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The Massachusettes Review, Inc.

Blow-Up: Medium, Message, Mythos and Make-Believe Author(s): George Slover Source: The Massachusetts Review, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Autumn, 1968), pp. 753-770 Published by: The Massachusettes Review, Inc. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25087782 Accessed: 11/06/2009 14:11
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the surface texture of interruption and false starts. In the first meeting between to be designated the photographer-hero *H. themselves. H. 1968). He presents the camera as the chief clue to the quality of his hero's life and to the in which he moves. qualified (though is. This graphic essay. He fastens upon a hero who is a photographer. to first H. abandoned and Beneath purposes circumstances. Message. point repeatedly and early seventeenth centuries with the stage and theatre in and for tions. Our own age is. only sometimes the message. Students of to in the the sixteenth for fascination Baroque.FILM Blow-Up: Medium. it certainly intends the medium. confounding Blow-Up has a singularly lucid and simple story line. slightly longer. pronouncement stage one to in It for "media" hesitates speak general). is furnishing the pictures. If so. surely. playwrights and medium and film-makers become preoccupied with their medium. Ron. is.' hereafter) (Hemmings. Antonioni's is likewise Blow-Upy Michelangelo a sign of the time and for the same reason. another such time of intensive reflection on artistic media. in project occupies meeting with Ron * An Italian translation of this article. with its limita and with the meaning of their choice of medium. from The last. 753 . and his friend Ron. most recent film. At least for to be the McLuhan needs screen. example. In it a film-maker of enormous skill and undoubted on turns his the film gaze integrity medium. to be sure. we learn that the two are collaborating on a photo the captions. from time to time and for reasons which are as yet obscure. a significant fact of theatre and film history that. apparently. appeared in Strumenti Critici5 (February. the McLuhan dictum is to be taken as a a as sign of the time rather than principle of hermeneutics. Mythos and Make-Believe* George Slover The is. The message of Blow-Up life of the world may not be the medium.

as we shall see. camera?indeed The camera the has whole penetrated camera to technology?acquires "reality". no doubt. On returning to his studio-apartment from the meeting with Ron. On first discovering reach Ron by phone. it has unmasked the corruption 754 . The crisis turns on H.'s conflicting reactions his hero's confusion his recurrent lapses immediately tries to pot party. Her persistence provokes his curiosity and leads by stages to the dis covery of the murder and the murder plot.'s overt purpose. to begin the final In this the loss of alterna content purpose discern in the contending H.'s discovery dirty intoxication with his medium. it has revealed the hidden.'s chronic inability to hold to a purpose. frame and unify H. something peaceful and healing. Antonioni in H. This mood H. apparently.'s declaration body"?epitomizes impulses which to Ron the overt at generate the party?"We in the the hero's crisis. for the book over-emphasize the grotesque and the squalid. took at the doss house?which the hero is seen leaving in the film's first sequence. what the book needs. henceforth young woman 'V. does he regain it. that she is merely anxious over having been photographed in an indiscretion. however. must hero's get a shot the of the excitement: artistic content motive. points to Antonioni's properly the main concern. into the crisis which the photographer is discovery plunges the main and which interest of film. in the plot. where H. the hero succumbs purpose tion between to a series of distractions after his encounter and with Ron distraction. The photographer that the photos he has assembled feels. finds the from the park (Vanessa Redgrave. supposes. which at we the anticipate pot party. At any rate. All this is prologue to the fable's central complication. H. heightened haply by the playful lovers in the distance. H. For the first time.R. does H. Not until much later. the concluding The park photos are to make an idyllic. new The dimension. They images work releases in him a veritable the of close. These of of crisis?define the direction the period Between these two events. She has already tried to snatch the camera in the park. are to furnish. he tells Ron that he is sure he caught in those shots what he wants." Not until the final The sequence.The Massachusetts Review fact. let us recall. H. peaceful of the photographic essay. looks for and finds in the park.') at his door asking for the film he has taken. loses his "cool. H. the occasion of presenting him with the photos H. dramatizes to what he finds on his film. He senses the need to present another mood in the closing images of the book something that will lift the oppression. at the two events?which succeed in finding him. into distraction.

is made dimly aware that there tion. the discovery realities.'s absorption in discovery the artistic possibilities accounts for his reaction to the painter's realizing mistress when she suggests calling the police?a suggestion startling in its common sense. H. a close-up of the corpse itself. has not could in touch with lost not altogether a have crisis a a frightening common human if he had. Through hero are death. order of sensibility. from the Spanish by Paul Blackburn.'s that crisis. Obscurely new certain and but persistently. he puts H.Medium. the blow-up lack of the revolver pointed from the bushes.'s plea to Ron. The seems dimly aware that there are implications in his dis covery beyond considerations of art. ing definition?of a triumph of an ending for the essay! What What photography! The realization of this prospect dominates the crisis sequence. medium. which Antonioni pp. hardly hears her. H.'s of violate these this right." Ron's answer?"Well. of the furnishes pictures. Finally. H. Hence. Julio story. Mythos and Make-Believe a way to end the book! The whole in the garden.'s reaction is to get in touch with his collaborator. Indeed. I'm not the photographer"?points to the hidden ?the content ambiguity in H. persons that who the have other stakes to which in the he murdered belongs man's considers life and community not hero a man's right The the to his life "inalienable" theft film. 1 In Cortazar's short the trans. "Blow-Up" (End of Game. Thus. as the source credits of the idea of his film. the aesthetic motive gives point to the climactic moment of the crisis: H. an which it is precisely of experiences this complex the hero. perhaps garden.R. the and punishes to mention with those who V. expert though amateur of kind of the photo undergoes?a transfiguration photographer.1 What sequence as on it the wall?the of the is studio lovers idyllic long-shot pinned just several of the the in the of these. H. far from having exalted the the murder photos may have revealed its limita photographic medium. "We've got to get a shot of it. as if she had simply missed the point. 1967. the blow-up?altogether the body. that. The unpremeditated concern of is chiefly to the work. too. graphic 755 . the press of events. 114-131). Message. So. It reveals surfaces in the the hero's underlying recurrent lapses into ambiguity distraction. New York: Pantheon Books. blow-up cavorting an off in in embrace of the lovers with the young woman looking explicable direction. And finally. Yet the ominous feelings which are evoked in him by the wider issue of being human are so apparently painful and threatening the pattern that he can deal with them only by evading them. H. horror and anticipation on her face. to get earlier efforts intimations extra-artistic issues.

sub-plot is essential in the main plot by the film direct the viewer to what a of the "sort time second thing" presented in the main exemplifying story. Antonioni when some of the company converge on H. Perplexed. Only to the his hero does Antonioni escape pain of his inner division. The tennis game is an instance of this.R. the wider world of the film in which H. They but are independent of. and the rhythm and his friends have their life. is sidetracked by the rock concert and gets absorbed in the scramble for the dismembered the en guitar.. 756 . of course. The closing sequence furnishes a parable of the main story. to beg a hand-out. either the external circumstances or his multi still not comprehending valenced reaction to them. But the body. is discovered alone. He leaves. H. again and again. like the film and the photos earlier. them and the world. Antonioni reveals. in this final sequence breaking sharply with the preceding mood.The Massachusetts Review of distraction. as a (we discover shortly) emerging from the doss house costumed even brings the photographer and the clowns together bum. disappointed. permit an epiphany. put distance between style of their movements habit of falling from their The coherence of the clowns' world derives into a common make-believe. he cuts several times from the mimes riding around in their jeep to H. In the film's first sequence. waking up on a sofa surrounded by testimonies of the night's partying. After counter with Ron and his own fear. his hero's inner division ?the division between H. the chronic inability to hold to his purpose. Through this pattern of evasion. An tonioni prepares for the epiphany early. Like the nature the of in is The episode concluding a the of clowning sequences which frame Shakespearean play. The costumes. he is interrupted by the teeny-boppers and loses himself in an erotic frolic. His inner state of affairs is still what it was when the revolver first appeared on morning after. he leaves the scene of the murder. During his first phone call to Ron. camera in hand. that both H. move within. and the mimes are play-acting. the blow-up. H.. now at the wheel of his Rolls Royce. The clowns make up a world of their own. on the way to the place where he had seen the corpse the night before. The and is seen next in the park. make-up. has disappeared. It is here that the coda of the clowns erupts into the film.'s impulse as artist and his not yet altogether atrophied sensibility as human being. The point is. he loses his purpose altogether in the heavy languid atmosphere of the pot party. On the way to where Ron is partying and while pursuing V.

spell-bound. The eyes of the spectators follow it from one side to the other and back. Two of the group take the court and get into They to line the others up along the fence to be spectators. gives it a few playful tosses just to get it over the fence to the players. is standing. The As he does so. all eyes turn to a point near where H. Blow-Up is over. By an imaginary game of tennis played with the sheer force of the miming. absorbed. still watching the game. One position play. hesitates. There the body had lain but which is. the ball and the camera. the viewer to take this parable? Where How does Antonioni want it and the events of the larger story? lies the analogy between What is the content of H. Mythos and Make-Believe see a tennis court. This is the company.Medium. is isolated by the field of grass. the convergence there is the shot of the point on the grass where of camera also placed there and set eyes place the "ball." H. embarrassed as is the member of tor gives him his hat to hold. camera recedes into an even longer aerial shot of the hero on a The field of green. and become mime and member of the H. per formance. Then. the players beckon to him to throw them the "ball. Suddenly H.'s return. to enter into the make-believe. puts down his real. Message.'s off by green. the viewers and presumably H. H." in vite H." He is still looking off the screen in the direction of the game.'s recognition? Antonioni points to the crux of the analogy by carefully controlling the images in the final sequence. ball. In the ultimate long shots. screen shows H. 757 . of the players serves an imaginary ball. and heaves last we see of the mimes. hear the rhythmic re has ports of a tennis racket striking a ball?an effect which Antonioni prepared for very carefully by silencing the sound track throughout the mimed tennis game. palpable camera. The Lightly he picks up the camera he has laid on the grass next to the "ball. After several volleys. A look of recognition flickers across H. on H. and made to vanish. the other returns it. the mimes pretend that the players have hit the ball over the fence. Antonioni brings three things into relation: the body. camera pans in on H. unbroken green. a series of ob He uses expanses of green to isolate and concatenate is first the shot of grass where jects. Then. imaginary he is the audience of the whole watches all this. For a moment an audience when an ac to the spot designated by picks up the insubstantial the feel of it. vanishes and only the expanse of grass remains.'s face. from a distance against the green of the grass. an and rackets imaginary ball comes into "being. the hero himself. camera in hand. both visible and invisible. to cease being spectator and out sider. goes the eyes." In having H.'s face.

as it were? a belief in the "truth" and by an act of make-believe: "sufficiency" of what the flicking shutter puts on the celluloid. Thus. this naively epiphany. the entire hidden drama of the murder appear is the flicking shutter of H. He is saved from the body disappears as had the photos. What game. In of the pressing embracing the ontology of "as if. credal his art. The qualification? pathos which H. To the degree that he acts consciously. a function of H. for him the pic responds discovery tures are primarily material the agency of the tennis for art. H. Such isH. penetrates he before holds after it. Similarly. sauce for the What's 758 . knowingly The epiphany of the tennis game is H. the body sensibility and the birth of the "pure" artist. the pathos of the hero's loss Through epiphany is dissipated. H. so the body ismade visible?is created.The Massachusetts Review leaving only green. the "wisdom" it offers is his consolation. a ritual ordeal. to the the of murder as an artist.'s vestigial sense that life is somehow murder makes more a larger reality than art. permits what human sensibility to remains in him of common and die. This initiation is prepared for by a night journey.'s initiation is a baptism into the death of human Blow-Up.'s initiation into the mystery of his art. Like Orpheus who. Antonioni points the basis of the analogy he discerns cinematically. Through to the substratum of he holds H." by transfiguring the evidence of the celluloid. of to an the body. as we have seen. H. that the discovery claims than artistic ones. As the ball ismade audible. nihilates from his film. this "infidelity" providentially: the the of tennis game. which his returns camera to view alone the has "created" and which is "real" only on his celluloid. H.. What makes the invisible body?indeed. unfaithful body and to get his a as shot yet of unreflected-upon it?the body creed. In the ultimate frames Antonioni does to his hero what his hero has just done of the murdered man: by an act of make-believe. H. denying its existence apart Antonioni consigns his hero to annihilation. But what of this wisdom? Does Antonioni accept it. if you prefer) of the appearing-disappearing objects. endures is. does he recom mend it to his viewer without Indeed not.'s camera (together with the whole photographic technology which the flicking shutter presupposes). himself becomes the fourth (or third. the invisible?more What makes audible to inaudible?ball precisely. H. enters he into the Only after pretend of the game does he hear the report of racket striking ball. turns back to behold Eurydice. is his act of make-believe. H. the The hero consolation which the epiphany atrophy buys affords at a price. forewarned.'s implicit and effective credo throughout.

performs this mode of the spirit. This the two teeny-boppers act is. leaving only an unbroken expanse of a vision. dered man a substance of which own imitation imitation which of the hero's act?an finally. the genuineness of her passion highlights the play-acting of the photographer. terror-stricken of the tyrannical photographer. this have already discerned several of in a wealth of variations. play again. the principle on which but though they hold it not in the crafty way of the photographer. Employing he causes his hero to vanish. Message. suppleness. the governing spirituality of the film's Antonioni In Blow-Up} world. scantily is to persuade in a striking a masculine and provocative audience. succeeds so well into he walks coolly away from her. what is on the film. high passion that when his desire for pictures. More the make-believe still love is striking between H. ultimately. sire obviously aroused in putting his model H. Mythos and Make-Believe the means of the film medium. to the photographer-artist's him. abandon. however. Antonioni's of the film itself. woman. as a bum. "Reality" is. photographing poses them through the sheets of tinted glass is obviously supposed to support the impression of ethereal. Indeed. surely." that the role suggested by the costume is one a woman might want to play. clumsy. What counts here magazine. Yet both are pre tenses. is what and appears what in the pages can. than his hero's by good terrifying camera is. and unsatisfied. the models are. the suspending of disbelief by which fashions and confirms his cosmos by making the film image of the mur the actual body is a mere accident. We melody. and his clad model. which Antonioni of life The we come gradu of all. first discerns in mod London. impulse ally out of a pretend taken as real. the miming of the clowns. objectifies for the viewer the make-believe fashion models?outlandishly clad and made-up?strike The intended to convey an air of ease. the chief clue to the quality It is a clue. having satisfied the model is left on the studio floor with her de 759 . painfully uncom elaborately staged: fortable. its expensive female readers fashion that persuade "the look is you.'s masquerading an imaginary tennis ball comes to make an tending through which the photographer audible bong. in fact. in this With case. in all these instances. spirit. the aim Once lithe. goose is sauce for the gander. I began by suggesting. It is all. Through to sense in to the in the make-believe fashion reality impulse. of the glossy. larger and more a deal.Medium. tending to be aroused. insubstantial beings. of intense sexual by desire pre amorous caresses. the pre these: H. It is vision is Antonioni's ultimate This green.

however. At the pot party. The high meaning which the guitar pos sesses is a function of the make-believe the rock concert and underlying the make-believe the in which it.The Massachusetts Review is a version of being stage-struck: condition they are naively. in urban centers everywhere. Once outside the gathering of devotees. then. the clowns creates not just fundamentally." Seeing her. is at also lays bare the terrible pathos which Antonioni con the In once the source and the upshot of this impulse. Perhaps. run its has act disbelief of the suspending pathos of isolation. But we and Antonioni merely comical. The model's "leap of faith" is facilitated by marijuana. the in himself finds hand. to enter into the world of images. H. the loner falls back into blow-up 760 . runs into the lithe model of the erotic sequence. abandons it. of into focus. trophy a gesture of embarrassed confusion. better. At obtains. the end to which the making-believe munity out of the Antonioni means. The make-believe shows. to be reproduced. remarks. Earlier she had announced that she was going to Paris for the weekend. outside Once range generated by Making-believe the camera. To to see the make-believe that underlies the whole do not through They do. rock. perplexed. confined to the world epitomized by the irate the rock session. the is merely is. a estrangement. H. am in Paris. The photo. Again. object appears strange. The miming cluding parable brings the director's vision a more a tennis game but." "I of Blow-Up's the model answers. Their to costume is to the rack. "I thought you were in Paris. is not. their sexuality is merely a means. its "swinging" offshoots on intent these foci: its life of the Antonioni reveals the histrionic basis a out new to the create of sheer order is willingness underlying motive to suspend disbelief. he throws it meaningless. and so the episode is not image enterprise. Creation super-personal community. With away or. in fact. the object quite loses itsmeaning. appear on film. this end. Antonioni suggests. com a of a sharing in reality. this is its very function. The exchange is a perfect miniature be particular spirituality: the impulse to re-constitute reality by making lieve. pot are so many foci of London's mod world and In Blow-Up. the guitar fragment which value seems to of incalculable the audience musician throws possessed were as a to if it of the of the intensity desire ?witness it. desire Their go directly They photo-struck. When his There is. impulse arises. acquire piece the hero. course. and so to be realized. the relic of a saint. but comi-pathetic.

and neighbors.Medium. pot. and appears al headed to out for this need of London or out ready get Nepal. The Mc suggests the "new tribalism" which Marshall atmosphere new Luhan is its vanguard. all merge and mingle. has and if could money. the teeny-boppers. apparently. The person who filches the photos of the murder seems to have no trouble in. particularly those which divide and repress. locks are out. Perhaps of the antique shop is a cover for another?as undefined and hence yet to out of themselves. unfolds in this context and in this style. There unusual in his coming upon the painter and his mistress making love. is taken with V. he says. This is prophesying. music. All doors appear to be open. Like a little boy in his first puppy love. what which characters walk into and out of one another's living quarters. has her stand against the lavender 761 . on the various of the mod world: the enthusiasms based. H. goods. com swinging her buttocks provocatively. money puzzling buy what H.R. The mod world a tribalism celebrates openness. also feels hemmed in. camera image. Mythos and Make-Believe kind of built-in pathos in the effort to create community by make believe. What makes this remark so is that H. particularly seems Antonioni and it is presents munality convincing engaging. too. clothes." If he had money. H. From the first. Only once does H. tells her she's a natural. total strangers. afford The who the antique shop for. are put to work making coffee. It is an attempt by a lonely young man to make friends? an attempt which never has a chance. are sitting. to Ron that he is "off London. whether with her freshness and spunk or with the concealed fright which he senses is not important. spontaneity.R. working associates. H. a female walks In detached disgust. get pathetic?need: an audience nurtured To in the closed-door ethos of the middle is so remarkable in Blow-Up is the singular ease with class. It is the lyricism of this anguish which we hear?now faintly. Message. So.R. The relationship between H. Minutes later. in the restaurant where Ron and H. the com good experience. Past the table. drifts into his painter is nothing neighbor's apartment any time of the day or night. sharing of sense the of At first. the girl returns the call. H. receptivity. yearns he owns could it. Studio and apartment. offers V. he plains would get away from it all and be free. There is a rejection of all forms of establishment life. girl probably also wants to get out of London. now distinctly?throughout Antonioni's film. and V. give voice to his underlying malaise.. appear on the scene uninvited. professional models and getting private friends. his most precious possession: he proposes to make a model of her.

762 . R. of water.'s deception makes explicit the gulf that separates them.. sends H. however. constructed between presents mod two reveal the community desperately pot. on the film. goes to the dark room and re turns with a bogus roll of film. And are absolutely irreconcilable. These taking her under his to Anxious retrieve the V. record. teaches her how to get the most out of it by inhaling "against the beat" are acts of friendship. whatever the details. reaching (a Their scene and V.R. asks dressed. in pursuit of her. claims the photos in the them. Still misunderstanding she takes off her H.R. evidence of the murder she is herself. turn out later to be unbridgeable abyss opens. V. shot in the park. wing. She scribbles something to on a piece of paper. Antonioni another. she iswindow-shopping. grabs the camera and runs. H. ship. an accomplice. offers as if he her a were Review administering presumably a screen marijuana. whatever she may think?H. both style association understand) is. H. settle for nothing less?and still unwilling and perhaps also persuaded that there is nothing compromising of V. and thus feels justified in passing off a phony roll of film. V. name gives it to him and goes.R.'s motives. but because she wants to. by chance. relaxes. Thinking she has what she came for.R. of dis belief cannot dissipate the commitments that separate lovers lay claim to the photos H. presumably. smoking and laughing spontaneously. She permits her affinity for the photographer She invites H. watch. to make love?not because she has to. Like the film H. V. test.'s relation to V. To V.The Massachusetts paper. however. the name and phone number she gives H. As he goes upon V. he is of the music. She claims own. suspension community. Seeing that she will to part with the park shots. for a drink film. to surface. intercepts her at the bottom of the stairs..R.'s studio withers again into isolation. He puts then on sit a on the sofa. the photos are. isolated and people sex cool The style?music.R. of The their between rhythm and In isolation. In the last scene of the sequence.R. even though it does not come to be felt until later?until.. blouse and offers herself as swap for the film. fake. discovers she has been deceived. for one is marvelously estrangement. cigarette. Both these claims name of art. the photos in the name of life and liberty?her in which gives her. ?serves as ground a make-believe. simply. The The rhythm which Antonioni presents in H.R. disappears. The friendship and H. gets denly jumps and phone number. up. she is again sitting on the sofa across from her coach. In the last episode of the relation comes H. The sudden flowering of community in H. H. Sud at her she looks for her H.

cigarette." With walks away. Hence. did he say?" H. A creature of the image. stand in high relief against the world in which mimes. this. given herself to tell H. partaking of Gathered the around a little mound one puffs on of marijuana. or perfect faith that she is in Paris: real ab isolation. mistress. Antonioni has Ron mutter to himself. is not used to expressing himself in words. takes H. fails to break out of her isola as I have suggested. distortion accepts of recognizes gives to party in Ron's up "turn is more and the behavior effort himself. share and share alike? which has preceded. Once again. in it as there is in the model's it might be called. her troubles. reforming is as much There reality sence. compelling We see. Mythos and Make-Believe reverberates through many of Blow-Up*s shorter episodes. is deaf to the cry other rolls one. as they move. But Ron is "turned on.'s point. and municate. Message.'s words?we've got to get a shot of it?at face value. The make mod mode of life at en aimed believe impulse creating community deepens. the pathetically irrelevant though perfectly answer: not I'm the "Well. of the community-isolation at first. "sacrament": conversation with his collaborator Ron belies this Ron at last. 763 . a on" the time to com Ap of human memory marijuana. The pervades the episode in which the teeny-boppers are shown putting on their hero's socks and making their exit." He has sensed that of all the people he knows Ron could do this. The do not. H. The mood is in sharp contrast to the comradely sex frolic?community sex. The has been said. In Blow-Up impulse is Antonioni penetrates to the source of the compulsion which powers this is in the infernal mechanism." He misses H. tries to communicate found the dis impression. is a make-believe forming communion. it appears. Perhaps the pot are party the most sequence.Medium. and to make the point secure. H. Having tressing ambiguity he has felt since his awful discovery.'s for help in them. open souls.'s preoccupation at that point tion?sensing. H. invitation Ron's of the pot "communion" Brownian It collocation movement. Ron logical photographer. The painter's a who had beer and a neck rub. the very isolation with which cope. same terrible feeling of sudden estrangement with his lost photos. cannot bring earlier H. a hellish futility. she. clusters of people a is in high they communion. H. open doors. the clowns furnish the pattern in little. when There to the acted. he needs to be "drawn out. parently. discrete clusters "What and the bodies?a at random. the new tribalism of the studio images seemingly an community. too.

the elderly of the establishment?used house. were to In the livelihood. shows it in action again and again. the Rolls the of of Antonioni hero's is space. In the same vein. H. Though about in the murdered man. over thirty are very few: the down-and-outs in the doss Characters to indict it. every where implied in Blow-Up. the mod community dependent on it. mod depends on the establishment for the highly sophisticated and marvelous photo technology. Not just mod's image graphic equipment culture. that pays. Antonioni his company of clowns with a kind of jeep?the first machine the film. the larger community is. as is the invisible audience in a theater to actors on mobilizes we see in the square a hovering a stage. They depend. even equips it with a two-way radio. is both an artist and com mercial. mastery gives Royce considerable attention. whom. And Antonioni makes a point of showing us the fact: the large amplifier with its knobs and dials which the electric-guitar player pummels again and again in his over its rage imperfect operation. the action of Blow-Up unfolds almost entirely within the Curiously. they take up a collection for their performance. we may have already remarked.'s studio and laboratory. His collaboration with Ron on the photographic essay?which is "art"?may or may not net some income. yet oyer-against. is a man of some means: his car. community. off-scourings out to not the owner but an who turns be salesman in the antique shop woman owns who the and is selling the shop. But surely the fashion and it is the establishment photos and the sex shots are big money-makers. no real poverty in the mod community. represented directly. on as their In the film's first audience. The presence. but also itsmusic culture is technologized. relation their audience their clowns' is fig ing ured the relationship between the mod community and the establishment. first of all. his living ar his working Indeed. not directly represented. performers depend cisely as if the mim sequence. Consider also the crucial role of the the automobile in the mod world as represented in Blow-Up. The mod world and the mod culture presuppose establishment is technology of the square establishment. is everywhere indeed. Consider in H. there is conditions. Like the clowns. as costumers to the establishment. mod the establishment is hardly community. Antonioni's hero. To begin with. depend on it pre munity. The mod community functions. the larger com They on that however. The outfits Antonioni selects reveal to what taste mod de 764 . essence. Mobility. all bear witness. young employee of more a moment. nevertheless. the mod community Antonioni presents does. finally. rangements.The Massachusetts Review constitute a community within. in fact. earn its keep from the surrounding society.

and the mod community his like keep the establishment imagination (inhibited by discipline) no matter supplied with images of delight. H. The two ideals munities with exclusive. One might inner economy. which result is the coexistence of two com will cultivate these powers. The fashions H. Thus see in this phenomenon the application of the mutual. necessarily separate. have a function these clothes are. mod is nothing new: it ismerely the latest in a it is a long succession of Bohemias which make good. makes Blow if only as an audience which guarantees approval. mutually of man. Viewed structurally. Message. Mythos andMake-Believe signers are appealing: the taste for fantasy. in the and and in which which the is "artist" community priest king rest of the members subserve the creative process in one way or another. yet mutually dependent. Snow's considerable Cultures and attention evoked the Scientific Revolution (New York: Cambridge University Press. of the imagination. H. Para the sober creators of technology require. the intoxicated creators of fantasy. in fact.2 But more. cut off from ordinary experience. also marketable. received age has recently The Two P. abandon. is an indispensable middleman. 765 . As His job is to a fashion photographer. is the dependency survival.Medium. calculating rational. What art an to it the work of is that bottom of the such gets extraordinary Up Like the clowns of the film. a kept community?kept by the establishment. the Bohemian psychology and mythology. We fact. passion. freedom. of the feelings. for skill its Completely making special kept. ment generates and fosters a community. and Mod is. technical. the establish the senses. photographs belong to a science fiction world. 2 This of phenomenon in the discussion the industrial by C. com in believe. 1956). mitted to a life of calculations?scientific. industrial. the establishment fosters the creation of a make believe world in which those powers of the soul can live their life in and narrowly sulated from those other. in the establishment it is still "hot"?a discrepancy which is quick to exploit for commercial purposes. precisely. sex photos. The sex has already similar to the fashion shots. atrophying. Instinctively. As a Bohemia. know. that they are fantasy images. for sheer human doxically. women to and induce the of the larger community imagination catalyze in how marketable to enter into mod's fantasy world. Establishment life causes division of labor to man's of certain functions of the soul?the life of in its members. economic ?the establishment generates an unappeasable appetite for fantasy. In the mod community "cooled off". powers which the establishment cultivates as appropriate to its fantasy of the world.

into this context. This parody of turning the other cheek has. lead In to a the act of individuals. If this third person is the young man whom H. Epater le bourgeois is the order of the day. communities. 766 . an adolescent seventeen. of de-ontologizing which furnishes the artist his material?H. The artist is pure. community comes into being is attended by large measures reverse rejection. the society at large. What has whole say. Antonioni reveals. third sexual mature party interest woman is an the older older and man woman an sitting stages in a the park drama of perhaps car for whose soliciting the between The perverse man. come to love it. catches then the peeping in on him and Ron through the restaurant window. Indeed.'s annihilation of the body.The Massachusetts Review mod community is organized as a theatrical troupe. deepening confirming "artistic" of "cool ness" ing (passive aggressive.'s doss house pictures). uncomprehending. this rupture takes the form. first. and rejection by the act of make-believe the anti larger community. after a decade or more of angry and ab surd theatre. Julio Cortazar older. the arrangement seems plausible enough. of ontologizing act Antonioni make-believe?the performs for us in having H. Give that audience time. total rupture of in the lingo of interpersonal communications between the psychology). In his short story. surface. Blow-Up and itwill suggests. certainly for the artist but notwithstanding. the bourgeois. pathological??in happened chain of Bohemias and what is happening to mod is that the establish ment?confused by the outburst of hostility. The through which of anger. already grey to a spot where he is shot by a lured by a very young woman third party. community: a certain a psychological progressive on the members of the impact a of alienation. second. of Bohemia). corrupt (the very spirit we discern in H. his alienation from. with contradiction and conflict. the establishment. What One is tempted to place Blow-Up's murder is so provocative about the murder is Antonioni's selection of personnel. that. near-by is presumably young Antonioni ing. appearance (and he is himself a member this arrangement is deadly.That iswhat is paradoxical?may I however. a state to this of affairs. is at once its audience and its employer (and as em the On ployer. revolt. it pays better than the patrons of former Bohemias). probably also for his audience?fraught or otherwise?arises The Bohemian out of the community?mod however artist's pathos of isolation. hear the the world report of the imaginary tennis ball. feeling in the only way it knows how: by putting Bohemia victimized?responds on the payroll. we are familiar with playwrights' and actors' ways of abusing the audience that patronizes them. man changes all this around. He gives us an older.

film. flirtation estab communities?over in fact. as we thirty. a well-tailored The have and Make-Believe older man?one said?is white also of the characters He establishment. The second is the act through which the hero from the painful of the primordial "saves" himself consequences estrangement. that Antonioni represents a places the murder the Cortazar in an idyll.Medium. Is Antonioni the alluding garden likewise is enacted the drama of an irrevocable story in Genesis where If so. Bohemia its church. The estrangement of the two communities may be taken as the ultimate source of the pathetic. to on In the first. lingering isolation which afflict so many murder characters in Blow-Upys mod world. murderer. Estrangement within the primordial community to estrange is prior. In the unfolding of the film. too. The first is the primordial act which effects the estrangement of the two communities. What thirty appears and as under a charming twenty-five. in the second. the establishment its world. the artist its high priest. Message. a woman is decoy for bringing the premeditated murder plot in which the victim between into the range of a revolver. believe however. initiation?of the religion which makes art the comprehensive mystery. already suit with vest. Antonioni misleads us intentionally: we witness. the lishment and mod?is. is under over wears Mythos twenty-five. ontologically. This. the exist ence of the man art. in fact. shirt. we can discern in Blow-Up the comprehensive estrangement? a two of mod bohemia: which unfolds in great symbolic mythos mythos acts. We have already noted garden. In Antonioni and performs for us the two cultic acts?sacrifice Blow-Up. The girl. The murder destruction in the final sequence. act: ment 767 . a man is murdered. that his corpse the parody is real only of a saving latter it confirms the initial act by de-ontologizing its consequence. That pervasive alienation is to the as sin and disorder is to the dis and make-believe in Blow-Up obedience of the garden in the Judaeo-Christian scheme. the viewer begins by surmizing that a solid businessman type has fallen for a young mod. on the other hand. of annihilation of the H. is denied The by making act is. Antonioni enacts (if we read him aright) the final rupture between the communities. of is the physical ana the keeper by the kept. is clearly mod: mini-skirt worn from the hip. the irrevocable estrangement.'s spiritual corpse logue In both scenes. of individuals from one another and within themselves. or that a precocious young mod is deliberately turning the head of an older man for fun or fortune. very few too. clearly tie. the murder of the old by the young. in a story where change from scene takes place by a parapet overlooking the photographed the river to within view of a parked automobile.

up again and again since that time down to the Renaissance and the world the life-acting these ages understood Nevertheless. What presents in Blow-Up as theatrical. In the theatricalizing impulse. pleteness. one might even say it is ^mediated. As a medium. the camera is utterly self an anti-medium effacing. One already play" and "the world and finds them cropping encounters them in Plato and Democritus. Blow-Up brings into significant relationship. The of chief "objective correlative" is the camera and the "photographic mode of the film's master motive camera. the notions "life is a explored its appeal and its meaning. and beyond. appears to be in graph. in the presence so often imitates of an act of photographing (the act which Blow-Up in all its complexity. Nevertheless. Viewing the presence of the thing itself?not. there is no necessary the fact that is believe. this much re secure: Blow-Up the of mod both estrangement presents of the mod community establishment and of the members reveals another. the representation The camera the is not. daily experience.The Massachusetts Review mains Perhaps from the from one the source life. This what of is on the photo It appears to be the unmediated presentation one a camera image. We novelists poets. is a com Antonioni of human activity. Blow-Up gives the theatrical impulse turns precisely on the literalness The genius of the camera medium of the camera image and on the enormous power of that image to what makes the camera persuade of its truth to life." The this is pushing things too far. in actuality. as is in fact the case. Long before Blow-Up. and the pathetic sense of estrange ment?these three. For mod. to "the world" to is present appear its genius It belongs to the in that 768 . with all its possibilities for selection and staging). make-believe. the thing itself. construes life the of human whole which munity it is literally so. Here. however. is for correlative particular theatricality. what image appears to be. Blow-Upys ^objective of an act of camera image is. Its make-believe. Long ago. when enacted. the camera image by its And this is probably the crux of the matter: nature conceals its nature. Antonioni of this estrangement. perhaps. connection between alienation and And yet. playwrights. seeing. The theatricalizing making impulse is enor in instances within our numberless discern its working mously rich. generates in fact an isolation terrible in its com a very special turn. and theatricality as one of many modes theatre equations as metaphor. the theatre-world equation is no longer metaphor. generates in fact a social order radically divided and estranged. a were is theater" commonplaces.

gives place to logic "psycho-logic." This is the choice which decision to make "his medium enacts in the concluding tennis game. The discovery of this discrepancy precipitates the as a conflict between the hero's crisis which we have characterized as artist. and he is afraid. as if for the as later first time. death and to construct a world in which death will have no sting." "onto-logic. But is this Through final and drastic step of the photographer dictated by the logic of the camera medium? the It is. when H. he must declare for either forms that make murder reality or appearance. leads an ambiguous existence because his acceptance of the camera medium is as yet unexamined." or "theo-logic. down. In the end. confirmation of it. in which it is no more fearful than a picture. it the hero "hypostatizes" the camera image. Throughout the film. To the nameless and annihilating fear 769 . murder) (a the clue to this divergence. There is a point?in life as well as in art?where its breaks reaches and limit. His choice?then ?is essentially this: either to accept the reality of death as the great mystery that makes a man a man and have recourse to the social forms a crime and so on) which (the embody this or to reject the reality of truth and make it effective in the world. to present itself in the guise of its appearance. stands before the murdered man's body. The crisis can also be human sensibility and his commitment understood as the disintegration of the hero's initial sense of his medium and operational) of his ultimate and of the emergence (uncritical the message. and the hero's actual viewing of the body. appears to be (the presentation of what another thing to invest the camera image with the reality which one has denied to the thing imaged." H. Message. one thing to confound what camera image is (the representation of an act of seeing) with what it it is quite is photographed). The is constructed to confront the photographer fable of Blow-Up the divergence between what appears hero with a situation in which and what is of his camera (a charming flirtation) in the view-finder the of is becomes evidence The blow-ups inescapable. after all. Antonioni our interpretation The of it is epiphany of the tennis game?if in the decisive the hero's step correct?represents spiritual journey.'s hypostatizing of the camera image is precisely such a point. Death?the reality which more than any other to the lie the too much of claims for the appearance?proves gives creature of sensation to bear. Earlier. the reality of death.Medium. Mythos and Make-Believe genius of the camera image to confound what it iswith what it appears to be. H. he is in effect standing on the threshold of his humanity: he faces.

the working that act What Antonioni makes of some an act really furnishes the medium a properly the qualified he understand shows us. makes In the tennis game. of message. human is an act where it is in fact a willful the there. This act. imputing to it act must which Antonioni one it is this And make believe. is like does not but a human of history. a picture of the corpse. flight flight a world insulated from the terrible anxieties of being human. Such an act is spiritual suicide. the encounter his with death He releases chooses finds he nothing rejects oppose?except camera. to as to of the make-believe the camera. act which narrowing for and of the range the message a parody of of an experience?there. a picture reality. makes the medium it is a substitute act of faith. choice. Antonioni presents of the this clowns. perform in the final moments of Blow-Up. To we draw three have shown.The Massachusetts which to Review in him. H. Is this what Antonioni to convey by annihilating his hero in the final frames of Blow-Up? wishes 770 . in the hero's ultimate act. any of these. has the of his and hero's objective explicit a his into created world from his camera. has H. inexorable of faith. act. His penultimate act is to get of death. the world dimensions analogous the matrix into to two. is. by humanity. But where where it is all too transparently the medium contrivance. persuade. of make-believe. the choice. ing not And of media. Antonioni chosen nature H. process the message of belief. is one of enormous interest not just to the student of religious psychology but also to the re cultural historian. so carefully isolated and re-enacted. the camera to reduce world's hypostatize a reality which one denies to the world?to do image. It throws much light on the chief difficulty in cent attempts to account for the history of culture as the survival of the fittest media. appearance.