Journo pally: “I had never seen Michelangelo Antonioni‘s Zabriskie Point (’70) so I recently recorded it off TCM. Just finished watching it. Is this the worst film ever made by a major director? If not, what is?”
HE reply: “It has some interesting moments but yeah, it’s not a good film. It’s certainly Antonioni’s worst, and it definitely knee-capped his career. For the first time in his career he was riding high in the U.S. with Blow-Up in late ’66 and ’67, and then three years later, wham…dead meat.
“And I don’t mean that in commercial terms. Throughout the ’60s the Antonioni brand meant high-end art cinema of an exceptional caste. His films were onto something else. You could feel it, sense it. But Zabriskie Point blew that mystique out of the water. Then he got it back with The Passenger in ’75, at least in terms of that final shot.
“You know what Antonioni’s deal is. He wanted to keep things oblique. He concentrated on undercurrents by way of images, textures, quietness, empty spaces. He was never a purveyor of driving, fast-forward narratives. He was never been into overt emotion. Time and again he hinted at decaying, dissolute values and corrupt attitudes. In Zabriskie he tried to capture the chaos and nihilism of the late ’60s, but he didn’t want to be didactic or even somewhat specific about issues.
“The only line of dialogue I recall is Mark Frechette‘s at that activist meeting with Kathleen Cleaver — ‘Well, I’m ready to die. Of boredom.’ I also like how Antonioni doesn’t precisely indicate whether or not Frechette has shot the cop or not. I don’t what Rod Taylor was up to except that he was rich and wanted to fuck Daria Halprin.”
Journo pally: “Actually, Frechette tells Halprin he wanted to shoot the cop, but someone else did. I just watched it two hours ago so I remember this clearly.
“Antonioni might like oblique, but it sure doesn’t work here like it did in La Notte and other Euro flicks. It looks like he’s a clueless European slumming, with absolutely no knowledge of American culture, but totally willing to condescend to it. He hires two very beautiful non-actors, goes to the Mojave, films them fucking, then has a whole sequence of shit blowing up, like it’s some profound comment on the violence and commercialism of American culture. The film wasn’t received very well when it first came out, and it’s a total embarrassment now.”