A vision clouded by clarity.



Christian Marclay via Michaelangelo Antonioni & Brian De Palma, 1998 (1966/1981)

THE 411: Antonioni’s masterful Blow Up, a dense and layered work on truth and its fluidity, stars David Hemmings as a David Bailey-esque swinging 60’s photographer and runs 111 minutes. Blow Out, De Palma’s re-working of those ideas, re-casts Hemmings’ photographer as John Travolta’s sound recordist in a similar narrative construct. It runs 108 minutes. Up And Out, the most conceptually challenging piece in ACMI’s fascinating Replay/Marclay exhibition, is Blow Up’s video screened with Blow Out’s audio, and even amongst the rest of the installation’s barrage of audio-visual sensory red-zoning is the most overwhelming and insightful.

As the film/s began my brain rejected the juxtaposition, and after a couple minutes my head cracked in half and my ears were shouting into my eyes, and it was chaos. However, at a very early point in this experiment I actually noticed my aural and visual reception quite literally come back into focus, like two eyes upon waking. Although the schizophrenic basis for this sensory amalgamation rendered it disorientating at first, I was surprisingly quickly able to focus on both storylines simultaneously, and furthermore was able (and I wasn’t alone) to divine wonderful accidents of overlap, fleeting instances of harmony and poetic counterpoint that would create new and unintended syntax between various elements; not the least of these being the film’s climax/es, with the slightly shorter Blow Out’s audio unreliably forecasting Blow Up’s denouement whilst subsequently leaving us with a supremely unsettling few minutes of silent accompaniment, quite the gag after such abstract sonics.

As an exercise in audio-visual experimentation, it was an epiphany; as a comment on the nature of sound design in film, it was revelatory, a conceptual feat of genius and further proof that cinema’s dynamics mashed with subjective interpretation mean none of us ever see the same film.


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