Zabriskie Point (1969)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Road Movie, Ensemble Film  |   Run Time - 112 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Michael Hastings

Michelangelo Antonioni's first American film is, in many circles, a legendary debacle, an indulgence of some of the director's worst elliptical, impressionistic, and baldly absurd habits. Taken on another level, however, Zabriskie Point is a sensual, atonal fantasia on the late '60s, a film perhaps not meant to be taken too seriously. At least, one can only hope. Taken from an over-earnest script cobbled together by four writers -- including the young Sam Shepard -- and featuring a blankly attractive cast of amateurs, Antonioni's film is full of ridiculous plot lines and character traits, chief among them a counterculture hero (Mark Frechette) whose means of challenging the establishment includes answering the phone by saying "Goodbye?" But Antonioni is more interested in creating visual non-sequiturs than verbal ones, and in this respect, his film doesn't disappoint. The director's use of barren Southwestern landscapes suggests an oasis from all the urban political turmoil, however improbable, famously exemplified in Zabriskie's sand-swept orgy sequence. And the climactic, Pink Floyd-scored demolition of a bourgeois desert home, while thematically obvious, is still a treat to watch.