June 29, 2017
Review #957: Zabriskie Point.
Mark Frechette (Mark), Daria Halprin (Daria), Rod Taylor (Lee Allen), Paul Fix (Roadhouse owner), G. D. Spradlin (Lee's associate), Bill Garaway (Morty), and Kathleen Cleaver (Kathleen) Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni.
Zabriskie Point is a movie that goes on a search for the culture and feel of its time, and the result is that it still appears to wander aimlessly for its goal by the time the film gets to a conclusion. This was the second of three films that Antonioni (a famed Italian director who had previously won pretentious international film festival awards such as the Palme d'Or from Cannes and the Golden Lion from Venice prior to this film) made that was part of a deal with producer Carlo Ponti that was distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) with full artistic freedom, with the other two being Blowup (1966) and The Passenger (1975); the title of the movie comes from a part of the Amargosa Range, located east of Death Valley in Death Valley National Park. The locations used throughout the film do lend themselves to some interesting shots and some standout cinematography by Alfio Contini.
It's hard to say why this is a movie I didn't find enjoyable. I think the answer lies within its execution of telling its story/message, which muddled any sort of enjoyment in watching it. What is it trying to say that you couldn't already find from watching footage from the actual era it wants to so badly invite itself into? You might as well watch a documentary on the culture of the times (or go up to someone who lived in that era and ask) over this. Frechettte and Halprin (both in their first ever starring roles) never seem to really come off as believable in their scenes together; I never got the feeling that I should care about their so-called love story nor what happens to them. Their first scene together involves him flying a plane over her car, with her going from upset to curious and smiling...and I guess there's a point in all of this. The supporting cast is fairly decent, but they aren't particularly memorable. Through its 112 minute run time, there isn't really a point where the movie is consistent entertainment. There is some action near the end, but it comes off just a bit too late to make much of an impact. It has nice looking scenes and a fairly interesting soundtrack (with music coming from Pink Floyd, Roy Orbison, the Rolling Stones and several others), but the film never clicks itself into something worth caring about. It has the pretensions of being a movie for the culture but without any of the zip needed to get across the finish line. It may work better for others more willing to let the film have some slack (or for people who understand the film better than I do), but I can't really give too much of a recommendation for the film as is. I can't be too harsh on it, but I also can't be to generous to it, either. You might find something from the film that I didn't, and that is understandable, even if I really couldn't find too much from it.
Overall, I give it 6 out of 10 stars.