Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Its back!: Zabriskie Point, 1970

Even us Michelangelo Antonioni fanatics find his 1970 ZABRSKIE POINT his most difficult film, not widely liked at the time, it seemed that having done Swinging London in BLOW-UP, he now attempted the distill the essence of the U.S, counterculture in his second English-language film, made in America, also for Carlo Ponti and MGM. Its a time capsule full of enigmas and ellipses, student politics of the late hippie era and Pink Floyd songs, cinematic imagination and lots of coupling in the desert. 

Now re-released in a new digital print, at the Curzon Mayfair, who have this to say about it:
Digital reissue of Michelangelo Antonioni's coutercultural classic featuring original music by Pink Floyd. By using special effects, documentary-style footage and unusual camera angles, Antonioni's suburb surreal film succeeds in revealing how societal conflicts lead to violence. 
Mark (Mark Frechette) is a student radical. Daria (Daria Halprin) is a beautiful, restless young woman. Their meeting sparks a deep passion in this visually stunning fantasia on the 60s counterculture when fate brings Mark and Daria together in Death Valley's desolate yet stunning Zabriskie Point. 
Daria is driving to a meeting with her employer. Mark has been forced to steal an airplane to escape from Los Angeles. The two become entranced both by each other and by the fleeting beauty of the shifting desert sands, but their time together is shattered by a tragedy that will haunt Daria forever.

Sam Shephard and Antonioni regular Tonino Guerra worked on the so-so screenplay. Today, from our perspective, the behaviour of Mark and Daria makes no sense, but back in that hippie era of 40 years ago ... 

It will look great on the big screen, and has that terrific soundtrack, including Patti Page and the Rolling Stones as well as Pink Floyd. What lets the film down is the blankness of the two leads - who had not acted before (Rod Taylor plays Daria's nasty capitalist boss/lover). They both had a few more roles afterwards, but Mark Frechette died in mysterious circumstances, aged 27 in 1975 (in prison after a bank raid) which I have touched on before here, at Antonioni label

We liked Antonioni's 1975 THE PASSENGER, his third for Ponti/MGM, a whole lot more and it remains a key '70s movie for me (THE PASSENGER label) but ZABRISKIE POINT has a lot of pluses too - those stunning widescreen landscapes, and that amazing final sequence where Daria imagines that stunning house being blown-up. Writer Mark Peploe who was at the filming, explained how they did it at that Antonioni retrospective at the BFI back in 2005 - with lots of cameras to catch it all from different angles, but they could only do it once .... then there is that orgy or love-in, another druggy fantasy in the desert - which also makes fascinating viewing. 
Its certainly a blast at American consumerism and I imagine not what MGM were expecting, but yes, its a fascinating time capsule now of that fascinating era 40 years ago, and for those who do not know it, one to catch up with. MGM were also exploiting student revolution with their lesser THE STRAWBERRY STATEMENT, GETTING STRAIGHT and the like. 

and again, here is that Dick Cavett almost painful non-interview with Frechette and Halprin (who barely speaks) in 1970 (also with Mel Brooks and Rex Reed):

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