The Siren indulged in a bit of comfort movie viewing over the weekend as she fought off a terrifying Ragweed Pollen Invasion. In this case, the movie was Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup (1966).
Unfortunately, her initial comfort evaporated soon after seeing her new DVD.
The Siren just never tires of the look of this movie. The fashions, the glimpses of London, the way the main character's studio/flat is decorated; it all looks great, still. Time hasn't been entirely kind to this film, once the coolest of art flicks. The Siren thinks the main problem is that a lot of its devices have been recycled so often by lesser filmmakers that they make even this, the original, seem stale. But there are many reasons to see Blowup, aside from its place in history. There's the cast, an amazing eyeful of what made Sixties London swing. Feast your eyes on Verushka, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles, Jane Birkin and, most of all, then-gorgeous David Hemmings. He is in almost every scene, and the Siren readily admits that for her, he's a big part of the film's appeal.
The famous scenes hold up very well--from Hemmings photographing a writhing Verushka, then collapsing after the session climaxes, to Redgrave trying to seduce her way into getting the roll of film, to the series of scenes from which the movie gets its name.
Maybe it no longer seems revolutionary. But here in 2005, every other TV show is a makeover program, and magazines are stuffed with photos of celebrities whose looks we scrutinize in minutest detail. And here from 1966 is a movie with a dazzling surface, that still insists on telling the audience that surfaces are just that.
It was wonderful to curl up on the couch and get re-acquainted with this one. The Siren saw it about 20 years ago, at the Thalia, if memory serves. She rented it on VHS a couple of times subsequently. Ah, the pleasures of a DVD. Crisp picture, glorious color, good sound in the club scene. (Jimmy Page looked awfully handsome in his Yardbirds days, didn't he?)
But something was nagging at the Siren. She was embarrassed to admit it. It seemed rather gauche to be actually looking for them. But hey ...
She could have sworn she saw Vanessa Redgrave's breasts the first time she viewed Blowup. And Jane Birkin full-frontal in that so-called orgy scene, too.
Gosh, guess that's another aspect of the movie's greatness, huh? Antonioni, like Hitchcock with Psycho, makes you think you saw bits where there weren't any bits to be seen. The Siren shut off the player, went off to browse film sites and IMDB before writing up her impressions. And she followed one link, and then another, until she came across this.
Which made her madder than Bette Davis at a Joan Crawford tribute.
What the hell?
No, excuse me, let me rephrase that.
What the FUCKING hell is going on here?
This film, a landmark by any meaningful definition of the term, got snipped, stripped and re-framed by some nameless Pecksniffs who-knows-when. And Warner Brothers went back to do this DVD, which is supposed to be some kind of goddamned definitive edition, and either knowingly or unknowingly used a Bowdlerized negative.
If I could find the imbecile who cut up this movie, I would make him eat the DVD, case and all, and feed him the stupid cellophane wrapper and those annoying sticky-tape labels for dessert.
Blockbuster, among others, rents out versions of NC-17 movies that have been cut down to an R. And some people have tried to tell me that this is merely an example of the marketplace at work. After all, who does it hurt if someone out in East Bra Strap, Texas, can see a sanitized version of Henry and June, goes the reasoning. It isn't like they just tossed the footage, like with The Magnificent Ambersons. There's a full version around somewhere. Right?
WRONG. You let the sniveling, fatuous censors have at something once, even once, and before you know it, you don't know which goddamned negative is which, or which print you are seeing. Who knows how long this Cuisinart version has been circulating. Who knows whether I ever saw Redgrave's breasts, or a complete print of Blowup at all.
Please excuse the Siren's unladylike language. She had to get this all off her chest, before writing a calm, rational, well-phrased and entirely G-rated letter to Warner Brothers DVD. See you again soon.