A director is in charge of making sure pretty much every creative aspect of the film completes his vision. He takes a screenplay and brings it to life while bringing out performances from actors, styles from cinematographers, sets and artistic elements from production designers, music and sound elements from composers and sound designers, and using these factors amongst so many others to fulfill his vision for the film as a whole. He decides what the film will feel like in terms of tone and style to the audience, as well as the message that the film will convey, while perhaps following certain trends, genres, etc. Michelangelo Antonioni, the director, or rather the auteur of Blow-up (1966) brings a story about an oddball photographer in London to life with his seemingly unorthodox or eccentric choices throughout the making of this film. He discusses this along with his techniques as a director in an interview with Charles Thomas Samuels. There are a lot of points about various factors of the making of Blow-up that Antonioni mentions in this interview that I think play a major part in his unique style of directing.
First, Antonioni mentions, “When I am shooting a film I never think of how I want to shoot something; I simply shoot it. My technique, which differs from film to film, is wholly instinctive and never based on a priori considerations.” He later continues, “Blow-up is my most unorthodox film…it is unorthodox in montage, as well as photography. At the Centro Sperimentale they teach you never to cut a shot during its action. Yet I continually do that in Blow-up. Hemmings starts walking to a phone booth-snip go a few frames-in a flash, he is there. Or take the scene in which he photographs Verushka; I cut many frames during that action, doing what the teachers at the Centro regard as utterly scandalous.” He continues, “I wanted to give the audience the same sensations as the photographer feels while shooting. However, this sort of thing is fairly common in the cinema today. I began taking liberties a long time ago; now it is standard practice for most directors to ignore the rules.” Antonioni makes some substantial and valid points in his interview, and these points seem to play into the entire style of the film. Blow-up and all of its characters, sets, its dialogue, its cinematography, everything down to its core message and the way all of these factors piece together, creates something that most audiences have a hard time taking in at first glance. It’s not something that we are used to seeing. It’s a European art form with which common audiences struggle to connect because its missing a straightforward narrative, it deals with a lot of touchy topics including sex, nudity, drugs, etc. (at least for the time it was made), its very abstract and hard to logically analyze, it sets up plot points that later go nowhere, and its characters are incredibly complex – I could go on at least another five pages.
So, what are we getting at here? Does Antonioni’s approach to directing work? It certainly works from an artistic and analytical point of view; from a mainstream, entertainment-hungry point of view, maybe not so much. Whether Antonioni’s method clashes with that of other directors or not, his uniqueness certainly works for a certain style of films, and it is certainly prevalent in Blow-up, no matter how much one likes it or dislikes it.