Blow-Up ★★★

In The Conversation, Harry Caul interacts with the world only from a great distance, reducing relationships to a minimum and avoiding human contact as much as possible. His agony is evident in his every, isolated move, as is his desperation for relief.

In Blow-Up, Thomas imposes himself lavishly upon his tiny corner of the world, demanding that women obey his orders and assuming that his interests will become the interests of the few men around him, so wrapped up in his own ego and importance that he is incapable of seeing anyone as anything more than a thing he can use, be it for sex, business, profit or all of the above.

The contrast between the central characters of these deeply connected films is the difference between the films themselves: Harry gains sympathy through the nakedness of his struggles; through his utterly inability to fit in with the busy, connected world around him. Thomas, on the other hand, is profoundly unsympathetic, a figure constructed entirely of ego and skinny jeans. Because of this, it's difficult to engage in his quest, or wonder about what might come next — he's so aggressively unlikable that we simply don't care.

Watching Thomas from a distance, one is sometimes even tempted to laugh at his fate: at the way he thinks he can control everyone and everything, the way he does inside the sealed world of his studio. Women should be grateful for his presence, and not ever give him fake phone numbers. Ron should devote all of his hours to Thomas, because Thomas needs attention at all times. His photos should reveal the truth to him, because he made them, and he demands it.

It's interesting that Thomas doesn't ever really think of calling the police about the murder, or the break-in that came after he began blowing up the photos. For him, it's all about attention: tell his roommate's girlfriend; tell Thomas. Wait for recognition and regard.

Thomas is the center of his tiny little universe, and anything that happens in that space happens only in relation to him; independent people and events don't exist.

The main way we can tell that Thomas has been affected by the shooting (after no one responded to his discovery the way he wanted them to) is that, as the film ends, he's allowing himself to slip into another small, tightly controlled world. Previously, he's only observed The Other — the men in the doss house, for example, who, like everyone else, exist only to serve him, in this case as subjects for his photos — but here, for the first time, he's taking part in a scene that's not his; a tale in which he's only a bit player. He's allowing someone else to tell the story, and simply taking on his assigned role.

(What a relief it must be for Thomas to get away from himself, even for a few moments. To be free of the weight of that ego; that mania for power; that pulsating need to be important. To stand, alone, in the middle of a field, and realize that you don't control anything, and that most of the real world doesn't even know you exist.)

And then it's back to London; back to his studio; back to harassing and haranguing models. Back to the cocoon of his tiny, single-block universe, his self-regard tightly wrapped around him to keep out the noise, doubts, and reality.

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