- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2006

OK, ‘60s art-movie buffs.

Identify those scruffy young guitar-slingers in the London Mod-rock scene in Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Blow-Up.”

If you answered Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck, here’s a virtual pat on the back.

Were the Yardbirds the first rock band to play themselves in a feature film, a la the Red Hot Chili Peppers in “Tough Guys” and My Morning Jacket in “Elizabethtown“?

Beats me.

I’m also not sure whether “Blow-Up,” an ambiguous murder mystery set in Swinging London, is such a classic. The period kitsch very nearly overwhelms Antonioni’s attempt to show a society decaying, Daniel Bell-style, from affluence and loosening moral norms. Productivity has given way to ennui.

Pauline Kael wrote in the New Republic at the time of the movie’s 1966 release that Antonioni was a kind of irresponsible closet moralizer: “In some terrible way that I suppose could be called Antonioni’s genius, he complains of dehumanization in a dehumanized way, and it becomes part of noninvolvement to accept a movie like this as a ‘chronicle of our time.’”

But Roger Ebert gave it a frame-by-frame scouring a few years ago in Charlottesville and concluded that if you look at the movie outside of its specific cultural context — the one that Mike Myers lampooned so brilliantly — “it emerges as a great film, if not the one we thought we were seeing at the time. … Antonioni uses the materials of a suspense thriller without the payoff. He places them within a London of heartless fashion photography, groupies, bored rock audiences, languid pot parties, and a hero whose dead soul is roused briefly by a challenge to his craftsmanship.”

I, at any rate, was roused briefly by the Yardbirds’ “Stroll On,” the clip of which, by the way, you can view here.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times is switching its third-party commenting system from Disqus to Spot.IM. You will need to either create an account with Spot.im or if you wish to use your Disqus account look under the Conversation for the link "Have a Disqus Account?". Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide