This is a fascinating picture, which has something real to say about the matter of personal involvement and emotional commitment in a jazzed-up, media-hooked-in world so cluttered with synthetic stimulations that natural feelings are overwhelmed. It is vintage Antonioni fortified with a Hitchcock twist, and it is beautifully photographed in color.
The fellow whose restlessness and groping interests Mr. Antonioni in this new film is a dizzyingly swinging and stylish freelance magazine photographer, whose racing and tearing around London gives a terrifying hint of mania. He can spend a night dressed up like a hobo shooting a layout of stark photographs of derelicts in a flophouse, then jump into his Rolls-Royce open-top and race back to his studio to shoot a layout of fashion models in shiny mod costumes—and do it without changing expression or his filthy, tattered clothes.
He can break off from this preoccupation and go tearing across the city in his car to buy an antique airplane propeller in a junk shop, with virtually the same degree of casualness and whim as he shows when he breaks off from concentrating on a crucial job in his darkroom to have a brief, orgiastic romp with a couple of silly teenage girls.
Everything about this feral fellow is footloose, arrogant, fierce, signifying a tiger—or an incongruously baby-faced lone wolf—stalking his prey in a society for which he seems to have no more concern, no more feeling or understanding than he has for the equipment and props he impulsively breaks. His only identification is with the camera, that trenchant mechanism with which he makes images and graphic fabrications of—what? Truth or Fantasy?
This is what gets him into trouble. One day, while strolling in a park, he makes some candid snaps of a young woman romancing with a man. The young woman, startled, tries to get him to give the unexposed roll of film to her. So nervous and anxious is she that she follows him to his studio. There, because she is fascinated by him and also in order to get the film, she submits to his arrogant seduction and goes away with a roll of film.
But it is not the right roll. He has tricked her, out of idle curiosity, it appears, as to why the girl should be so anxious. How is she involved?
When he develops the right roll and is casually studying the contact prints, he suddenly notices something. (Here comes the Hitchcock twist!) What is that there in the bushes, a few feet away from where the embracing couple are? He starts making blowups of the pictures, switching them around, studying the blow-ups with a magnifying glass. Is it a hand pointing a gun?