It's probably best if Jeff fights all of my battles for me, considering he's more intelligent than I am. But since I'm not one to start something and then never finish it (an Antonioni, if you will), here are some thoughts for you, Brandon.
I expect the ending of Blow-Up to lose points for 95% of its viewers. It's the type of ending that would result in a chorus of groans and/or boos...especially given the beginning and middle of the story.
And there's so much potential for the story: a photographer inadvertently photographs a murder. The trouble is, that storyline only makes up about ten minutes of the film. The rest of the time, the photographer snaps shots of strangers, walks around, drives around, sleeps, buys a propeller, etc. There isn't a whole lot to be interested in, and I definitely didn't feel as if the movie had some important, hidden message buried within the beginning and middle of the story. But now, I can really appreciate Jeff's interpretation that Thomas' life is empty EXCEPT for when he's taking pictures or is trying to solve this murder. Regardless of the outcome of this "murder investigation" (because outcomes are almost always unpredictable in general), the drive is at least there for Thomas.
If it weren't for the ending, I probably would've hated Blow-Up. Ironically, the ending allows for the rest of the film to come across more clearly, despite its ambiguity and strangeness. As Jeff argues, the ending matches up perfectly with the rest of the film. If the beginning, middle and end were sold separately, I wouldn't necessary buy any of it. But with beginning, middle, and end combined, the film begins to show its value.
Not only is Thomas buying into a pantomimed game of tennis, thereby mirroring the audience buying into an imaginary world representing truth and reality, it also represents Thomas buying into the role of a homicide detective. He chooses to get involved in both. And at one point he sees the body with his own eyes, the next, it's gone. There is no tennis ball at the beginning of the game, but when Thomas throws the "ball" over the fence, he begin to hear an actual tennis ball moving back and forth. I love that audio cue. It made me appreciate having to sit the through the beginning and middle of the film.
As far as John Wayne is concerned, I've always been one of those people who hadn't spent a lot of time with John Wayne's films, so it was easy for me to judge his personal life - specifically his politics. It's the same thing with Charlton Heston. So outside of politics, I absolutely have nothing against him. And now that I've actually seen some of The Duke's films, I do like him more than I ever did. I completely agree with Scorsese's assessment of Wayne, and would add that he was always more of an icon than an actor. Don't worry, man, I'm coming around.
Yes!! I really enjoyed Don't Look Now. Crazy, thought-provoking stuff that I wish we all could discuss right now. Very effective filmmaking from Roeg.
Glad the tour is going well. Can't wait to see you guys play in Oneonta. Maybe then we can argue over Blow-Up, but hopefully you can find a minute or two to post a response to those goddamn Howard brothers.