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  • I'm watching - again - Michelangelo Antonioni's "Blow-Up", that endlessly fascinating slice of contrived mid-1960's swinging living. Fascinating not least because its contrivance, quite deliberate in concept, somehow seems more real and exemplary of the period than many other 1960s films, particularly those of the New Wave 'kitchen sink' ilk ("This Sporting Life", "Up The Junction", "A Taste of Honey" etc.).

    This time around, I noticed that one scene, shot in an antique shop, had drifted out of focus. Just a few seconds, and probably a mistake. Presumably he kept the scene in because it was more important to have it than to cut it, and certainly it feels right. But it's not something I had noticed up to now, and probably never would have if this was a lesser film, one I did not feel the urge to watch again and again and again.

    But again and again, I do watch it. Which, considering the film is about ways of seeing, what we perceive and what is or is not real, seems strangely apt. Not least because one ten minute scene involves the protagonist, an unnamed photographer loosely based on David Bailey, as he progressively enlarges a negative until he witnesses what looks like a murder. Or is it simply imagining derived from the film grain? This is just one of the levels of ambiguity explored.

    But why was I drawn to this film again today? Two separate events. Firstly, I watched the new (2011) film of John le Carré's "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy", a moody but ultimately unsatisfactory attempt to condense le Carré's complex plot into a feature length film. Seeing "Blow-Up" again revealed, again, the huge gulf between inspiration and the merely workmanlike.

    Secondly, I found myself drifting into one these conversations about art that occasionally spring up on some of the photography discussion boards that I subscribe to. As often seems to happen, the discussion split into two camps. A photograph, a scene of an overgrown garden, was presented by artist Robert Stanley as a subject for discussion. As the image demonstrably fails to adhere to the conventional standards of popular photography, it was treated with disdain or incomprehension by the majority of commentators.

    I liked it, though. It was peaceful and contemplative, underlaid with subtle structure. It made me think of approaches to photography that are outside the usual, the approaches that one sees in art museums and not on popular photography sites.

    Those two stimuli were enough to send me to the cupboard where I keep my DVDs and pull out "Blow-Up".

    Once again, I was in Paris.

    Or not.

    If you don't know already just what I mean by that, watch the film.
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