While Antonioni was a leftist intellectual of sorts (for example, Judaic film scholar Virginia Wright Wexman once describe the auteur’s cinematic worldview as that of a “postreligious Marxist and existentialist intellectual”) and his film production was even considered so anti-American at the time it was being made that it was monitored by the FBI (in fact, the U.S. Attorney's office in Sacramento opened a grand jury investigations into both the film’s supposed ‘anti-Americanism’ and possible violations of the Mann Act, which is a anti-prostitution law that was created in 1910 that prohibits the transportation of women across state lines “for immoral conduct, prostitution or debauchery”), Zabriskie Point is not much more flattering in its depiction of hippies and far-leftist student activists and was even criticized by members of the counterculture movement as being a supposed “sellout” film. In short, the film depicts an eclectically irrational and materialistic America that seems to be on the verge of some sort of collectively cataclysmic cultural and social apocalypse where father and son figuratively fight to the death and where the mother has become a materialistic whore and the daughter a literal whore who works for and sleeps with the very same capitalist vampire that epitomizes that system that kills her figurative Romero. Like most great films about the United States directed from a European outsider's perspective, the film tells you more about the real America than any Spielberg and Michael Bay film ever could, but of course both of those Hebraic Hollywood blockbuster anti-auteur propagandists are responsible promoting the very sort of asininely artificial corporate ‘Americanism’ that Antonioni so elegantly mocks.
While Daria begins to drive away, she soon decides to park her car and and exit the vehicle so that she can stare at the quite scenic American Berghof. After getting back in the car again and then touching the red nightie that Mark gave her, Daria once again exits the automobile and stares at the Lee’s home while seething with rage and hatred until the building completely explodes in a symbolic scene where all the female protagonist’s negative emotions as a result of her desert lover's senseless death are channeled into the quite aesthetically pleasing obliteration of corporate crusader Lee’s home. Indeed, as demonstrated by the fact that the house is shown exploding multiple times from various different angles, this segment is clearly not a depiction of reality but a mere figment of Daria’s rather irate imagination. In a five minute montage sequence that is juxtaposed with Pink Floyd’s “Come In Number 51, Your Time Is Up,” racks full of clothing, grills and other cookout equipment, refrigerators full of food, and large shelves full of books, among other things, are depicted exploding in slow-motion in what is indubitably a metaphorical fantasy depiction of both Daria and Antonioni’s longing for the violent annihilation of the American dream. Of course, it should be noted that Uncle Adolf’s Berghof was reduced to ruins by both retreating SS troops that set it on fire and Allied troops that subsequently looted it. After the explosion dream-sequence, Daria smiles and then drives away just as the sun begins to set while Roy Orbison sings “So Young” in what ultimately proves to be a strangely fitting, bittersweet conclusion to a quite brutal yet nonetheless extremely beauteous film. While one can only speculate as to what happens to Daria's character, it would probably not be a surprise if she became politically fanatical as a result of Mark's tragic death. After all, it is said that it was only after his equally grotesque looking brother Aleksandr ‘Sasha’ Ulyanov was executed as punishment for attempting to assassinate Russian Czar Alexander III that Lenin become completely politically radicalized.
Undoubtedly, despite his rather short-lived acting career, I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that Mark Frechette—a man that was about ten times more attractive and subversive than Jack Nicholson (who, incidentally, starred in Antonioni's subsequent English-language feature The Passenger (1975)), even if the latter is obviously a much more talent actor—was to the hippie generation what Marlon Brando and James Dean were to their eras, so it is only fitting that he croaked at age 27 after a most pathetic downfall that even rivals that of Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. In fact, Antonioni was so impressed with Frechette that he once stated, “He has the elegance of an aristocrat, though from a poor family. There is something mystical about him.” Frechette's aristocratic essence was certainly put to good use as WWI era Italian military officer in the extremely underrated Italian (anti)war film Uomini contro (1970) aka Many Wars Ago directed by Francesco Rosi. Indeed, in terms of Hollywood actors of that time (if he can even be considered one), Frechette was probably the closest living embodiment of the ‘Lucifer’ type that queer avant-garde auteur Kenneth Anger always speaks of as a sort of slightly less demonic Hollywood Bobby Beausoleil and criminally-inclined counterculture Don Juan who was doomed to crash and burn, especially after foolishly becoming a follower of sexually predatorial folk musician turned charlatan cult leader Mel Lyman (in fact, Frechette insanely gave the $60,000 he was paid on Antonioni's film to Lyman). While some people believe that the actor got involved in the bank robbery that ruined his life to fund Lyman and his commune, Hungarian filmmaker Dezsö Magyar (Büntetöexpedíció aka Punitive Expedition, Agitátorok aka The Agitators) claimed in an interview featured in Filmkultura magazine that he did it to fund a film, or as the auteur stated himself: “[M]y first friend was Mark Frechette, protagonist of the film ZABRISKIE POINT. We wanted to make a film, to adapt a part of CRIME AND PUNISHMENT because we felt that America was like a Dostoyevsky-type world. Mark said that he would get the money in Boston. He phoned me every second day and always assured me that he almost had the money. One day he called me and said that he would bring the 5 million dollars the next day. Great! I was watching TV in the evening when it was announced that ... Mark Frechette attempted to rob a bank at gunpoint ... and was arrested.”
Of course, Antonioni had to have great big balls to have the gall to cast non-actors Frechette and Halprin in his first relatively big budget American Hollywood movie, yet he ultimately made the right decision as I could not imagine big superstars of the time like Warren Beatty and Jane Fonda in the lead roles as they would totally taint the film's sense of authenticity. A perturbingly beauteous product of Antonioni taking a celluloid canvas and managing to simultaneously paint his love of the landscape and contempt for most of the people and their intrinsically worthless pseudo-cultures, Zabriskie Point makes counterculture era America seem like a gigantic loony bin made up of the decidedly degenerate lapsed cowboys and frontiersman who, as a result of no longer having any land or injuns to conquer, have succumbed to subconscious suicide as a result of being largely dominated by two equally deleterious rivaling groups: the soulless corporate materialists that want to turn the country into a gigantic parking lot (notably, in one scene in the film, a tourist states to his wife in all seriousness upon arriving at the titular location, “They outta build a drive-in here. They’d make a mint”) and ethno-masochistic white activists that are seemingly so bored as a result of being the most spoiled generation in human history that they have nothing left to do but mindlessly destroy their country, pretend to empathize with the plight of poor ghetto negroes that hate their guts, and dispose of centuries upon centuries of family and cultural traditions because it is the ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ thing to do.
Admittedly, although I ‘dig’ some genuine counterculture cinema that was created by people that were actually associated with the movement that includes works ranging from James Broughton's The Bed (1968) and Dreamwood (1972) to Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie (1971) to Pierre Clémenti's Visa de censure n° X (1967) and New Old (1979) to Albie Thoms' Rita and Dundi (1966) and Marinetti (1969), I typically cannot stand Hollywood movies about hippies as they more often than not romanticize the era as some sort of virtual Golden Age where a true utopia was almost fully realized by a group of deluded drug addicts that somehow thought it would be a bright idea to transform the Euro-American bourgeoisie into xenophiliac noble savages. Luckily, Charles Manson and his harem of deranged LSD-ridden whores came along and proved that ‘free love,’ primitive communal living, and recreational drug use oftentimes comes at a high price. Of course, one of the things that makes Zabriskie Point so potent is that it more or less predicted that things would probably end very badly for the flower children and the United States in general. Rather unfortunately, lead Frechette's death-by-barbell was a slightly less glamorous way to go out than his cinematic death, though I think it is safe to say his real-life downfall only adds to the dark mystique of Antonioni's film, which is, at the very least, a near masterpiece that has yet to get its due and probably never will since it is an arthouse film that is probably most sought out by the wrong people, including brain-dead Jerry Garcia fans and deluded wimps that want to see a film that validates their belief that the hippies were anything more than useful idiots that had succumbed to their baser instincts and more or less gave a good chunk of the country away to a certain a race that calls itself a religion. On a more personal level, Zabriskie Point is the only film I have ever seen where I found myself somewhat identifying with hippie protagonist. Indeed, during my high school and college years, I was full with the sort of irrational hatred, rage, and nihilistic self-destructive behavior that epitomizes the male protagonist, thus I probably found the character's death to be more senselessly tragic than most viewers would. After all, had the protagonist had attempted to do some research into why he hated the world instead of simply acting off impulse, as well as focused more on pussy than the police, chances are he would have mellowed out to some extent and realized that he was being manipulated by the very same sort of people he had foolishly sided with. Also, I am sure the character would have been less inclined to risk his life were he to realize that the movement was largely lead by insincere racial aliens with ulterior motives who would ultimately be largely be responsible for the sort of thought-policing that has plagued virtually aspects of contemporary American life, especially in universities. As an innately rebellious individual, I am sure that Frechette would have found the age of political correctness and thought crimes to be infinitely more insufferable his own era.
While a self-described super-fascist, it can certainly be argued that Italian philosopher Julius Evola shared a similar view to his fellow countryman Antonioni in regard intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of the counterculture movement. Indeed, while Antonioni hints in Zabriskie Point that the student activists were just as deluded and decadent as the capitalists and bourgeois ‘oppressors’ that they hated, Evola wrote in his book Cavalcare la Tigre (1961) aka Ride the Tiger: A Survival Manual for the Aristocrats of the Soul in regard to the Marxist scam and how it is just as much a cultural and spiritual affliction as capitalism: “Humanity's existential lesion is generally explained [by leftists] as an effect of material, economic organization in a society such as the capitalist one. The true remedy, the start of a "new and authentic humanism," a human integrity and a "happiness never known before," would then be furnished by the setting up of a different socioeconomic system, by the abolition of capitalism, and by the institution of a communist society of workers, such as is taking place in the Soviet area. Karl Marx had already praised in communism "the real appropriation of the human essence on the part of man and for the sake of man, the return of man to himself as a social being, thus as a human man," seeing in it the equivalent of a perfect naturalism and even a true humanism. In its radical forms, wherever this myth is affirmed through the control of movements, organizations, and people, it is linked to a corresponding education, a sort of psychic lobotomy intended methodically to neutralize and infantilize any form of higher sensibility and interest, every way of thought that is not in terms of the economy and socioeconomic processes. Behind the myth is the most terrible void, which acts as the worst opiate yet administered to a rootless humanity. Yet this deception is no different from the myth of prosperity, especially in the form it has taken in the West. Oblivious of the fact that they are living on a volcano, materially, politically, and in relation to the struggle for world domination, Westerners enjoy a technological euphoria, encouraged by the prospects of the "second industrial revolution" of the atomic age. At all events, the error and the illusion are the same in both socioeconomic ideologies, namely the serious assumption that existential misery can be reduced to suffering in one way or another from material want, and to impoverishment due to a given socioeconomic system.”
Aside from its cultural importance as arguably the only honest and artistically merited Hollywood counterculture film, Zabriskie Point also seems like a superficial aesthetic outline for much of David Lynch's post-Blue Velvet cinematic output, especially in regard to Wild at Heart (1990), Lost Highway (1997), and even The Straight Story (1999). Indeed, while I still have yet to see all of Antonioni's films, his tragic Death Valley romance seems to be the only one that has bizarre ‘Lynchian’ movements. Somewhat interestingly, Wild at Heart star Grace Zabriskie is actually descended from the same exact opulent Polish-American family as the wealthy businessman that Zabriskie Point is named after. Of course, while Lynch's films have seemingly infinite idiosyncratic moments, Antonioni certainly beat him to the punch with a number of things, arguably most notably the ‘home appliance holocaust’ at the conclusion of Zabriskie Point, which indubitably proves that you do not have to be a commie to enjoy the pseudo-apocalyptic destruction of expensive consumer goods.