Michelangelo Antonioni's classic of mod London gives us a man who spends his life looking without really seeing.
The harder you look at some things, the faster they fall apart. Blow-Up is about a photographer, a jaded and blasé fellow surrounded by people as jaded and blasé as he, who finds one thing in his life worth looking at. And he stares at it, and stares at it, until it and everything else around him disintegrates. His world was never meant to hold up to that kind of scrutiny.
We have no idea at first what Thomas (David Hemmings), the protagonist of Blow-Up, is up to. He emerges, bleary and unshaven and in wrinkled clothes, from a flop-house, trailed by dozens of other tramps. Then he rounds a corner, does a double-take to make sure no one's looking, climbs into a convertible Rolls-Royce, and drives off. This is in fact his car; he's a hot young photographer who spent the night sleeping with the homeless to surreptitiously snap photos for a book project. He arrives at his studio, still unkempt, for a morning shoot with a model (Verushka). In his eyes, it's her problem if she had to wait, or if she's bothered by his ratty condition. Same with the girls he shoots later for a fashion splash, whom he grouses at and orders about like they're undisciplined kids on a picnic. Same with the models who cold-call him at his office, and whom he cold-shoulders in return.
Terry Gilliam's paranoid time-travel labyrinth is less an SF film than a story of the fear of madness, but no less powerful for it
I enjoy movies that are designed like puzzles, although most of the time the fun evaporates once the puzzle's solved. 12 Monkeys is like one of those puzzles that actually doesn't have a solution — it's there mostly to see how long you bother to try and solve it. Like Predestination, it uses a time-travel paradox as a central plot element, if only to first give hope to both its characters and the audience, and then to cruelly yank it away. But the sheer anarchic vigor of the whole thing, courtesy director Terry Gilliam, kept me interested all the way through. Yes, even when I suspected the movie had a false bottom, with nothing underneath.
12 Monkeys opens in the year 2035, some forty years after a virus killed most of the human race and left the survivors to fend for themselves in grotty underground warrens. Cole (Bruce Willis) lives in one of these dungeons as a prisoner, where he's sent out to the surface in a hazmat suit to collect specimens. He's been chosen by the scientists who run the place to go back in time and try to find more information about the virus. If he's good, he might get a reduction in his sentence, assuming the trip doesn't kill him outright.