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This Week on Blu-ray: ‘Blow-Up’ and ‘Silence’

865_BD_box_348x490_originalThe very act of looking at something — like a photograph — changes it. The closer you look, the more enlarged the image becomes, the more you may see, but you’ll also be losing something in the process. The clear becomes grainy. What was once easily defined becomes a blur. This reality haunts Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up, now on Blu-ray from Criterion. Antonioni’s swinging mod thriller is an existential nightmare that doesn’t tip its hand. Opening with a gaggle of face-painted bohemians cavorting through the streets of London, Blow-Up settles on David Hemmings’ very hip fashion photographer. We follow him throughout his day, where he flirts with and straddles one model then berates and bullies others. There’s a sense here that Blow-Out isn’t really about anything, not that we mind — the film’s mod style coupled with a jazzy score from Herbie Hancock make for enjoyable-enough viewing. But when Hemmings’ photog character strolls through a park and takes some snapshots of a man and woman embracing, Blow-Out shifts into paranoid thriller mode. The woman (Vanessa Redgrave) follows Hemmings back to his studio, demanding he give her the photos he took. A game of flirtation begins, and it’s only later that Hemmings learns why Redgrave was so hard-up to get her hands on his photos: he may have accidentally photographed a murder.

One can’t watch Blow-Up without thinking of all the films it inspired, most notably Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation and Brian De Palma’s Blow Up, which are both variations on this same story. But Coppola and De Palma’s films are more narratively inclined, whereas Antonioni is more content to let things drift. This is yet another must-own release from Criterion, loaded with interesting special features, including insightful interviews that reveal info like how Antonioni’s inspiration drawn from the famous Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination.

Special Features:

  • New, restored 4K digital transfer, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
  • New pieces about director Michelangelo Antonioni’s artistic approach, featuring photography curators Walter Moser and Philippe Garner and art historian David Alan Mellor
  • Blow Up of “Blow Up,” a 2016 documentary on the making of the film
  • Conversation from 2016 between Garner and actor Vanessa Redgrave
  • Archival interviews with Antonioni and actors David Hemmings and Jane Birkin
  • Trailers
  • PLUS: A book featuring an essay by film scholar David Forgacs, an updated 1966 account of the film’s shooting by Stig Björkman, the questionnaires the director distributed to photographers and painters while developing the film, and the 1959 Julio Cortázar short story on which the film is loosely based

Taken from our theatrical review of Silence:

A14Kq-htpyL._SX342_“My whole life has been movies and religion,” Martin Scorsese once said. Silence, Scorsese’s latest film, is the filmmaker’s word made flesh, the culmination of the master director’s work. More than a movie, Silence is a journey, a reflection on faith, a spiritual assault. This is a passion project for Scorsese — a film he’s been developing since 1990. But it’s also the film he was always meant to make. In some respects, it’s essentially the film he’s always been making: a film about suffering and pain driven by personal belief.

Adapted from the novel by Shūsaku Endō, Silence opens on two 17th-century Jesuit priests, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver), learning of the worrisome fate of their mentor Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson). Father Ferreira had traveled to Japan on missionary work only to meet with brutal resistance from the Japanese government. Ferreria is believed to have apostatized, renouncing his faith to live, take a wife, and be one of the Japanese. Rodrigues and Garrpe refuse to accept this, declaring it little more than rumor. But, they reason, if it is true, that means Ferreria is damned, and it’s up to them to save the man and his soul.

Silence does not want to answer questions. It does not want to proclaim the one true faith, whatever that may be. It wants its audience, like Rodrigues, to suffer and to question — and to be prepared to never hear an answer to that question. There is beauty in Silence, and there is devastation. There is a remarkable, seemingly never-ending search for the heart of faith and belief, and not be afraid of what is, or is not, found. It is Scorsese at the very height of his power. It will shake you to the core. Like a true religious experience, you will be in awe of what you’ve witnessed.

Special Features:

  • Feature film in high definition
  • Bonus Content:
    • Martin Scorsese’s Journey into Silence

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Chris Evangelista is the Executive Editor of Cut Print Film & co-host of the Cut Print Film Podcast. He also contributes to /Film, The Film Stage, Birth.Movies.Death, The Playlist, Paste Magazine, Little White Lies and O-Scope Musings. 'The House on Creep Street' and 'Beware the Monstrous Manther!', two horror books for young readers Chris co-authored with J. Tonzelli, are available wherever books are sold. You can follow him on Twitter @cevangelista413 and view his portfolio at chrisevangelista.net

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