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This article is about the British-Italian ﬁlm. For other uses, see Blow up
Julio Cortázar (short story)
Herbie Hancock and the Yardbirds
Carlo Di Palma
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) (UK)
Premier Pictures (USA)
December 18, 1966 (US)
January 1967 (UK)
United Kingdom / Italy / United States
US$ 1.8 million
US$ 20 million
Blowup (Blow-Up) is a 1966 British-Italian ﬁlm directed by Michelangelo
Antonioni, that director's ﬁrst English language ﬁlm. It tells the story of a
photographer's accidental and incidental involvement with a murder. The ﬁlm
was inspired by the 1959 short story "Las babas del diablo" (i.e. "The devil's
drool/drivel") by Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar, and by the work, habits,
and mannerisms of Swinging London photographer David Bailey. The ﬁlm
was scored by jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, although the music is mimetic as
it is played on a record by the main character. Nominated for several awards
at the Cannes Film Festival, Blowup won the Grand Prix.
Blowup stars David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles, John
Castle, Jane Birkin and Gillian Hills. 1960's supermodel Veruschka is also
credited, with a memorable scene considered by Premiere Magazine as "the
sexiest cinematic moment in history". The screenplay was written by
Antonioni and Tonino Guerra, with the English dialogue being written by
British playwright Edward Bond. The ﬁlm was produced by Carlo Ponti, who
had contracted Antonioni to make three English language ﬁlms for MGM (the
others were Zabriskie Point and The Passenger).
2 Noted cameos
3 Filming locations
5 Awards and honors
5.1 Academy Awards
5.2 BAFTA Awards
5.3 Cannes Film Festival
5.4 Golden Globe Awards
6 In popular culture
8 External links
The plot is set in a day in the life of Thomas (Hemmings), a professional
fashion photographer. It begins the day after spending the night at a doss
house where he has taken pictures for a book of art photos he hopes to
publish. He is late for a photo shoot at his studio with 60's supermodel
Veruschka, which in turn makes him late for another photo shoot with many
other models later in the morning. He grows bored and walks off the shoot
(also leaving the models and production staff in the lurch). Exiting the studio,
two girls, aspiring teenaged models (Jane Birkin and Gillian Hills), ask to
speak with him but Thomas drives off to look at an antiques shop which he
might buy. He then wanders into nearby Maryon Park where he sees two
lovers and takes photos of them. The woman (Redgrave) is nettled at being
photographed and Thomas is startled when she somehow stalks him back to
his studio, asking for the ﬁlm. This makes him want the ﬁlm even more, so he
misleads her into taking another roll instead. He makes many blowups
(enlargements) of the black and white photos. These blowups have very
rough ﬁlm grain but nonetheless seem to show a body lying in the grass and
a killer lurking in the trees with a gun. Thomas is frightened by a knock on the
door but it is only the two girls again, with whom he has a romp in his studio
and falls asleep. Awakening, although they hope he will photograph them
then and there, he tells the girls to leave, saying, "Tomorrow! Come back
Place of murder - Maryon Park, London
As evening falls Thomas goes back to the park and indeed ﬁnds a body but
he has not brought his camera and is scared off by the sound of a twig
breaking, as if being stepped on. At a drug-drenched party at a house on the
Thames River near central London he ﬁnds both the French model (who tells
him she is in Paris) and his publishing agent (Peter Bowles), the latter whom
he wants to bring to the park as a witness. However, Thomas cannot put
across in meaningful words what he has photographed. Waking up in the
same, now stilled house at sunrise, he goes back to the park alone but the
body is gone. Befuddled, he watches a group of university students playing
and watching a mimed tennis match, is drawn into it, picks up their unseen,
make-believe ball and throws it back to the two players. While he watches the
mimed match, the sound of a ball being played back and forth is soon heard.
As the photographer watches this alone on the lawn he fades away, leaving
only the green grass as the ﬁlm ends.
Sundry people who were widely known in 1966 are seen in the ﬁlm, others
would become famous later. The most widely noted cameo was made by the
The Yardbirds, who perform "Stroll On" in the last third of the ﬁlm. As Keith
Relf sings, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck play to either side, along with Chris
Dreja. After his guitar ampliﬁer fails, Beck bashes his guitar to bits, as The
Who were known to do at the time. Antonioni had wanted the Who to perform
in Blowup as he was fascinated by Pete Townshend's guitar-smashing
routine. Steve Howe of the The In Crowd later recalled, "We went on the
set and started preparing for that guitar-smashing scene in the club. They
even went as far as making up a bunch of Gibson 175 replicas ... and then
we got dropped for the Yardbirds, who were a bigger name. That's why you
see Jeff Beck smashing my guitar rather than his!" Antonioni also
considered using The Velvet Underground in the nightclub scene, but
according to guitarist Sterling Morrison, "the expense of bringing the whole
entourage to England proved too much for him."
Michael Palin of Monty Python can be seen very brieﬂy in the sullen nightclub
crowd and future media personality Janet Street-Porter dances in stripey,
Carnaby Street trousers.
A poster on the club's entry door bears a drawing of a tombstone with the
epitaph, Here lies Bob Dylan Passed Away Royal Albert Hall 27 May 1966
R.I.P., harking to Dylan's controversial switch to electric instruments at this
time. Beside the Dylan poster are posters bearing a caricature of Prime
Minister Harold Wilson.
This section needs additional citations for veriﬁcation.
Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced
material may be challenged and removed. (September 2009)
The ﬁrst scene (with the mimes acting) was ﬁlmed on the Plaza of The
Economist Building in (Piccadilly, London, 1959–64, a project by 'New
Brutalists' Alison and Peter Smithson). The following scene is shot on Consort
Road, Peckham; the men are leaving The Spike. The park scenes were
ﬁlmed at Maryon Park, Charlton, south-east London, and the park is little
changed since the making of the ﬁlm. The street with the many maroon-
coloured shop fronts is Stockwell Road, and the shops belonged to
motorcycle dealer Pride & Clark. The scene where Thomas sees the
mysterious woman from his car, then proceeds to follow her, was shot in
Regent Street, London. He stops at Heddon Street, where the album cover of
David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust was later photographed. The photographer's
studio was ﬁlmed at 49 Princes Place, London W11, which in the decades
since has been ofﬁce and studio space for architectural ﬁrms.
The onscreen title, no hyphen.
Andrew Sarris said the movie was "a mod masterpiece." In Playboy
magazine, Arthur Knight wrote Blowup would be thought of "as important and
germinal a ﬁlm as Citizen Kane, Open City [sic] and Hiroshima, Mon
Amour – perhaps even more so." Time magazine called the ﬁlm a "far-out,
uptight and vibrantly exciting picture" that represented a "screeching change
of creative direction" for Antonioni; the magazine predicted it would
"undoubtedly be by far the most popular movie Antonioni has ever made."
Bosley Crowther called it a "fascinating picture, which has something real to
say about the matter of personal involvement and emotional commitment in a
jazzed-up, media-hooked-in world so cluttered with synthetic stimulations that
natural feelings are overwhelmed. Crowther had some reservations about
ﬁlm, calling the "usual Antonioni passages of seemingly endless wanderings"
"redundant and long"; nevertheless, he called Blow-Up a "stunning picture—
beautifully built up with glowing images and color compositions that get us
into the feelings of our man and into the characteristics of the mod world in
which he dwells." Even ﬁlm director Ingmar Bergman, who generally
disliked Antonioni, acknowledged that Blowup was a masterpiece.
Blowup was controversial as the ﬁrst British ﬁlm to feature full frontal female
nudity. MGM did not gain approval for the ﬁlm under the
MPAA Production Code in the United States. The code's collapse and
thorough revision was foreshadowed when MGM released the ﬁlm through a
subsidiary distributor and Blowup was shown widely in North American
Awards and honors
Nominated: Best Director - Michelangelo Antonioni
Nominated: Original Screenplay - Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino
Guerra, Edward Bond
Nominated: Best British Film - Michelangelo Antonioni
Nominated: Best British Art Direction (Colour) - Assheton Gorton
Nominated: Best British Cinematography (Colour) - Carlo Di Palma
Cannes Film Festival
Won: Grand Prix (1967 Cannes Film Festival) - Michelangelo
Golden Globe Awards
Nominated: Best English-Language Foreign Film
In popular culture
This section needs additional citations for veriﬁcation.
Please help improve this article by adding reliable references. Unsourced
material may be challenged and removed. (May 2009)
Brian De Palma's Blow Out (1981), starring John Travolta, which alludes to
Blowup, used sound recording rather than photography as its central motif.
While writing the screenplay of The Conversation, Francis Ford Coppola
explained in the DVD commentary to his 1974 ﬁlm, also about sound
recording, that he was inspired by Blow Up. In Mel Brooks's High Anxiety, a
minor plot line involves a bumbling chauffeur who takes a picture showing the
evil assassin (wearing a latex mask of Brooks's character's face) ﬁring a gun
at point-blank range at someone; he makes blow-ups until he can see the
real Brooks's character, standing in the elevator in the background.
(Technically, the chauffeur does not make blow-ups; the joke is that he simply
makes bigger and bigger enlargements until he has one the size of a wall.)
The feature I Could Never Be Your Woman pays homage to the iconic scene
from Blowup in which David Hemmings' character straddles model Verushka
from above while taking her photo, this time with Paul Rudd and Michelle
Pfeiffer. Antonioni's ﬁlm also inspired the Bollywood feature Jaane Bhi Do
Yaaron, in which two photographers inadvertently capture the murder of a city
mayor on their cameras and later discover this when the images are
enlarged. The park in which the murder occurs is named "Antonioni Park".
In the last episode of the third series of the BBC program, "Monarch of the
Glen," Molly MacDonald (Susan Hampshire) clariﬁes for husband, Hector
(Richard Briers) , that it was Antonioni who wanted her for Blowup when she
was a London model in the 1960s. The music video for Amerie's "Take
Control" from the album Because I Love It (2007) was inﬂuenced by the ﬁlm.
^ a b c d e f g h Crowther, Bosley (December 19, 1966). "Blow-Up
(1966) NYT Critics' Pick". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
^ a b "When Antonioni Blew Up the Movies". "Blowup (1966), his ﬁrst
full-length English-language ﬁlm, was a sensation for its frank view of
sex, drugs and rock 'n roll in swinging London. It grossed $20 million
(about $120 million today) on a $1.8 million budget and helped liberate
Hollywood from its puritanical prurience."
^ Promotional material use "Blow-Up" as the title of the ﬁlm; in the
screen credits the title omits the hyphen.
^ Beltzer, Thomas (2005). "La Mano Negra: Julio Cortázar and his
Inﬂuence on Cinema". Senses of Cinema. Retrieved 2009-06-09.
^ Platt, Dreja and McCarthy, Yardbirds, Sidgwick and Jackson Ltd.,
^ Frame, Pete, The Complete Rock Family Trees. p. 55. Omnibus
Press, 1993. ISBN 0-7119-0465-0
^ Victor Bockris and Gerard Malanga, Uptight: The Velvet Underground
Story. p. 67. New York: Quill, 1983. ISBN 0-688-03906-5
^ a b "Antonioni's Blowup deﬁnes cool". ﬁlminfocus.com. 18 December
2008. Retrieved 17 January 2009.
^ "ZSC:Heddon St.". Time Out (18-24 October 1984). The Ziggy
Stardust Companion. Retrieved 2009-01-12.
^ For decades, it was far more common for Rome, Open City to be
referred to simply as "Open City", e.g. "Open City directed by Roberto
Rossellini", Video Yesteryear, 1981.
^ "Cinema: The Things Which Are Not Seen". December 30, 1966.
^ "Excerpt". Sydsvenska Dagbladet. zakka.dk. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
"He's done two masterpieces, you don't have to bother with the rest.
One is Blow-Up, which I've seen many times, and the other is La Notte,
also a wonderful ﬁlm, although that's mostly because of the young
^ "Festival de Cannes: Blowup". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved
^ "People". May 19, 1967. Retrieved 2009-09-22. "He had been denied
top honors twice before by the inscrutable Cannes Film Festival jury,
and she had been passed over only last month for an Oscar. So now,
with each other for moral support, Italian Director Michelangelo
Antonioni, 54, and British Actress Vanessa Redgrave, 30, she in
sequined tunic and tights, braved a screening at Cannes of Blow-Up, in
which Vanessa had taken a relatively small part simply because "I
wanted to be directed by Antonioni." After the showing, Vanessa went
home to London, but Antonioni stayed on for the happy ending: a
Golden Palm applauding Blow-Up as the best ﬁlm of the 25 shown at
^ "Of Naseeruddin Shah and Michelangelo Antonioni". The Hindu. 7
December 2007. "This key sequence, which takes place in a park, was
obviously inspired from Antonioniʼs ʻBlow Up.ʼ In fact, the park where
they click pictures of DʼMelloʼs murder is named Antonioni Park in the
ﬁlm, in a bow to the Italian master!"