Sunday, February 22, 2015

Getting to the Point

We never saw Zabriskie Point (1970) back in the day, although we were fans of both Antonioni and Pink Floyd. It took a while for Netflix to come through, but we finally got our chance.

It starts with a bunch of students planning a protest. Mark Frechette can't get into all this talk. He wants action, so he goes to a gun store with his roommate to buy guns. When the shopkeeper tells him there's a waiting period, he implies that their for protection from "those people". When he gets to the demonstration, the police kill a black student, so he reached for his pistol... Next thing he knows, he has to get out of town fast, so he steals a small plane and takes off.

Meanwhile, hippie chick Daria Halprin is driving through the desert on a job from real estate developer Rod Taylor. She's pretty pissed off when a small plane starts buzzing her, but then she gets into it. Mark lands, they meet up and drive off to Zabriskie Point, where they make love.

This is the most famous scene, I guess - two hippies screwing in the dust start multiplying into dozens of dusty hippies in pairs, threesomes and groups, all to a Jerry Garcia acoustic guitar solo. But these stories can't end happily. Mark returns the plane and dies in a hail of bullets. Daria meets up with her boss in a beautiful modern desert home and although she is alienated from the rich people there, she takes something from the fountain of water running down a rock wall. But when a young native maid smiles at her, she just can't hang. She leaves and as she looks back, sees the house explode to the sound of Pink Floyd. Several other things explode in slow motion, and that's the end.

The plot is pretty silly and so are the radical politics and slogans. The leads aren't exactly lovable: Daria is beautiful but pretty self-involved and Mark just seems like a jerk. He does have David Hemmings cheekbones under Peter Fonda eyes, though. But I guess Antonioni isn't known for lovable characters. He is known for multilayered, beautifully composed photography, and that's all here. Even when he is shooting like a documentarian, there are echoes and reflections in almost every shot.

But we really came for the music, and were pretty disappointed. What there is, is great. A little bit of "Dark Star" reminded us of what a great composition it is when the Dead are hitting it right. In the desert, Daria listens to a lot of FM country rock, including Jonathan Edwards and the Rolling Stones ("You've Got the Silver"). And the explosive ending makes a great music video for a version of "Careful with that Axe, Eugene", called "Come In, Number 51. You're Time Is Up", by Pink Floyd. But I thought it the movie would be drenched in Floyd, wall-to-wall, and instead there's plenty of quiet patches, and hardly any Floyd.

Oh well, better than the Yardbirds cameo in Blow Up.

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