Just prior to the interruption, he seemed to have found evidence of a murder, or at least an attempt at one, with a gun emerging from the shrubbery and a body in the grass. After a frolic with the aspirants and a quick nap, he foists them off with a suggestion there might be a chance to photograph them tomorrow, returns to the park and finds the body . It’s well into the twilight and he is spooked by a breaking twig. Returning to the studio, he finds that the place has been ransacked, and the results of his afternoon’s efforts are gone. 

Searching for someone to confide in he sights the woman again, sets out to follow her, finding his way into the RickyTick club, where the twin-lead Beck/Page Yardbirds are playing. From there he finds his way to a party in a house where he tries to persuade his agent to return to the park as a witness but a combination of inability to communicate what he's unearthed and the lure of herbal recreation brings him undone. Waking in the post-party debris the following morning, he returns to the park where the body is, predictably gone..

While it's possible to extrapolate all sorts of philosophical, artistic and cultural constructs from the themes that run through that plot line, in the end Blow-Up works as well as it does because it succeeds in capturing the look and feel of mid-sixties London. Much of that is due to the fact that Antonioni spent a good twelve months in London before he started shooting the film, and conducted extensive field research while he set things up for the shoot, including a six-page questionnaire that he distributed to a number of fashion photographers and their acquaintances. Interestingly, the script for the film, which ran to a mere thirty-two pages (it's hardly dialogue-heavy) was carefully and scrupulously stripped of anything that might date it too specifically, and in doing that the writers have ensured that they've nailed the essence of the era.

The scene that Thomas moves through wasn't a large one. Everything I've read about swinging London suggests there were probably less than a couple of hundred active participants, and observers have repeatedly remarked one of the wonders of events like the Albert Hall poetry reading or The 14 Hour Technicolour Dream benefit concert for the International Times on 29 April 1967 was the realisation that there were so many like-minded people out there.  

That didn't, however, mean that the people out there were going to get access to a closed scene, and out there didn't just extend across the rest of the British Isles, thanks to a mass media that was just starting to go global, it reached as far as suburban Townsville. As it stretched, of course, it was accompanied by the obligatory fab, gear and groovy epithets disk jockeys, sub-editors and advertising executives deemed necessary if they were going to convey a sense of their own hipness.

Hipness, however, isn't something you can put on like a Carnaby Street skirt or shirt. You've either got it or you haven't, and if you haven't any attempt to acquire same is likely to attract a withering response from those who have.

"Get rid of that bag," Thomas tells one of the prospective models. "It's diabolical."


© Ian L Hughes 2021