Blowup

Discussion in 'Film Discussion and Q & A' started by Actor, Feb 25, 2010.

  1. Actor

    Actor TPF Noob!

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    Last week Turner Classic Movies showed the 1966 movie Blowup. It's been one of my favorite movies ever since its release but there's one thing that's always bugged me about it. In the movie the protagonist accidentally photographs a murder, but he does not discover it until after he has made a really big print. I think the photo was taken with a 35mm camera but it's kind of hard to tell for sure. It could be a medium format SLR. Anyway, he starts with what appears to be a 20x30 print. Then he makes a 20x30 that has been cropped.

    Now comes the part that bugs me. He isolates a part of the cropped print and takes a picture of this part of the print with a 4x5 camera, then blows that up, getting a very grainy picture of what appears to be a hand holding a gun. But why do that? If the print made from the 35mm neg is considered a 1st generation copy, then the 4x5 neg would be a 2nd generation copy and the print from that would be 3rd generation. Would not a 3rd generation copy have less information than a 1st generation. Instead of making a 4x5 copy would not more detail be observed in an equally big print made straight from the 35mm neg?

    Of course making a really big print requires a lot of distance from the enlarge lens to the paper and maybe his darkroom was not big enough.

    I'd think that the cinematographer would be aware of this and would have told the director. On the other hand a lot of directors do not welcome suggestions from crew, then get enough of that from the cast. Then again it's possible that the director hoped that the making of the 4x5 neg would more effectively signal the audience that a really big "blowup" was being made, however, I don't think most audience members would pick up on this unless they already new a great deal about photography.
     
  2. the Virginian

    the Virginian TPF Noob!

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    There you go, but at least the technique is do-able, although I imagine the final print would just be a few clumps of abstract grain.

    I saw a movie where the photographer made something like a 6 X 8 foot mural from 35mm on a bunch of 8 X 10 prints. Never mind that each print was exposed on the center of the easel and his dinky, table top enlarger doesn't extend far enough to make an enlargment that size. Of course, each print looked looked good enough to have been enlarged from a 16 X 20 negative.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2010
  3. compur

    compur No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Photography (and many other things) are often shown unrealistically in
    movies.

    The classic movie The Great Escape is another example. The forger of the
    group (Donald Pleasence) asks for a camera to use in making fake IDs and
    other documents. He gets a camera and produces the fake documents but
    he never asked for any film and it's never explained how he could have
    processed film if he had it anyway much less make photographic prints while
    being kept prisoner in a German POW camp during WWII.
     
  4. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I think that the SLR was a Nikon F in BLOWUP.
     
  5. Derrel

    Derrel Mr. Rain Cloud

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    Yes, the 35mm camera was a Nikon F. I watched that film on DVD last year,and found it very interesting. Logic and motion picture directing and screen writing do not go hand in hand. My guess is that the use of the larger-format camera in the late 1960's was to show yet another aspect of the "professional photographer" persona; the show made prominent use of the Nikon F and its iconic design in the early parts of the film, but the use of a 4x5 or 5x4 as the Brits call it, was probably done as a way to connote "high-technology photographic analysis". He's made a big enlargement....so when he wants to look at it even BIGGER, he goes to a "bigger camera"...like the venerable 5x4.

    At least that's what I think the director was going for. A way to show the general public that this guy was going all-out, with the "big camera", to get right down to the minute details. A blowup of a blowup. I do disagree that common folks of the late 60's would not realize that a 5x4 camera would be regarded as a "professional's camera" almost exclusively; 35mm was still considered a small film format, and many amateur snappers were using 120 or 620 rollfilm cameras, and "Press" photographers were using things like the Koni-Omega Rapid, ie "big cameras". In 1966-67, I think the reputation of a Rolleiflex would outshine that of the Nikon F, at least among the general movie-going public; I think the generation that was of movie-going age in 1967-68 would have been weaned on the image of the Press Photographer using the 4x5 hand cameras (Graphics, Bush Pressman, Linhof Technika,etc) since in 1966-67 when the movie was being made, the Nikon F system was only six or seven years into its rise from its origin in 1959. I think the audience of that era would naturally have a lot of connection,mentally, with the 4x5 sheet film camera as the "professional tool" of that era.

    What I found odd was that the underground club band scene was actually The Yardbirds!!! It is a very interesting film. The camera angles and compositions are very worthy of studying. I had a college art history and photography professor who constantly raved about how great this film was in terms of its compositional devices and camera work.
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2010
  6. Actor

    Actor TPF Noob!

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    Another little note about this movie. Director Michaelangelo Antonioni refused to allow the film to be censored and so it was released in the U.S. without a certificate from the Hays office, leading to the downfall of the Hays office and the establishment of the current MPAA rating system. But every version I've seen on VHS, DVD or on TCM is censored. In the theatrical version Vanessa Redgrave was topless but the video versions have objects inserted between her and the camera, probably with a computer as was done with Eyes Wide Shut. Also, actress Jane Birkin was nude (full frontal) but the scene has been shortened. I wonder if an uncut version exists today.

    Indeed! In my opinion the film fails as a narrative, i.e., the plot is very thin. It's essentially a day in the life of the photographer and little else. But the cinematography and the character development grab me. It should bore me to death but it doesn't.

    Another thing. A friend of mine claims that the mimes that appear at the beginning and end of the film are actually the actors that play the other characters in the rest of the movie. (His own observation.) I don't know if this is true or not. ???
     
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2010
  7. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    Yes, this is quite laughable. No copy of a print could ever contain detail not present in the print. If he couldn't see the gun while looking at the print with a magnifying glass it wouldn't show in the enlarged copy image. Photo paper doesn't have enough resolution to hold any detail not visible with a 2-4x magnifier.

    The technically proper way to get around the mechanical limitations of making higher magnification prints directly from the original negative would be to photograph the original negative, not an enlarged print, with a true photomacrographic or photomicrographic (using a microscope) setup.

    Using the gear of the day, a setup using the Nikon F, a bellows (I believe the Bellows IV was current then), the slide duping attachment for the bellows, a 24mm f/2.8 Nikkor or 55mm f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor reversed (I'm not sure the 24 was available when the movie was shot), a BR-2 ring to attach the reversed lens to the bellows, and a BR-3 ring to attach the slide duplicator's bellows to the reversed lens. Make a dupe of the neg onto Kodachrome-II (then current) to get a slightly contrast enhanced negative. It would be quite possible to get significant magnification that way.
     

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