Monday, April 9, 2018

ZABRISKIE POINT (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1970, USA)

Mark and Daria are birthed from the barren womb of Death Valley: he drifts among the clouds while she drives endlessly, both drowning in sea change. ZABRISKIE POINT is a film of its time: post-1960's radicals and counter-culture protest Big Business and a Fascist Administration, the fat white men who rule the world. It is also a film of our time. Director Michelangelo Antonioni creates a vaporous dream-world where his characters linger; Mark in his hijacked plane rising above reality and Daria racing down the two-lane blacktop…both about to clash with harsh reality.

Mark and Daria escape together far from the madding crowd and into the desert, imagining their free love shared with other castaways and drifters. Both characters are archetypes, meant to represent ideals rather than multi-faceted individuals, and possibly Antonioni displays contempt (or perhaps futility) for the nihilistic militant drama that ends on a long road to nowhere. We feel emotionally disconnected from the narrative, although Alfio Contini's intense Scope cinematography is always interesting: he utilizes roving close-ups and pan shots that are disorienting and experimental, and often focuses our attention upon billboards and advertising like militant propaganda. This creates frisson as the dichotomy between those in power and those without is delineated; Mark and Daria represent those without power with only one way to (attempt to) attain it: debt bondage. Her boss, a Real Estate tycoon played by a stout Rod Taylor, is a cipher for the Overseers who gouge the planet and its people for their own profit.  

After their brief affair, Mark chooses to return to meet his fate in a rain of bullets, unwilling to be in debt either physically or philosophically to The Man. Daria’s option is more profound for she can become part of the Order, accepted into the status quo: she looks towards the mansion on the hill and makes up her mind; imagining an explosive orgy of fire and death, she drives away disappearing into the scintillating desert haze. Antonioni films the final explosion from seemingly twenty different angles, showing the destruction in slow motion while the soundtrack thrums with hypnotic Pink Floyd music. If destruction is a form of creation, what New World Order awaits Daria?

Final Grade: (B-)

No comments: