picture. It's a mystery too, and while Blow Up was about a photographer who thinks he has shot a murder, De Palma's film concerns a movie sound man who thinks he may have recorded a murder. Blow Out is great, but it's really just a straight up, albeit complicated, thriller that contains some dazzling moments of cinema thanks to De Palma's virtuoso compositions. Blow Up by contrast is a strikingly simple movie that takes two hours but could be summed up in ten seconds. Antonioni takes a leisurely route through his protagonists life before setting up the plot, which ends up really just being a device for a brilliant character study. David Hemmings plays the fashion photographer, David Bailey, who's getting fed up with his models. One day he goes to a park and begins snapping pictures of a couple who may be fighting or may be in love-it's hard to tell. The woman notices him and chases him and demands the pictures. Immediately we're interested because she must be up to something if she is so set on getting the film (she even tries to bite his hand to get the camera). Played by Vanessa Redgrave, the woman shows up again in pursuit of the pictures and ends up getting a role of film-only it's the wrong one. Bailey blows up the real pictures and pieces them together and after scrutinizing them discovers a man hiding in the bushes with a gun. I won't reveal more. There's a very odd scene late in the movie where Bailey goes looking for the woman. He finds her on a sidewalk looking in a window, and then in a terrific piece of construction she disappears. Did David imagine her? What exactly is his state of mind? Blow Up is pure fascination, while Blow Out is mainly pure entertainment. Both are impeccably crafted movies that sound similar but could hardly be more different in style. These would make a good double feature if you wanted to study different kinds of direction, or if you just wanted a excellent cinematic excursion.

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