The Scenic Route: Blow-Up (1966)

Blow-Up was Michelangelo Antonioni's first English-language film. It's a withering critique of 1960s Man - the absurdity of his self-importance, the emptiness of his preoccupations. How devastatingly cool he - and everyone and everything around him - looks on the surface.

It's much more than that, of course, but none of that matters here. See that exit ramp? Take it. It's time for:

Today's selection: London, 1966. Make and model: Rolls Royce, Silver Cloud III.


Plaza of The Economist, Piccadilly.


Stockwell Road, Heddon Street, Regent Street, and various roads in Chelsea and Charlton.
Throughout the film, the main character (David Hemmings) speaks to his assistant over a CB radio.
These scenes almost seem like speculative fiction in 2015, much like the communicators in Star Trek or whatever example you like.
He uses the CB like many who drive and talk on their cellphones use it: as an augment for their ego, roving, broadcast into public places:
A talisman.
Or maybe a propeller.

Blow-Up is a film of many memorable but bewildering scenes. One of them involves our hero coming across a parade of protestors. 

One of them adorns his car with this.
He seems to cheerfully accept it, but almost immediately we see it flutter off into traffic as he picks up speed.

I didn't know what to make of this until I got the DVD and listened to the late Peter Brunette's commentary track. "This is the extent of his political involvement." I quite like that, and it captures the whole movie for me. Like I said, there's a lot more to it than that. I haven't touched on the actual murder mystery - and don't intend to. Scenic Route!


You can find your fair share of interpretations out there - best to watch it and reason out your own. For me, Blow-Up was a film I puzzled over for many years and feel I eventually made my peace with. (Still waiting on that to happen with Mulholland Drive. I'm not giving up, though.)

For a look at locations then and now, check out this site. Unfinished as of this writing, but what's there is a public service unparalleled for fans of the film. A sincere chapeau across the waves to Ian S. Bolton.

The Scenic Route celebrates the cars and landscape of a bygone age.


  1. I saw this movie as part of a college course I took on . . . I want to say it was on Italian cinema, although why I would have taken such a class eludes me. So much so that I'm not sure I actually DID; I think it may have been some other class altogether.

    In any case, I watched the movie on VHS, in two or three chunks, on a tiny television, in a classroom setting. Not an optimal way to watch any film. All I remember about it is that I hated it. I rolled my eyes through the entire thing.

    I suspect I probably lacked the proper context -- and environment -- to get it. It's too well-regarded a movie for me to dismiss it totally; but my one experience with it was not to my liking.

    Although now that I consider it for a moment, I remember also watching "8 1/2" as a part of whatever class that was, and I enjoyed it; so maybe it wasn't the context/environment so much as it was the movie.

    Ah, well. Can't like everything! This post does make me want to give it a second chance someday, though; maybe if I ever go on a sojourn through Antonioni.

    1. Can't like everything, indeed - I know all too well how that one goes. "Blow-Up"s not for everyone. I love both movies, but "8 1/2" is great, tho, I agree.

  2. This really does belong in the From Novel to Film category. Turns out "Blow Up" is actually based on a short story by Belgian-Argentine Magical Realist Julio Cortazar.

    The Magical Realist application seems to fit, as the original source material belongs in a collection of short pieces titled "Blow Up and Other Stories".

    Cortazar seems to have been a contender for the literary Latino version of Rod Serling, and most of his work reads like an extension of the Twilight Zone. For instance in one short story, titled "Axolotl" (look 'em up) a man visiting an aquarium and staring through the glass at the title creatures eventually realizes that he is in fact an axolotl staring out at a man from behind the glass. Yeah, Cortazar is "that" kind of writer. He also writes another short story, I forget it's title, about an author who occasionally vomits up little, pink bunny rabbits (I swear I did not make that up), while in another, a rich family, for no apparent reason, let's a tiger roam free about the grounds.

    In fact, if you look at the Recommended Reading list at the back of "Danse Macabre" it turns out King lists "Blow Up and Other Stories" as a must read.