Director Michelangelo Antonioni was a Genius! (...my opinion...). I am still amazed and awed by his skill at weaving a story on film. The Italian mindset and view of life is so mysterious and complex you really have to be alert and current to catch all the implications and subtle references in his films (and I'm sure I missed many of them).
(Big licentious plus: Beautiful Miss Vanessa Redgrave topless!)
(Click Pix to Enlarge)
BLOWUP (1966) was just such a film and his very first english language endeavour. On the surface is the story of a 60s London photographer frolicking with the ladies and the times, in the actual Headlines of the day a similar story that brought down the entire British Conservative Government in 1964, told in a very oblique manner in the movie. A very Italian trait.
In order to watch this movie in context let me take you back in time to 1962 and try to re-create what was going on at the time. The middle of the "Cold War" with the hated Russians as the Cuban Missile Crisis approached in October of that year. Communism, Kennedy & Khrushchev were facing off as the looming nuclear exchange with the USSR was daily news and a large part of what made this movie important.
The two young girls were beautiful and sexy. One was was only eighteen yrs. old and her young sexy friend was just sixteen. Her name was Christine Keeler and her sixteen yr. old sexy friend was Mandy Rice Davies and the similarities between the Newspaper Headlines of the day and the movie "BLOWUP" started right here....
(Click Pic for Directions)
... it started at night with a viscious knife fight between Jamaican born 'Psycho' Gordon's brother 'Lucky' Gordon and Johnny Edgecombe.
In 1959 Miss Christine was just seventeen and pregnant from an African American sergeant known only as "Jim". She unsuccessfully tried to abort herself with a knitting needle and the male boy survived only six days after being born on April 17, 1959. Soon after she was working as a topless showgirl at Murray's Cabaret Club in Soho where she met Osteopath and part time artist Dr. Stephen Ward.
In July of 1961 Dr. Ward introduced Miss Christine to Mr. John Profumo, the British Secretary of War at a pool party at the Buckinghamshire Mansion owned by Lord Astor. Profumo was gaga over Miss Christine and immediately started a torrid affair with her not realizing Miss Christine was also sleeping with Yevgeny Ivanov a naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy.
In October of 1962 the Flamingo Club was a popular hangout for a large numbers of African American airmen stationed at Lakenheath AFB just outside London. There were few places our troops could hang out and socialize in those days. Johnny and 'Lucky" were both lovers of Miss Christine and met in The Flamingo that night. An argument ensued that would finally end on the front pages of every major newspaper around the world.
The fight ended that night when Johnny made a deep slash across the face of 'Lucky' Gordon that sent 'Lucky' to the hospital. A black anger seethed in the defeated 'Lucky' as he received seventeen painful stitches to his face, now scarred for life. He later removed the seventeen stitches himself, put them in an envelope and mailed them to Miss Christine with a note that said:
"...for each one of these stitches you'll get two on your face in return..."
Johnny Edgecombe was frightened knowing 'Lucky' Gordon meant business and decided to go into hiding with Miss Christine until things cooled off. Miss Christine went out and bought a German Luger pistol to protect herself from 'Lucky'.
Of course it went downhill from here as these things generally do and on Dec. 14, 1962 Miss Christine found Johnny with another lover and threatened she would go to the police and testify that:
"...it was Johnny who had attacked Lucky Gordon at The Flamingo..."
> ...two months earlier. Miss Christine abandoned Johnny Edgecombe over his infidelity and went to see her friend Mandy Rice-Davies at Dr. Stephen Ward's apartment in Wimpole. Unknown to Miss Christine, Johnny Edgecombe had followed her there in a taxi. When Miss Christine refused to speak to Johnny through the door he pulled out the Luger pistol and began firing shots into the door.
The Terrified Mandy and Christine called Dr. Ward at his office and he called the police. The police showed up and arrested Johnny Edgecombe who was already being sought in the 'Lucky' Gordon slashing. This is where it all started to unravel. This is where the press was to finally get a hold of the story and information began to come in drips and drabs from the tabloids to the legitimate press. Sir Roger Hollis, the head of MI5 (Military Intelligence Section 5) was aware of the affair and had already spoken to Cabinet Secretary Sir Norman Brook about the Profumo/Keeler affair and Sir Norman advised Profumo to break with Miss Christine. (You can't make this up! I LOVE this stuff!)
Hoping to keep a lid on things Miss Christine was magically whisked away to a beach in Spain so she wouldn't have to appear as a witness and testify under oath before the Edgecombe trial began.
Because Miss Christine failed to appear as a witness, Johnny Edgecombe was acquitted of the 'Lucky' Gordon slashing incident and the "attempted murder" charge of Miss Christine. The only charge that stuck was the "possession of an illegal firearm", Christine's Luger the police caught him with after firing the shots at Dr. Ward's door. Johnny was sentenced to seven years in prison of which he only served five.
On April Fool's Day of 1963 Miss Christine was fined for "Failure to Appear" in court as a struggling 'Lucky' Gordon was hauled away by police screaming "...I love that girl! I love that girl!..."
By this time it was all over the press, sex, love, counter-espionage, MI5, the Secretary of War (Profumo) resignation, the Soviet lover, the fight of Keeler’s jealous ex-lovers at The Flamingo Club, the magical trip to Spain, attempted murder and on and on.
Also in June Dr. John Ward was arrested and convicted of "Living off the immoral earnings" of Miss Christine so he turned out to be high society's favorite favorite pimp, portrait painter and osteopath. He committed suicide.
(The Famous Keeler Portrait)
Seeking to capitalize on her fame at the height of the Profumo affair in 1963 Miss Christine sat for a photo shoot at actor Peter Cook's Establishment Club for the now famous portrait (above). She had signed a contract to help promote a "B" movie effort entitled THE KEELER AFFAIR that was only to be distributed outside of Britain.
Miss Christine had previously signed a contract which required her to pose nude for publicity photos and was reluctant to continue with the above photo shoot, but the film producers insisted and persuaded her to pose sitting astride a plywood chair so that while technically she would be nude, the back of the chair would obscure most of her body. It was a MAJOR hit and appeared thousands of times around the world. On the left is the photo shoot scene from the movie BLOWUP. That's model/actress Verushka on the left in the movie....
Michelangelo Antonioni wove his story in BLOWUP around a photographer that takes an innocent photo of his luscious model in a British park. When the photo is blownup to huge proportions it reveals a clandestine meeting in the background between a call girl and a British Minister in the same park. The call girl is later found dead and the complex story begins to unravel.
The girl credited in this movie as "The Blond", playing a bit part as a groupie for David Hemming's character was in fact one of Miss Jane Birkin's beginning roles in the movies. That is her pictured in the two pix just above and the one just below. In 1968 she had a passionate and long lasting (13 years) affair with Serge Gainsbourg which gained them both a lot of notoriety with some rather dramatic pictures you can see in the album on the left. She took a break from acting in 1971-1972 but came back with a bang when she appeared as Brigitte Bardot's lover in "If Don Juan Were A Woman" in 1973. I've included several shots in the album on the left. These two women (Brigitte and Jane) became icons for the '60s.
Jane Birkin on the left and Gillian Hills on the right
Jane Birkin wrestles with David Hemmings
David Hemmings and Super Model Veruschka.
Click Pix Above to Enlarge - Slideshow Photos are located HERE
Super model Veruschka and David Hemmings
Click Pic Above for Main Menu