Tuesday, May 13, 2014

It's a Mod, Mod, Mod, Mod World

Despite its place as one of the most influential films of the 60s, I have never gotten into or particularly enjoyed Michelangelo Antonioni's 1966 film Blow-Up. I watched it years ago when I was trying to self-educate myself with film history, feeling that the film was required viewing. But as it dragged on and my mind began to drift further and further away from the film (how do you make a murder plot seem dull?!), I was completely unimpressed. And by the time the pantomime tennis game closed out the film (which, honestly, that scene feels like a SNL parody of an art house film), I was overcome with a relief that it was finally over. But also glad that I could say I had seen it. My roommate turned to me when it finished asking, "Why did we just watch that?"

The film feels very much like a snapshot of Swinging London in the 60s (insert your Austin Powers impression here) and I'm sure felt very revolutionary for its day. And compared to the academically-stuffy Best Picture winner that year, A Man For All Seasons, I'm sure it felt like they were seeing Spring Breakers. I've read a theory that the reason it was so popular was because of the promise of nudity and (more importantly) there were no subtitles to sit through to see them. I guess before the internet made boobs just a google search away, you had to find them any which way you could.

So when Nathaniel at The Film Experience chose it for this week's movie for Hit Me With Your Best Shot, I saw it as an opportunity to re-examine it. I was willing to give the film another shot. After all, I was so much younger then. What did I really know about what makes a great film anyway? Going in with an open mind, I quickly found that my opinion on the film has not changed. It still feels tedious, meandering, and the unengaging photographer character at its center is misogynistic and so over it all, that why should we even bother ourselves? I know there's more lurking beneath its surface, but I just can't seem to bring myself to see it for more than its face value.

Which is a little ironic considering the thing makes the biggest impression on me are the crazy Mod fashions and glossy photo shoots. With the success and style of Mad Men over the past couple years, it seems we've been having a bit of a 60s fashion love-in again. And the clothes in this movie do not disappoint. They're certainly a lot more high-fashion than anything that Peggy would dare to wear to the office.

The film also co-stars a genuine fashion icon, Jane Birkin, as one of the two girls infatuated with David Hemmings' photographer character. (She's the blonde one.) Jane would later become  famous when she married French singer Serge Gainsbourg and she's also the mother of actress/singer Charlotte Gainsbourg. But her greatest contribution to the fashion world is as the namesake of one fashion's most coveted items, the Hermès Birkin bag. A handbag so exclusive in its status-symboldom, that there's a years-long waiting list to purchase it.

So of course my Best Shot had to be this beautifully composed shot that captures my favorite element of the film: the period's outlandish high-fashion looks.

Although it is more than just a simple glamor shot. As the models are staggered further and further away with the pane of glass between each of them, it begins to mimic later in the film when the photographer begins to repeatedly blowup some photos he took. Copies of copies as they become closer and closer and more unique and distinct. The dividers also show how he looks at the world through a glass, giving him a distance between discovering the reality right in front of him. And with the camera in the shot, which is almost a character in the film itself, it's as if we as the audience are looking through his lens. Seeing what he sees.

Like that fabulously tasty striped number...

1 comment:

  1. Such an informative post! I had no idea about the Charlotte Gainsbourg connection and the Birkin bag. Totally agree that the fashion is a highlight of the film.