Blowup is a 1966 British-Italian mystery thriller film directed by
Michelangelo Antonioni about a fashion photographer, played by David
Hemmings, who believes he has unwittingly captured a murder on film.
It was Antonioni's first entirely English-language film.
The film also stars Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles, John Castle, Jane
Birkin, Tsai Chin, Peter Bowles, and
Gillian Hills as well as sixties
model Veruschka. The screenplay was by Antonioni and Tonino Guerra,
with English dialogue by British playwright Edward Bond. The film was
produced by Carlo Ponti, who had contracted Antonioni to make three
English-language films for
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (the others were
Zabriskie Point and The Passenger).
The plot was inspired by Julio Cortázar's short story, "Las babas del
diablo" or "The Devil's Drool" (1959), translated also as "Blow Up"
in Blow-up and Other Stories, in turn based on a story told to
Cortázar by photographer Sergio Larraín, and by the life of
Swinging London photographer David Bailey. The film was scored by
jazz pianist Herbie Hancock. Except for the music for the opening and
closing title and credit sequences, the music is diegetic, as Hancock
noted: "It's only there when someone turns on the radio or puts on a
record." In the main competition section of the Cannes Film
Blowup won the Grand Prix du Festival International du Film,
the festival's highest honour.
The American release of the counterculture-era film with its
explicit sexual content (by contemporary standards) by a major
Hollywood studio was in direct defiance of the Production Code. Its
subsequent outstanding critical and box office success proved to be
one of the final events that led to the final abandonment of the code
in 1968 in favour of the
MPAA film rating system. In 2012, Blowup
was ranked No. 144 in the Sight & Sound critics' poll of the
world's greatest films.
2.1 Noted cameos
3 Filming locations
4.1 Box office
4.2 Critical reception
5 In popular culture
6 See also
8 External links
The plot is a day in the life of a glamorous fashion photographer,
Thomas (Hemmings), inspired by the life of an actual "Swinging London"
photographer, David Bailey. and other contemporaries such as
Terence Donovan, David Montgomery and John Cowan. After spending the
night at a doss house where he has taken pictures for a book of art
photos, Thomas is late for a photo shoot with Veruschka at his studio,
which in turn makes him late for a shoot with other models later in
the morning. He grows bored and walks off, leaving the models and
production staff in the lurch. As he leaves the studio, two teenage
girls who are aspiring models (Birkin and Hills) ask to speak with
him, but the photographer drives off to look at an antique shop.
Wandering into Maryon Park, he takes photos of two lovers. The woman
(Vanessa Redgrave) is furious at being photographed, pursues Thomas,
demands his film and ultimately tries to snatch his camera. He refuses
and photographs her as she runs off.
Thomas then meets his agent Ron (Peter Bowles) for lunch and notices a
man following him and looking into his car. Back at his studio, the
woman from the park arrives asking desperately for the film. They have
a conversation and flirt, but he deliberately hands her a different
film roll. She in turn writes down a false telephone number and gives
it to him. He, curious, makes many enlargements of the black and white
film of the two lovers. They reveal the woman worriedly looking at a
third person lurking in the trees with a pistol. Thomas excitedly
calls Ron, claiming his impromptu photo session may have saved a man's
life. Thomas is disturbed by a knock on the door, and it is the two
girls again, with whom he has a romp in his studio and falls asleep.
Awakening, he finds they hope he will photograph them, but he realizes
there may be more to the photographs in the park. He tells them to
leave, saying, "Tomorrow! Tomorrow!" Further examination of a blurred
figure under a bush makes Thomas suspect the man in the park may have
been murdered after all, during the time Thomas was arguing with the
woman around the bend.
As evening falls, the photographer goes back to the park and finds the
body of the man, but he has not brought his camera and is scared off
by the sound of a twig breaking, as if being stepped on. Thomas
returns to find his studio ransacked. All the negatives and prints are
gone except for one very grainy blowup of what is possibly the body.
After driving into town, he sees the woman and follows her into a club
where The Yardbirds, featuring both
Jimmy Page and
Jeff Beck on guitar
Keith Relf on vocals, are seen performing the song "Stroll On." A
buzz in Beck's amplifier angers him so much he smashes his guitar on
stage, then throws its neck into the crowd. A riot ensues. The
photographer grabs the neck and runs out of the club before anyone can
snatch it from him. Then he has second thoughts about it, throws it on
the pavement and walks away. A passer-by picks up the neck and throws
it back down, not realizing it is from Beck's guitar. Thomas never
locates the elusive woman.
At a drug-drenched party in a house on the Thames near central London,
the photographer finds Veruschka, who had told him that she was going
to Paris – when confronted, she says she is in Paris. Thomas asks
Ron to come to the park as a witness but cannot convince him of what
has happened because Ron is terrifically stoned. Instead Thomas joins
the party and wakes up in the house at sunrise. He returns to the park
alone only to find that the body is gone.
Befuddled, Thomas watches a mimed tennis match, is drawn into it,
picks up the imaginary ball and throws it back to the two players.
While he watches the mime, the sound of the ball being played is heard
and his image fades away, leaving only the grass as the film ends.
David Hemmings as Thomas
Vanessa Redgrave as Jane
Sarah Miles as Patricia
John Castle as Bill
Jane Birkin as The Blonde
Gillian Hills as The Brunette
Peter Bowles as Ron
Veruschka von Lehndorff
Veruschka von Lehndorff as herself
Julian Chagrin as Mime
Claude Chagrin as Mime
Susan Brodrick as Antique shop owner (uncredited)
Tsai Chin as Thomas's receptionist (uncredited)
Jill Kennington as Model (uncredited)
Peggy Moffitt as Model (uncredited)
Harry Hutchinson as Shopkeeper (uncredited)
Ronan O'Casey as Jane's lover in park (uncredited)
Reg Wilkins as Thomas's assistant (uncredited)
Several people known in 1966 are in the film; others became famous
later. The most widely noted cameo was by The Yardbirds, who perform
"Stroll On" in the last third. Antonioni first asked
Eric Burdon to
play that scene but he turned it down. As
Keith Relf sings, Jimmy Page
Jeff Beck play to either side, along with Chris Dreja. After his
guitar amplifier fails, Beck bashes his guitar to bits, as
The Who did
at the time. Antonioni had wanted
The Who in
Blowup as he was
fascinated by Pete Townshend's guitar-smashing routine. Steve Howe
of The In Crowd recalled, "We went on the set and started preparing
for that guitar-smashing scene in the club. They even went as far as
making up a bunch of Gibson 175 replicas ... and then we got dropped
for The Yardbirds, who were a bigger name. That's why you see Jeff
Beck smashing my guitar rather than his!" Antonioni also
The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground (signed at the time to a
division of MGM Records) in the nightclub scene, but, according to
guitarist Sterling Morrison, "the expense of bringing the whole
entourage to England proved too much for him".
Janet Street-Porter can be seen dancing in a silver coat and
Carnaby Street trousers during the scene inside the
nightclub. A pre-Python
Michael Palin can also be seen in the
motionless crowd watching the Yardbirds.
Place of murder – Maryon Park, London
The opening mimes were filmed on the Plaza of
The Economist Building
in St. James's Street, London, a project by 'New Brutalists'
Alison and Peter Smithson
Alison and Peter Smithson constructed between 1959–64. The scene in
which men leave The Spike was shot on Consort Road, Peckham. The
park scenes were at Maryon Park, Charlton, south-east London, and the
park is little changed since the film. The street with maroon
shopfronts is Stockwell Road and the shops belonged to motorcycle
dealer Pride & Clarke. Outside shots of the photographer's studio
were at 77 Pottery Lane, W11, and 39 Princes Place, W11. Photographer
Jon Cowan leased his studio at 39 Princes Place to Antonioni for much
of the interior and exterior filming, and Cowan's own photographic
murals are featured in the film.
The scene in which the photographer sees the mysterious woman from his
car and follows her was in Regent Street, London. He stops at Heddon
Street where the album cover of David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust was
later photographed. The exterior for the party scene towards the
end of the film was shot outside 100 Cheyne Walk, in Chelsea. The
interior, which is believed to be the same address, was shot in the
apartment of London antiques dealer Christopher Gibbs. The
restaurant on the corner where Hemmings stops is on Blacklands
Terrace, Chelsea SW3, where there is still a restaurant but no longer
the one used in the film. The scene in the reproduced
Yardbirds performing "Stroll On" – a modified version of
"Train Kept A-Rollin'" – was filmed at Elstree Studios, from 12 to
14 October 1966.
The film was distributed in North America by MGM shell company Premier
Pictures. Writing about Antonioni for Time in 2007, the film writer
Richard Corliss states that the film grossed "$20 million (about $120
million today) on a $1.8 million budget and helped liberate Hollywood
from its puritanical prurience".
According to Variety, the movie earned $5,900,000 in North American
rentals in 1967.
Andrew Sarris said the movie was "a mod masterpiece". In
Playboy magazine, film critic Arthur Knight wrote that
Blowup would be
"as important and seminal a film as Citizen Kane, Open City and
Hiroshima, Mon Amour
Hiroshima, Mon Amour – perhaps even more so".
Time magazine called the film a "far-out, uptight and vibrantly
exciting picture" that represented a "screeching change of creative
direction" for Antonioni; the magazine predicted it would "undoubtedly
be by far the most popular movie Antonioni has ever made".
Bosley Crowther, film critic of The New York Times, called it a
"fascinating picture, which has something real to say about the matter
of personal involvement and emotional commitment in a jazzed-up,
media-hooked-in world so cluttered with synthetic stimulations that
natural feelings are overwhelmed". Crowther had reservations,
describing the "usual Antonioni passages of seemingly endless
wanderings" as "redundant and long"; nevertheless, he called
"stunning picture – beautifully built up with glowing images and
color compositions that get us into the feelings of our man and into
the characteristics of the mod world in which he dwells". Even film
director Ingmar Bergman, who generally disliked Antonioni,
acknowledged its significance: "He's done two masterpieces, you don't
have to bother with the rest. One is Blow-Up, which I've seen many
times, and the other is La Notte, also a wonderful film, although
that's mostly because of the young Jeanne Moreau." Of the film's
Roger Ebert wrote in The Great Movies: "What remains is a
hypnotic conjuring act, in which a character is awakened briefly from
a deep sleep of bored alienation and then drifts away again. This is
the arc of the film. Not 'Swinging London.' Not existential mystery.
Not the parallels between what Hemmings does with his photos and what
Antonioni does with Hemmings. But simply the observations that we are
happy when we are doing what we do well, and unhappy seeking pleasure
elsewhere. I imagine Antonioni was happy when he was making this
Ebert also published a letter by actor Ronan O'Casey (dated 10th
February 1999) which claimed that the film's mysterious nature is the
product of an "unfinished" production, and that scenes which would
have "depict[ed] the planning of the murder and its aftermath --
scenes with Vanessa,
Sarah Miles and Jeremy Glover, Vanessa's new
young lover who plots with her to murder me -- were never shot because
the film went seriously over budget." Two scenes in particular
give credence to this theory: that in the restaurant when Ronan
O'Casey's character is seen apparently tampering with Thomas' car, and
the second when Ronan O'Casey and
Vanessa Redgrave are glimpsed
together in a Rover 2000 (which also appears elsewhere) following
Thomas' Rolls Royce.
MGM did not gain approval for the film under the
MPAA Production Code
in the United States. The film was condemned by the National
Legion of Decency. The code's collapse and revision was foreshadowed
when MGM released the film through a subsidiary distributor and Blowup
was shown widely in North American cinemas.
Date of ceremony
10 April 1967
Best Original Screenplay
Tonino Guerra and Edward Bond
British Academy Film Awards
Best British Film
Best Cinematography, Colour
Carlo Di Palma
Best Art Direction, Colour
Cannes Film Festival
27 April – 12 May 1967
Grand Prix du Festival International du Film
French Syndicate of Cinema Critics
Best Foreign Film
Golden Globe Awards
15 February 1967
Best English-Language Foreign Film
Best Foreign Director
National Society of Film Critics
In popular culture
While writing the screenplay of the thriller film The Conversation
(1974) – similar in plot in some way, but about sound recording
rather than photography –
Francis Ford Coppola
Francis Ford Coppola explained in the DVD
commentary to that film that he was inspired by Blow Up.
In the comedy film
High Anxiety (1977), directed by Mel Brooks, a
minor plot line involves a bumbling chauffeur who takes a picture
showing the evil assassin (wearing a latex mask of Brooks' character's
face) firing a gun at point-blank range at someone; he makes blow-ups
until he can see the real character, standing in the elevator in the
background. (Technically, the chauffeur does not make blow-ups; the
joke is that he simply makes bigger and bigger enlargements until he
has one the size of a wall.)
Blow Out (1981), directed by
Brian De Palma
Brian De Palma and starring John
Travolta, alludes to
Blowup and used sound recording rather than
photography as its motif.
Antonioni's film also inspired the
Bollywood film Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron
(1983), directed by Kundan Shah, in which two photographers
inadvertently capture the murder of a Bombay Municipal Commissioner on
their cameras and later discover this when the images are enlarged.
The park in which the murder occurs is named "Antonioni Park".
Both the film Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997), and
its sequel, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999), feature a
parody/homage to Veruschka's photo shoot in Blowup.
The romantic comedy film
I Could Never Be Your Woman
I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007) pays
homage to the scene from
Blowup in which Hemmings' character straddles
model Veruschka from above while taking her photograph – this time
Paul Rudd and Michelle Pfeiffer.
The original video for Seal's "Kiss from a Rose" (1994)[citation
needed] and the music video for Amerie's "Take Control" from the album
Because I Love It
Because I Love It (2007) were influenced by the film.
In the tenth episode of the third series of the
BBC programme, Monarch
of the Glen (2000–2005), Molly MacDonald (Susan Hampshire) clarifies
for her husband, Hector (Richard Briers), that it was Antonioni who
wanted her for
Blowup when she was a London model in the 1960s.
1966 in film
List of films featuring surveillance
^ a b c Corliss, Richard (5 August 2007). "When Antonioni Blew Up the
Movies". Time. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
^ One of the three stories comprising
I Vinti was set in London and
shot with wholly English dialogue.
^ Beltzer, Thomas (15 April 2005). "La Mano Negra:
Julio Cortázar and
His Influence on Cinema". Senses of Cinema. Archived from the original
on 28 October 2010. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
^ Forn, Juan. "El rectángulo en la mano".
Página 12 (in Spanish).
Retrieved 11 August 2017.
^ Brigitte Tast, Hans-Jürgen Tast: light room - dark room. Antonionis
"Blow-Up" und der Traumjob Fotograf, Kulleraugen Vis.Komm. Nr. 44,
Schellerten 2014, ISBN 978-3-88842-044-3
^ Goldberg, Joe. "Catching Action," Billboard, 1 May 1999.
^ Walter Ryce (2013-11-27). "Ethan Russell's seminal '60s rock photos
dazzle at Winfield Gallery in Carmel". montereycountyweekly.com.
^ a b firstname.lastname@example.org (snopes) (25 May 1993). "Re: The MPAA".
The Skeptic Tank. The Skeptic Tank. Retrieved 1 August 2012.
^ "Votes for
Blowup (1967)". British Film Institute. Retrieved January
^ PDN Legends Online: David Bailey. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
Yardbirds 1966 Blow Up," YouTube
^ Platt, John; Dreja, Chris; McCarty, Jim (1983). Yardbirds. Sidgwick
and Jackson (London). ISBN 978-0-283-98982-7.
^ Frame, Pete (1993). The Complete Rock Family Trees. Omnibus Press
(London; New York City). p. 55. ISBN 978-0-711-90465-1.
^ Bockris, Victor and Malanga, Gerard (1983). Uptight – The Velvet
Underground Story. Quill (New York). p. 67.
^ Hemmings, David. Blow-up and other exaggerations. p. 23.
^ Dennis, Jon (2011-11-24). "My favourite film: Blow-Up". The
Guardian. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
Simon R.H. James (2007). London Film Location Guide. Batsford
(London). p. 87. ISBN 978-0-713-49062-6.
^ a b James (2007) p. 169.
^ James (2007) p. 181.
Staff writer (10 September 2006). "On the Trail of the Swinging
Sixties – 'Blow-Up', Antonioni's Cult Film, Hit Our Screens 40 Years
Ago. Robert Nurden Goes in Search of the Places Used for Filming, from
Notting Hill to a Neglected Park in a Little-Known Corner of
South-East London". The Independent. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
^ Blow-up: John Hooton's Photography Blog. Retrieved 3 April 2011.
^ James (2007) p. 38.
^ "Heddon Street, London" The Ziggy Stardust Companion. Retrieved 25
^ The Telegraph, "Magical Memory Tour of London" by Rory Maclean.
Retrieved 3 April 2011.
^ Birnbaum, Larry (2012). Before Elvis: The Prehistory of Rock 'n'
Roll. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-8108-8629-2.
^ "Big Rental Films of 1967", Variety, 3 January 1968 p 25. Please
note these figures refer to rentals accruing to the distributors.
Blowup Defines Cool". filminfocus.com. 18 December
2008. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 25
Staff writer (30 December 1966). "Cinema: The Things Which Are Not
Seen". Time. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
^ a b Crowther, Bosley (19 December 1966). "Blow-Up". The New York
Times. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
^ Interview published in Sydsvenska Dagbladet. "Bergman on Film
Directors" at zakka.dk. Retrieved 25 December 2009.
^ Ebert, Roger (2002). The Great Movies. Broadway Books. p. 78.
^ "Antonioni's Corpse from "Blow-Up" speaks!". rogerebert.com. 10
February 1999. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
^ "THE 39TH ACADEMY AWARDS". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and
Sciences. 2015. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
^ "Film in 1968". British Academy of Film and Television Arts.
Retrieved 11 June 2017.
^ "Festival de Cannes: Blowup". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 8 March
Staff writer (19 May 1967). "People: May 19, 1967". Time. Retrieved
21 February 2011.
^ a b Passafiume, Andrea. "Blow-Up (1966), AWARDS AND HONORS". Turner
Classic Movies. Retrieved 11 June 2017.
^ "Blow-Up". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Retrieved 11 June
^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. Retrieved 11 June
^ Kael, Pauline (1984). "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Gadgeteer".
Taking It All In. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. p. 227.
Blow Out is a variation on Antonioni's
^ Sudip, Geetika (7 December 2007). "Of Naseeruddin Shah and
Michelangelo Antonioni …". The Hindu. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
Brunette, Peter (2005). DVD Audio Commentary (Iconic Films).
Hemmings, David (2004). Blow-Up… and Other Exaggerations – The
Autobiography of David Hemmings.
Robson Books (London).
Huss, Roy, ed. (1971). Focus on Blow-Up. Film Focus. New Jersey:
Prentice-Hall. p. 171. ISBN 978-0-13-077776-8.
Includes a translation of Cortázar's original short story.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Blow-Up
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Blowup (1966 film).
Blowup on IMDb
Blowup at the TCM Movie Database
Blowup at AllMovie
Blowup at Rotten Tomatoes
Where Did They Film That? — film entry
Peter Bowles on making of Blow-Up
Blowup Then & Now website
On the set of Antonioni's Blow-Up and how this film about a '60s
fashion photographer compared to the real thing.
Films directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Story of a Love Affair
Story of a Love Affair (1950)
I Vinti (1952)
The Lady Without Camelias
The Lady Without Camelias (1953)
Le Amiche (1955)
Il Grido (1957)
La Notte (1961)
Red Desert (1964)
Zabriskie Point (1970)
Chung Kuo, Cina (1972)
The Passenger (1975)
The Mystery of Oberwald
The Mystery of Oberwald (1981)
Identification of a Woman
Identification of a Woman (1982)
Beyond the Clouds (1995)
Lies of Love (1949)
"Attempted Suicide" in Love in the City (1953)
"The Screen Test" in
The Three Faces
The Three Faces (1965)
"The Dangerous Thread of Things" in Eros (2004)
Palme d'Or winning films
Union Pacific (1939)
Torment (Hets) (1946)
The Lost Weekend (1946)
The Red Meadows (1946)
Brief Encounter (1946)
María Candelaria (1946)
Neecha Nagar (1946)
The Turning Point (1946)
La Symphonie pastorale (1946)
The Last Chance (1946)
Men Without Wings (1946)
Rome, Open City
Rome, Open City (1946)
The Third Man
The Third Man (1949)
Miss Julie (1951)
Miracle in Milan
Miracle in Milan (1951)
The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice (1951)
Two Cents Worth of Hope
Two Cents Worth of Hope (1952)
The Wages of Fear
The Wages of Fear (1953)
Gate of Hell (1954)
The Silent World
The Silent World (1956)
Friendly Persuasion (1957)
The Cranes Are Flying
The Cranes Are Flying (1958)
Black Orpheus (1959)
La Dolce Vita
La Dolce Vita (1960)
The Long Absence
The Long Absence (1961)
O Pagador de Promessas
O Pagador de Promessas (1962)
The Leopard (1963)
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)
The Knack ...and How to Get It
The Knack ...and How to Get It (1965)
A Man and a Woman
A Man and a Woman (1966)
The Birds, the Bees and the Italians
The Birds, the Bees and the Italians (1966)
The Go-Between (1971)
The Working Class Goes to Heaven
The Working Class Goes to Heaven (1972)
The Mattei Affair
The Mattei Affair (1972)
The Hireling (1973)
The Conversation (1974)
Chronicle of the Years of Fire
Chronicle of the Years of Fire (1975)
Taxi Driver (1976)
Padre Padrone (1977)
The Tree of Wooden Clogs
The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
The Tin Drum (1979)
All That Jazz (1980)
Man of Iron (1981)
The Ballad of Narayama (1983)
Paris, Texas (1984)
When Father Was Away on Business (1985)
The Mission (1986)
Under the Sun of Satan (1987)
Pelle the Conqueror
Pelle the Conqueror (1988)
Sex, Lies, and Videotape
Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)
Wild at Heart (1990)
Barton Fink (1991)
The Best Intentions
The Best Intentions (1992)
Farewell My Concubine (1993)
The Piano (1993)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Secrets & Lies (1996)
Taste of Cherry
Taste of Cherry (1997)
The Eel (1997)
Eternity and a Day
Eternity and a Day (1998)
Dancer in the Dark
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
The Son's Room
The Son's Room (2001)
The Pianist (2002)
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
The Child (2005)
The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)
The Class (2008)
The White Ribbon
The White Ribbon (2009)
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)
The Tree of Life (2011)
Blue Is the Warmest Colour
Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013)
Winter Sleep (2014)
I, Daniel Blake (2016)
The Square (2017)