Considering how many movies are made just to be essentially disposable entertainment, it comes as something as a shock to come across a film that deserves to be regarded in completely different terms.
This is the reaction I always get when watching – once again – Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up.
On the surface, a straight murder-mystery, this film has so many layers of meaning, moving right down to the very nature of photography itself that these days I watch it almost frame by frame.
Literally. Tonight I went through the entire scene in the park where a murder may (or may not) occur frame by frame, analysing each camera angle as if I was considering a series of still photographs. The artfulness is simply breathtaking. Towards the end of the scene, a long distance shot shows a woman running into the distance past a blue blur that may be a dead body. The body is lying by a bush at the base of a tree. Before the incident, Antonioni gives us almost the same long distance shot to show us the empty park (of bodies that is). But not quite the same shot. The exact point where the body seems to be is obscured in the introductory scene by a tree. Thus you are not really sure if the body came during or before this scene – if it came at all.
This all makes much more sense if you have seen Blow Up. It's a movie I regard as essential if you are in the least bit interested in perception and its portrayal on film.
The movie has scores of other examples like this. It is one of the finest studies in the way we see things that I have ever come across. And all of this derives from the photography alone; the story and acting develop multi-layer meanings that supplement this sense of dislocation.
Blow Up was one of the first movies to openly show the active drug scene in London in the 1960s (and earned notoriety in doing so). The movie itself is not far removed from a trip, where perception becomes divorced from logic, and the impossible seems quite normal, and the normal absurd.
And to top all of that, you see The Yardbirds with both Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck!