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A successful mod photographer in London whose world is bounded by fashion, pop music, marijuana, and easy sex, feels his life is boring and despairing. Then he meets a mysterious beauty, and also notices something frightfully suspicious on one of his photographs of her taken in a park. The fact that he may have photographed a murder does not occur to him until he studies and then blows up his negatives, uncovering details, blowing up smaller and smaller elements, and finally putting the puzzle together. Written by
Antonioni was not a director that worried too much about people completely understanding his films. In fact I'd bet that he actually hoped they didn't understand everything. So I did not find it strange or surprising when after finishing the movie I felt quite confused. But the movie made me think for a very long time, which in my opinion is what a good film should do. There are so many aspects to this film that if you give them a chance and think about them, they will keep you reeling for hours on possible interpretations. The first and probably most important aspect of this film dealt with love. From what I have seen of his films, love is Antonioni's favorite subject. But this love was different than that of past films; it is much more shallow and un-centered. Thomas, the photographer, is surrounded by women, he goes from one to the next without thinking twice, treating them like dogs the entire time. But he can do this and get away with it because he is a famous photographer and can make the women what they all desperately want to be, Beautiful. For The first half of the movie I honestly did not like his character whatsoever. Whereas in the past the director has chosen mainly to explore the ups and downs of married life, or the problems of being hopelessly devoted to one person, he now points the camera at the single, care free, over sexed, youth of the sixties. Half an hour into the movie I found myself wondering what the heart of the film was going to be. We were introduced to Thomas and his world, but there seemed to be no conflict driving the story forward. Then came the quasi-murder mystery. This is what is really interesting and unique about this film in my opinion. Antonioni for a while leads us to believe that the movie is going to turn into some suspense thriller, or murder mystery, but never seems to quite get there. He has all the elements ready to go, but never follows through with them. He introduces this alluring and mysterious woman who is in on the murder and then never brings her back. The murder victim is discovered, but his identity is never revealed, nor a motive given for his murder. Thomas, after a very energetic and exciting photo investigation seems to not really care too much as to what happens with the investigations results, only telling a couple of his friends who couldn't care less. Antonioni seems to have used this whole murder mystery convention as some sort of glue to hold the rest of the real story together. The story of a mindless, beauty obsessed, celebrity idolizing, drug addicted, and violence obsessed culture. Probably my favorite scene in the film is after fighting over the piece of broken guitar with the other fans; Thomas just discards his prize as garbage. Something that kept bugging me was the antique shop. I kept wondering what in the world it had to do with anything in the movie; it stuck out like a sore thumb. But I knew it that there was some major purpose or explanation for its existence in the film, and then it just kind of clicked. Upon his first entry into the Antique store Thomas encounters an angry old man who we eventually find out is not the stores real owner, the true owner is a beautiful young woman who is planning to sell the old place and travel the world in search of something new. All this stuff she owns, the gold of past cultures, is old and useless now. She has a hard time making a living because nobody wants the stuff any longer. Here is where I think Antonioni's major message is hidden: That is the way life is, it moves on constantly, things change, people die, cultures evolve and the only thing that remains in the end is nature itself. Antonioni finishes the film beautifully, Thomas stands alone in a large field of grass, the only thing heard is the wind and the trees, as the camera backs away slowly, he disappears leaving nothing but the grass blowing in the wind, for like all the antiques and all the people that created them in the past, eventually Thomas's life will end and so will the current popular culture in which he takes part. Change is life's only constant.
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