Monday, May 27, 2013

Antonioni's "serious" Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point is Michelangelo Antonioni’s pretentious and pointless follow up to the acclaimed Blow Up. It’s rather characteristic of a “serious” film from 1969 that nothing happens. It concerns a couple of aimless young people in L.A. at the time of Flower Power, war protests, etc, that can fool some viewers that Antonioni is making a “statement.”

Rod Taylor, a fairly big star at the time, has a supporting role as the conservatively dressed employer having a fling with the female lead. Taylor’s name never appeared in advertising, but is prominent in the opening credits but only after such unknowns as Mark Freshette and Daria Halpern. His time on screen is brief, and how he got involved in the film would be a more interesting story than anything occurring in the film itself.

Except for Taylor and other veterans like Paul Fix, the acting is amateurish, but suited to the dialogue.

“Do you do secretarial work?” Taylor’s businessman asks Halpern.

“Well, it’s not something I really dig to do. I only do it when I need the bread.”

Taylor later claimed he didn’t understand the film, so he had little to tell the FBI when they paid him a visit to inquire about his participation in what they saw as a radical endeavor. It seems that as long as you have an Italian name with many syllables, you can be considered an artist of the highest rank whether or not you possess the talent to justify it. Antonioni had enough of a reputation that Jack Nicholson rhapsodized about his abilities in the DVD commentary for 1975’s The Passenger, but though more coherent than Zabriskie Point, that film, also rather cryptic in its story and characterizations, is only marginally better.

As art, Zabriskie Point is all style without being notably stylish. Halpern is lovely, as is the desert scenery, but the movie is a bust. The score is credited to Pink Floyd, but the theme song heard after the explosion that concludes the “story” is performed by Roy Orbison.

Brian W. Fairbanks
February 28, 2010

© 2010 Brian W. Fairbanks


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