20th August 2012
Well film clubbers,
Last night, on a very sultry* night in Battersea, we were taken back to the swinging sixties by Comrade Helen R. In a move cunningly designed to get her an award at the next FAFTAs**, Helen chose Blow-Up, one of the few English language films by Italian director Michaelangelo Antonioni. The film covers 24 hours in the life of photographer Thomas, who is shaken out of the ennui he feels with his life of beautiful models, velvet jackets and random antique purchases by an encounter with a mysterious woman in a park and the possibility that he may have inadvertently photographed a murder. Antonioni started out making films in the Italian neo-realist mould but moved on to other genres as he evolved as a film maker. Certain comrades would do well to learn from his example.***
Thomas was played by David Hemmings, who experienced acting success in the sixties and went on to release an acid-folk-rock album before settling on directing various classic TV programmes of the eighties such as The A-Team, Magnum P.I. and Quantum Leap.**** The mysterious woman was played by Vanessa Redgrave, of the famous Redgrave acting dynasty.*****
The film has become a cult classic, although its early success is probably down to the fact that it contained previously unheard of scenes of female nudity in direct violation of the Production Code. The Production Code fell out of use 2 years after the release of Blow-Up, and the film and its success are considered to have played a pivotal role in bringing about its demise. Certain fascists certainly enjoyed the return of prolonged exposure to cinematic boobs, something not experienced since the days of Comrade Helen P. The exposure of so much Mod flesh was very much helped by the fact that women in the sixties didn’t seem to wear any underwear. Lucy very intelligently pointed out that this was because they had burned all their bras, but we still aren’t sure what happened to their pants.******
Modern film goers may not realise it but they are still watching films influenced by Blow-Up today, most recently through the send-up of Thomas’ photographic style by Mike Myers as Austin Powers. We were all disappointed that Matt wasn’t there to tell us whether it is true that the lives of photographers are essentially meaningless, as the film seemed to suggest.
We all agreed that it was really noticeable that there was much more silence in the film than we are used to in the modern age of sound effects, soundtracks and endless dialogue. It is perhaps rather strange then that this film has a famous soundtrack written and performed by jazz legend Herbie Hancock.******* What was also extremely odd was the behaviour of the crowd during a scene at a gig by the Yardbirds. Apparently only Janet Street-Porter and a chap in red trousers were allowed to dance to it.
For those of you who were desperately trying to work out where in London everything was filmed, here are the facts as nicked directly from Wikipedia:
The opening mimes were filmed on the Plaza of The Economist Building in Piccadilly, London, a project by ‘New Brutalists‘ 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. 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. 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 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 next time we meet, dear brothers and sisters, will be for our special big screen outing on the 10th September, and the next logical date after that will be the 1st October. If everyone is happy with that, we can put it in the diary with Di as host.
THIS IS NOT A DEMOCRACY
*We later discovered that there was, in fact, the option of air conditioning!
**I think there is definitely a case for a special award to be created this year: the Award for Dedication to MNFC, given for hosting a film club whilst in the middle of treatment for a serious illness! The shortlist for this award will be…well…short. Not sure which dictator it would be named after though. Unfortunately Fidel Castro already has one named after him.
***You know who you are.
****There was much discussion about all the people David Hemmings looked like: Michael Pitt, and someone else whose name I can’t remember. A quick Google search has also thrown up Rik Mayall and the singer from the Kaiser Chiefs.
******Those of you with smutty minds will have noticed a shop called Permutit in one of the street scenes. Sadly for you, I must reveal that this company was involved in the mundane production of water treatment systems.
*******Interesting trivia – The bassline to the piece “Bring Down the Birds” was sampled by Deee-Lite for their 1990 single “Groove is in the Heart.” My other favourite piece of trivia is that the Rolls Royce Thomas drives around in belonged to Jimmy Savile.