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Image credit: Blow-up, 1966

In my 1960s-set novel Follow the Sun, there’s one movie that gets mentioned more than any other: Antonioni’s Blow-up (Disc/Download). This is no accident. For a book that celebrates the style, fashion, photography, and sexual freedoms of the era, this film captures those themes better than any other. It’s a movie about looking without seeing, and one that feels as revelatory now as it probably did then. Movies, and audiences, would never be the same again.

Like an art-house Hitchcock film, Blow-up follows a successful London photographer who inadvertently witnesses a murder in the park, capturing the minutes just before and after the crime with his camera lens. Thomas (David Hemmings) thinks he’s photographing two people in the midst of an afternoon tryst, but after the woman (Vanessa Redgrave) harasses him and then tries to seduce him to get the film back, and a strange man is seen walking around his car, he gets suspicious. Blowing up the negatives, he begins to see what his eyes failed to register in the moment: there was another person there; a person with a gun. After that, Thomas starts to unravel. He doesn’t know what to do with this information, or if it’s even real. He may be witness to a potential murder, but London is still swingin’ all around him. Pencil-thin models are parading around in their colorful, sculptural clothes, Jeff Beck is smashing his guitar, and Jane Birkin shows up for an audition and a three-way tryst amid his purple seamless backdrop. The scenes of Thomas examining his photos are such a contrast to the debauchery of the rest of the film that it creates an incredible tension. Only by standing still can he (and we) start to see what was right in front of him.

Purple is such a prominent color in this movie that I naturally had to make a purple cocktail. This drink is made with one of my favorite British botanical gins (Plymouth), along with violet liqueur to give it a nice coloring. You could also use Empress 1908 Gin if you want to go full purple. While watching Blow-up, I recommend drinking an Aperture cocktail.


2 oz Plymouth Gin

1/2 oz Velvet Falernum

1/2 oz Creme de Violette

3/4 oz Pink Lemon Juice

Lemon Twist (for garnish)

Mint (for garnish)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist and mint.

If you appreciate sixties fashion, then you’ll love this film as much as I do. Watching Verushka slide across the screen in her slinky sequined black dress that leaves almost nothing to the imagination captures the sexual freedom of the era every bit as much as later scenes that were much more explicit in nature. When I decided to make one of my Follow the Sun characters a minor player in this cinematic masterpiece, it was done with reverence for both the film and the beautiful women populating it. Part of the fun of writing a book set in another time period is imagining what it was like to exist in that era. Blow-up, with its mod clothes, strange, dreamlike plot, and haunting jazz score by Herbie Hancock, is a movie that lets the imagination run wild. Cheers!

All That Jazz

Image credit: All That Jazz, 1979

I don’t know what it is about my personality that makes me compatible with people who love musical theater, but somehow, the universe keeps throwing them my way. I’m left smiling awkwardly when my new friends gush about Hamilton, or the latest Funny Girl revival, pretending the very notion of a live song-and-dance routine doesn’t make me shudder internally. However, there’s one thing that helps me cross the entertainment chasm, and that’s movies about live theater. Now those, I love!! From The Goodbye Girl to Waiting for Guffman to Center Stage, to this week’s Cinema Sips pick All That Jazz (Disc), I can’t get enough backstage drama and tights. Finally, common ground with the Playbill crowd!

I love a good “puttin’ on a show” plot as much as the next person, but All That Jazz takes the trope to a new and exciting level. In this gritty, sexy, Dexedrine-fueled world of stage and screen, director/choreographer Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) struggles to balance his turbulent love life, a new Broadway show, and feature film editing without dropping dead of a heart attack. The fact that he’s seen talking to the Angel of Death (played by a luminous Jessica Lange) in various dream sequences tells us he’s already on his way. This semi-autobiographical film from director/choreographer Bob Fosse asks us to consider how much can be piled on a person’s plate before they collapse under the weight of responsibility. This movie gets me thinking a lot about the inevitability of death, and how we humans have to balance making the most of our time here while ensuring we have that time in the first place. Joe slogs along, shooting that Visine in his eyes, taking that morning shower, popping that pill, announcing “It’s showtime, folks!” because to do the alternative is unthinkable. His body will give up before his mind or his will, and rest comes only to the dead.

Leave it to Joe Gideon to imagine that Death comes in the form of a beautiful woman in a nightclub. I’m still not sure about the frothy white getup she’s wearing (I might have opted for something more “Halston”), but I’m willing to go along with the surrealist costume because it inspires this week’s cocktail. While watching All That Jazz, I recommend drinking a classic White Lady.

White Lady

2 oz Plymouth gin

½ oz Cointreau

¾ oz lemon juice

¼ oz simple syrup

1 egg white

Combine all ingredients in a shaker without ice. Dry shake for about thirty seconds, add ice, then shake again for an additional thirty seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.

In case I haven’t fully sold this movie yet, All That Jazz’s fictional play NY/LA has one of the sexiest dance sequences ever committed to film. A big part of that is the lighting and cinematography, and frankly, I just don’t see it working from the cheap seats in the back. The camera enables us to be up close and personal with these bodies, both strong and fragile at the same time, putting it all into perspective. There’s no business like show business to make you realize that every day you’re still alive, putting on that performance, is a miracle. Cheers!