Blowup | 1966
Antonioni’s landmark mystery, with photographer Thomas (David Hemmings, in a role earmarked for Terence Stamp) accidentally capturing something suspicious on film, was a clear inspiration for both Francis Ford Coppolas The Conversation and Brian de Palmas Blow Out. It certainly captures the spirit of the time, re-inventing the fashion photographer as rockstar, and featuring an early performance by The Yardbirds (a cameo earmarked for The Who – hence the unexplained guitar smashing).
Economist Plaza, a hidden courtyard immediately north of Ryder Street,off Piccadilly in London’s West End, housing the tower block of the Economist magazine offices, featured in two iconic scenes of Sixties cinema. It appears deceptively large as the rather creepy white-face students career around the tiny space in a truck at the beginning of the movie.
In Michael Winner’s 1967 satire I’ll Never Forget What’s’is Name, advertising exec Quint (Oliver Reed) famously quits the rat race by taking an axe to his desk. The office of Orson Welles’s ‘Lute Corporation’, where Quint acts out every disenchanted office worker’s fantasy, is the Economist Building, 25 St James’s Street.
Beneath the railway arch over Consort Road, just east of Peckham Rye Station, southeast London, Thomas mingles with the down-and-out dosshouse dwellers, before leaping into his Rolls Royce.
But it was in El Blason, 8-9 Blacklands Terrace, a recently-closed Spanish restaurant off the King’s Road in Chelsea, that he shows the portfolio of images of the working class men to his publisher Ron (Peter Bowles). The premises is now home to The Five Fields restaurant.
The eerie park in which Thomas may or may not have photographed something suspicious is Maryon Park, south of Woolwich Road, SE7 (rail: Woolwich Dockyard, from London Charing Cross). The visually exacting Antonioni notoriously manipulated reality to achieve his desired look, painting paths black and grass green.
The bushes, where the ‘body’ was hidden, were added, and houses overlooking the park were false flats. The tennis court, where students mimed the surreal tennis match in the park, is still there, unchanged.
The antique shop (it was a grocery store) was in Clevely Close, at the park’s northeast corner. It’s since been demolished and the corner redeveloped.
Thomas’ studio scenes filmed in the studio of Vogue photographer John Cowans, 49 Princes Place, off Princedale Road, Notting Hill, although the exterior is nearby 77 Pottery Lane, W11, next to the (closed) Earl of Zetland pub, north of Holland Park Avenue (tube: Holland Park, Central Line)