Blow-Up + The Passenger

Blow-Up – 7:30pm
Using mid-sixties swingin’ London as its simultaneously dazzling and desolate stage, Antonioni’s first English language film was a box office smash: its mixture of au courant fashion and music, genre trappings, envelope-pushing luridness (rumours buzzed that you could see flashes of pubic hair in the ménage à trois scene featuring a young Jane Birkin), and arthouse modernity were just right for a new emerging audience — one “open-minded” enough (i.e. stoned) to love his enigmatic and dense imagery.  In short, it was sexy, cool, and a real mind-blower.  In the ingenious plot (inspiring both Argento’s Deep Red and De Palma’s Blow Out), David Hemmings plays Thomas, a high-profile fashion photographer who fills his days with snapping preening dollybirds and yawningly wandering the city, until his misanthropic ennui is shaken when he believes he may have accidentally photographed a murder.  With music from Herbie Hancock and the Yardbirds (who appear in one of the film’s more surreal satirical moments), sumptuous photography by Carlo di Palma and a continuing mastery of color (the grass of the film’s pivotal park was painted to achieve the right shade of green), Blow-Up stands as Antonioni’s biggest crossover commercial success.
Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966, 35mm, 110 min.

The Passenger – 9:45pm
Amongst the vast red bleakness of hellish Saharan Africa, the grey architectural wonders of Barcelona and the lush greens of London, Antonioni’s trademark visual mastery of exploring man’s emotional relationship to his environment is expanded to a global scale in The Passenger. In the director’s final flirtation with Hollywood, Jack Nicholson plays a weary journalist who swaps identities with a freshly-deceased arms dealer in order to escape the inner hell of his previous life — without care as to the hairy consequences such a move creates. Dropping all vestiges of his “ultimate movie star” persona, Nicholson loses himself completely in a perfectly rendered feature-length slo-mo scream of despair, as he bounces from country to country, acquiring the beautiful Maria Schneider (Last Tango In Paris) as an erstwhile companion along the way to his impeccably-photographed oblivion. Reducing suspense to a minimum, while employing sly, almost-subliminal editing and architectural camera moves (including the finale: one of cinema’s great extending tracking shots), Antonioni has crafted a curious and satisfying take on the “international political thriller”, transforming a typical genre exercise into a subdued, sublime travelogue of existential crisis.
Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975, 35mm, 126 min.

Watch the trailer for “Blow-Up”!
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Watch the trailer for “The Passenger”!
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