#270 Blow-Up

Watched: June 13 2020

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

Starring: Vanessa Redgrave, David Hemmings, Sarah Miles, John Castle, Verushka, Jane Birkin, Peter Bowles, Gillian Hills

Year: 1966

Runtime: 1h 51min

Disclaimer: You may experience some unscheduled breaks between blog posts. This is perfectly normal and nothing to panic about. The delays may be due to the fact that Trondheim is finally sunny and thus blogging sisters must spend as much time as possible outdoors before the temperature drops again (and it will). Other delays may happen because of Sister the Youngest’s fancy new job which she started this month. Please be patient, and we’ll be back to normal in no time at all. Or in a while. Who knows?

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Thomas (Hemmings) is a self-centred asshole fashion photographer in swinging London. He is also, as spoiled, rich people often are in movies, bored and disillusioned.

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“Do I objectify women? Of course not! I open my shirt while I’m working and have them squirm half naked underneath me because it’s the professional thing to do.”

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After stalking a couple in a park and ignoring the woman’s request that he stops taking her picture, he is surprised to find the same woman (Redgrave) at his studio. She has come to ask for her pictures back, even going so far as to offer sexual favours for their return.

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“I might consider giving you the film if you get half naked and squirm a bit…”

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He eventually gives her a film roll, but not the one she’s after. Instead, when she leaves he develops the pictures. But what he finds is unexpected: did he acidentally capture a murder on film?

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“Oh no! A white blob! Must be murder.”

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Our favourite scene in Blow-Up was the titular one: where Thomas develops the photos and gradually blows up parts of the images to reveal what was hidden in the background. It’s very well done and exciting to watch.

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Pictured: our second favourite scene and coincidentally our new summer wardrobe.

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We also enjoyed the mystery of what really happened in the park and who the woman was. However, if you’re looking for a mystery which neatly wraps up in the end, stay away! You will find no resolution here.

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Although, according to some sources, you will find the pubic hair of one of these lovely ladies. So if that’s your fetish, enjoy!

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What you will find are such things as excellent mod fashion, great (occasionally stressful) music, gratuitous nudity, an asshole protagonist (who is also a clear inspiration for Austin Powers, but without the charm), beautiful photography, a very Norwegian rock concert audience (no one moves!), an amazing old antiques-dealer who reminded us a bit of Rebecca Femm (“Can’t have landscapes!”), and existential crises.

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Oh, and there are mimes. But don’t let that put you off. It’s actually very tastefully done.

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Overall, we enjoyed this movie. We HATED the protagonist, and the fact that no one seems to have a name (except Ron) made it confusing to take notes as we were watching (yes, we take notes. We are that nerdy…), but it is beautiful to look at and intriguing to watch.

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Life lesson: don’t be like creepy Thomas. Don’t take photos of strangers and then refuse to stop when they ask you to. Have we mentioned that Thomas sucks? ‘Cause he does!

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What we learned: If you find a dead body, try calling the police BEFORE you go partying.

Next time: Cul-De-Sac (1966)

#231 The Servant

Watched: April 23 2019

Director: Joseph Losey

Starring: Dirk Bogarde, Sarah Miles, James Fox, Wendy Craig

Year: 1963

Runtime: 1h 56min

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Tony (Fox) has recently bought a house and like all houseowners he is now in dire need of a manservant. This need is met in the form of Hugo Barrett (Bogarde) and he is immediately hired. Tony seems content with his new employee and they fall into their roles quite naturally.

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One: the careless sleeper. The other: the sinister observer

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Despite playing his devoted servant-role to perfection, whenever Tony is not around, we see a different Barrett: he drinks, smokes and even moves differently. Tony’s girlfriend Susan (Craig) seems to be the only one who picks up on the more malevolent side of Barrett, and she soon becomes directly hostile towards him. We can’t blame her though – he goes out of his way to ignore her, even when she speaks directly to him.

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Personally, we tend to be careful about insulting the man in charge of the wine, but we admire her courage.

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Then, when Barrett moves his “sister” Vera (Miles) in, the tension in the household reaches new heights. Tony and Vera soon have an affair, then Tony catches Barrett with Vera (who, of course, is not actually his sister), and gradually the power in the relationship shifts from one man to another.

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“What does the fact that we have both slept with my ‘sister’ say about the nature of the tension between us..?”

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The Servant might start off like Jeeves and Wooster, but then it goes oh so dark. Bogarde is wonderfully creepy as Barrett, and there’s an air of malice and threat about him which we absolutely loved.

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Even his shadow is menacing

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The house is wonderful and practically a character in it self, and the dinner scene where we caught glimpses of people’s lives was amazing. We also loved the tension built by the dripping sink, as well as the Pinocchio nose shadow, the use of mirrors, and the score.

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We enjoyed this awkward seduction too. How many suggestive and impractical poses can one girl strike on a kitchen table before she is kissed?

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It’s a slow build, but exceedingly enjoyable, full of detail and hugely suspenseful. Just a beautifully successful union of writer, director and stars.

What we learned: It’s just as well we cannot afford servants… Also, deep focus was all the rage in the 1960s!

Next time: The Small World of Sammy Lee (1963)