This much-fêted 1966 film by Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni (b. 29 September 1912, Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna, Italy, d. 30 July 2007). was an ironic homage to ‘swinging London’, in which David Hemmings starred as a successful photographer, the character loosely modelled on David Bailey and Terence Donovan. Emotionally detached at the outset, Hemmings later becomes obsessed by a series of seemingly casual shots of a couple on Maryion Park in Woolwich, south London (for many years it was assumed to be Hampstead Heath). When one of the subjects, played by Vanessa Redgrave, goes to great lengths to retrieve the negatives, he makes several ‘blow-ups’ of one frame in which he perceives the image of a corpse. He returns to the scene - no body is found - and all shreds of ‘evidence’ are later removed from his studio. He absent-mindedly wanders into a London club before encountering a group of mime artists playing tennis. At one point they ask Hemmings to throw back their ‘ball’, the noise of which becomes audible as he walks away. Blowup poses questions about reality to telling effect but musicologists revere the film for a cameo appearance by the Yardbirds. The rare Jeff Beck / Jimmy Page line-up is featured as a guitar-smashing group, a part rejected by the Who. They perform ‘Stroll On’ to an expressionless audience that becomes frenzied when Beck throws the remains of his instrument to them. Hemmings escapes with this totem, then throws it away, whereupon passers-by examine the object only to deem it worthless. ‘Stroll On’ is featured on an accompanying soundtrack album, which is completed by contributions from jazz musician Herbie Hancock. The soundtrack adds tonal colour to one of the most fascinating films of its, or any other, era.
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