The art of abstraction in Blow-Up by Michelangelo Antonioni



Sometimes the search for order in chaos only increases the chaos. Smile too, you are in front of the camera.


By Meg ShieldsPublished August 11, 2021

Welcome to The Queue – your daily distraction of curated video content from all over the web. Today we’re watching a video essay on how Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up twists crime thriller conventions.

Explode has been Michelangelo Antonioni ‘the breakthrough of pop culture. It was the first film that the arthouse author made outside of Italy. One of his three projects in English to be published by MGM. The stake was therefore: for a philosopher director known for his elusive and visually enigmatic meditations on modernity, like Avventura and The Notte, to do something that could still be commercially successful.

Although he did not get MPAA Production Code approval and was condemned by the National Legion of Decency, Explode made its way into North American theaters in 1966 through a distribution subsidiary and was a huge success. Like Time Richard Corliss of the magazine put it in his 2007 retrospective, ExplodeThe financial success of “helped free Hollywood from its puritanical itching.” Funny, isn’t it? How the powers that be will they lower their morals for the right price?

But lest you believe with little faith that Antonioni “sold” his cynical thematic advantage, rest assured, behind the appearance of his digestible murder mystery format lie thematic concerns as twisted and enigmatic as the previous work by Antonioni.

The film follows a successful London photographer named Thomas (Deep Red‘s David Hemmings), whose easy sex and mod fashion life has become a bit, well, superficial. Then, one day, he accidentally photographs a murder, a fact that he does not realize himself until he detonates his negatives. Thomas is fascinated by the mystery and determined to put the pieces of the puzzle together. And he falls deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole. Explode smaller and more and more abstract elements.

As explained in the video essay below, Explode is fascinated and very suspicious of the backbone of his own alluring genre. He continually draws attention to the blurry line between objective reality and unreliable construction. For Thomas, as for any mystery lover, the promise of stable and clear answers is worth diving into. Leaving Antonioni to wonder if the search for order within disorder can reveal anything other than distortions of the truth.

Watch “Explosion | Murder in the abstract “:

Who made this?

This video on Explode comes courtesy of The rejected image, a video editor channel created by Julien palmer. The channel began with a deconstruction of how Steven Spielberg creates suspense with the beach scene in Jaws. It just kept growing from there. You can check out The Discarded Image’s video trials here.

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Related subjects: The queue, Thriller

Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a main contributor to Film School Rejects. She currently directs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How’d They Do That? and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found shouting about John Boorman’s “Excalibur” on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She she).


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