Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Michelangelo Antonioni: Zabriskie Point (Take II)

In Zabriskie Point (1970), Antonioni gives a sort of take (or double-take) on 

1) what's going on in the USA at the time; and 
2) how things change with time as new technologies and modes of exchange are injected into our daily lives. 

Some of this overlaps with his Italian-location films such as Il Grido / The Cry (1957) and Il deserto rosso / Red Desert (1964-1965). Some details are peculiar to American culture.

Many things are going on in Zabriskie Point, albeit often at what seems like a slow pace. Development, for instance. Rod Taylor (The Time Machine, 1960; The Birds, 1963) plays a quintessentially aggressive real estate developer, pushing out into the desert with "Sunny Dunes," a place to "get away from it all" -- despite issues of water shortages and general ecological impact. This development thread may be the most important thrust of the movie and remains completely relevant in the 21st century.

More specific to the latter 1960s and early 1970s, there are in Zabriskie Point organized upheavals on college campuses. These include the twin thrusts of Black Power and development of counterculture alternatives to "dominant paradigms."  The students are, for the most part, knowledgeable about what's going on with the Establishment, about civil rights and the then ongoing US-Vietnam War. We see some of this from time to time now (compare the recent Occupy Wall Street movement, and the highly organized Act Up campaigns), but there's nothing quite like eliminating the Draft and opening up voting to 18-21 year old citizens to take the air out of resistance to War and the Establishment in general. 

In the last post, I mentioned Antonioni's taking notice of the timeless gun obsession element of American culture, and there's more to express about this, but for now, it's worth noting another more time-specific element: letting it all hang out in small communes and collectives, with hippies, be-ins and that kind of stuff. Antonioni sure seems to sympathize with Daria (Daria Halprin) as she questions the Establishment status quo and wonders around on the road from LA to Phoenix. There are scenes involving her that remind one of Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical (1967-1968), Jesus Christ Superstar (1970) and similar types of countercultural outpourings that even now seem to make a lot of people nervous.

Today's Rune: Signals.    

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

Something about that top picture flashed me back to the show, "The Mod Squad."