Blowup is very difficult to watch partly because I can’t empathize with the protagonist but mostly due to its unconventional storytelling. Here is an arrogant fashion photographer who makes the models do what he pleases. He secretly takes pictures of two lovers and when he develops those pictures, he realizes that he has witnessed a man’s murder. There are mimes running in the streets and playing an imaginary tennis game. The photographer buys a propeller from an antique shop. A band plays, their audience standing motionless. All these events make sense if we view them separately but combining them altogether creates a headache-causing, thought-provoking and frustrating movie to watch.
It is the kind of movie that I would never go see twice. It is also one that has the most interesting character focus. As the photographer, Thomas has control over the models. He knows it and exercise them to full extent. In the studio, he is king. He also owns the camera and the film it contains that is why despite the woman’s pleading and ‘bargaining’, he won’t give them up. When he realizes he has just captured a man’s murder in film, he looks more excited than shocked. I want him to stumble upon more clues and discoveries but he doesn’t and the way I see it, he doesn’t really care. His main concern is the photographs. When they get stolen and he sees the woman again, he tries to find her because he wants the pictures themselves – not the woman’s motives, not the deceased man’s identity, not even the back story. And this is why the film is frustrating and fascinating at the same time. We don’t see a protagonist transforming from an asshole to a hero. He doesn’t discover any more clues, and the film seems content in giving him that resolution.
Much of Blowup‘s appeal lies in throwing random stuff without feeling the need to explain why. Nevertheless, it seems to me a movie no matter how frustrating and inexplicable can be, wants to get understood but not in a singular way. The movie doesn’t give any connection between Thomas’ predicament and the mimes running noisily and playing tennis. All of them are in the same frame in both instances. It must be some symbolism, and it makes us think what they meant? The propeller also seem out of place if we look at the murder mystery as the film’s centerpiece. Because of its size, one cannot help but contemplate on the propeller’s role. But the object is abandoned once the film shifts its focus to the murder. The scene wherein a band plays inside a building and the audience, except two, are all motionless and emotionless is another irresistibly unforgettable scene but honestly speaking, doesn’t make sense at all. It is funny but it interrupts Thomas’ investigation and makes us think. Really hard.
More than anything else, watching Blowup teaches me that I must not let my expectations mess with my viewing experience. In general, films want to be seen. Even if they do, sometimes they just ignore the viewers’ expectations of what a movie should be.