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« A Phone Conversation with David Shapiro in 2009 | Main | Spontaneous Aphorism: Hope »

August 26, 2022


Your comment on Blow-Up is beautifully written, and your point about how special the ending is is very well taken. Antonioni was a specialist in mind-blowing endings, each quite distinct from the others. I think especially of L'Eclisse, which opens out from one couple's anxious intimacy, continually bollixed by social tensions, into an entire society's terror about nuclear war, and of my favorite of his films, The Passenger, with its astounding technical feat of a 360-degree pan that, over some six or seven minutes, begins inside a room, slowly passes without a hiccough through a window to the outdoors, and ends looking back into the same room from the outside. The technical bravura in each of those endings means something larger about how we think and imagine, as you note for Blow-Up. I didn't originally like any of the Antonioni movies I first saw; they seemed self-indulgent and intellectually enervated. But then I saw Blow-Up followed by his early, journalistic documentaries, and I went back and realized OMG what was in many of the films. Antonioni and I part decisive company at Zabriskie Point, where I think drugs and mid-life crisis may have taken over, but The Passenger, made years later, redeemed him for me.

Thank you, Mindy, for this spirited and very thoughtful comment.

David’s wonderful appreciation of “Blow-Up” really captures why that film is beautiful, tantalizing and enduring. I first saw it in the 80s, when the many University of Michigan film clubs charged just a dollar for screenings, and when going, yes, actually going to a film was still an event. I was fascinated by “Blow-Up” in part because I’d been on my high school photo staff, before digital photography, when we developed everything we shot in the darkroom. So I loved the film’s technical aspects as well as the hot models, the rock-and-roll Zeitgeist and the conundrum of empirical proof (also a photographic term) that David’s article aptly points out. I wonder: Did the film resonate for American audiences in part because it echoed the recent JFK assassination and the elusiveness of proof even when an event is caught on film?

Yes, beautifully written. I first saw Blow Up when I, too, was a freshman in college, though the college was Eastern Kentucky University, not Columbia, and I sat at the feet of no one, sadly for me. We hitchhiked up to Lexington on a Saturday (you could still hitchhike in those 1966 days); and boy were we ready for the alternate reality of 'Swinging London.' For years, every time Steve and I would meet, "I AM in Paris" would surface sometime in the conversation. As for "nothing is real," I was taught immediately that afternoon that Sam Johnson had a point when he kicked the rock and said of Bishop Berkeley, "I refute him thus." Steve and I were standing at a light waiting to cross. I stepped off the curb, but Steve, very gently, very coolly, pulled me back onto the sidewalk. At that moment a city bus whizzed by, and I mean whizzed by, at about 30 mph and no more than a foot from me. Ultimate cool, Steve was, and I was still alive. And we had just seen Blow Up! Thanks for jogging my memory, David.

Thank you, Eric, and thank you Jim, for these valuable and greatly apprciated comments. "Strawberry fields / Nothing is real / Nothing to get hung about. / Strawberry fields forever."

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman


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