Monday, September 26, 2016

Blow-Up, pareidolia and the grassy knoll

This is the latter part of the bewitching key sequence of Blow-Up. David Hemmings' unnamed photographer thinks he has spotted something suspicious in a photograph he has just taken.

He enlarges a detail again and again until he reveals a murder taking place, then goes to the park and duly finds a body.

On his return to the studio he finds the enlargements have been stolen, except for the very last. Shorn of its context, it reveals little more than a patter of light and shadows.

When he returns to the park for a second time the body has vanished.

In recent days I have been reading about the assassination of President Kennedy and it has made me think of Blow-Up.

Some of those who are dissatisfied with the official account that JFK was assassinated by a lone gunman - Lee Harvey Oswald - have seized upon a photograph taken at the moment the President received the fatal shot.

They claim that if the background is blown up at the right point it reveals the real assassin** ('Badge Man') on the famous grassy knoll. Some claim to be able to detect two or even three figures there.

I can now make out Badge Man, but only because I have seen so many fanciful renderings of that enlargement. In reality it reveals no more than David Hemmings remaining image. Blame pareidolia.

Once you go down the rabbit hold of conspiracy theories on JFK, there is now way back.

The Zapruder film (taken by a bystander and revealing the effect of the two shots that hit the President) was once taken as proof of a conspiracy. Today you will find many sites telling you it is part of that conspiracy - an obvious forgery made to cover the truth.

There mysteries that puzzle me about the affair. Could Oswald really have got from his sixth-floor perch to the first floor*** without anyone seeing him on the stairs in the short space of time available?

And why did the US authorities make so little of Oswald's connections with the Soviet Union and Cuba?

But stay away from the grassy knoll. That way lies madness.

* JFK's shooting is just about my first memory - I was three and just knew that something very grown up and important had happened.

** This links to a video that examines this claim. It does not show the short that killed JFK, which you can see online in the Zapruder film. We think we know all about violence in the cinema, but it is still hugely shocking to see a man shot in the head for real.

*** In British terms he had to get from fifth floor to the ground floor.

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