Feb 27, 2016

Zabriskie Point

While many Americans seem to conjure up images in their mind of peace, love, and a virtual utopian world when they think of late-1960s and naked dirty hippie bastards prancing around in pastel-colored body-paint, I can only think of race wars, smug subversive semites with rebbe-esque beards, STDs, primitive communes ruled by psychopathic megalomaniacs that fuck children, and the general senseless cultural and social subversion that has led to the malefic pre-apocalyptic anarcho-tyranny that we have today in the United States, thus I could not help but delight in the quite literally explosive conclusion of great Italian maestro Michelangelo Antonioni’s exceedingly underrated Hollywood production Zabriskie Point (1970), which is probably the only mainstream film featuring hippies fucking and smoking dope that does not come off as retarded twaddle. Indeed, while directed by an innately introverted and melancholic northern guido that was almost sixty at the time he created it and thus naturally had no real intimate personal experience with the people and culture it depicts, I think it is arguably the greatest and most darkly romantic American counterculture film ever made, as the sort of U.S. equivalent to the UK cult classic Performance (1970) co-directed by Donald Cammell and Nicholas Roeg in terms of defining the zeitgeist and offering the final cinematic word on the counterculture question. A sort of modernist hippie Romeo and Juliet story where there are no feuding families and instead a warring nation where the youth and negroes are determined to rip the moral and cultural fabric of the nation into shreds, the film tells the senselessly tragic tale of a fugitive activist of the rebel-without-a-cause oriented sort who somewhat absurdly steals a small private plane after assuming that he is a fugitive as a result a cop-killing he did not actually commit and flies it to the otherworldly landscapes of Manson Country U.S.A. (aka Death Valley) where he meets and starts a brief yet almost perfectly passionate love affair with a busty brunette stoner secretary, only to absurdly fly the stolen aircraft back to the airport where he got from and thus meets a most pointlessly horrific fate when he is ambushed by a bunch of trigger-happy cops who are fed up with the violent hippie scumbags and black nationalist revolutionaries that have been tearing up local universities, the film notably takes a deceptively simple nuanced approach to rationalizing the collective irrationality that defined the era, hence why so many people have found the flick to be quite inexplicable. A piece of cinematic art impersonating life and vice versa, Antonioni’s aesthetically whimsical yet carefully constructed cinematic counterculture assault notably stars two real-life hippie non-actors in the lead roles, with male lead Mark Frechette—an aggressively nihilistic and hateful young man from a poor background that was discovered by the film’s casting director while he was engaging in a violent shouting match at a Boston bus-stop—ultimately joining the glorious ’27 Club’ in 1975 after being sentenced to six to fifteen years in prison for taking part in a botched bank robbery and dying via suffocation while incarcerated in a minimum security state prison in Norfolk, Massachusetts during a seeming dubious weightlifting accident that involved a 150-pound barbell falling on his neck. Additionally, Frechette and his co-star Daria Halprin—the daughter of a prominent San Francisco landscape architect named Lawrence “Pops” Halprin and his wife, postmodern dance pioneer Anna Halprin, who Antonioni discovered and decided to cast after seeing her perform preposterously bad poetry in the nude in Jack O’Connell’s largely forgotten doc Revolution (1968)—were real-life lovers and were referenced by the media as ‘first counterculture couple’ by the media.   Of course, Halprin is probably best remembered today as being one of the many ex-wives of Dennis Hopper.

 While best known for his ‘trilogy on modernity and its discontents’—L'Avventura (1960) aka The Adventure, La Notte (1961) aka The Night, and L'Eclisse (1962) aka Eclipse—where morosely melancholic upper-middleclass individuals are portrayed as virtual walking but rarely talking corpses of the forsakenly emotionally glacial and spiritually impoverished sort that suffer from the incapacity to communicate and express love and affection, Zabriskie Point depicts late-1960s America as suffering from a different yet no less perturbing social phenomenon that demonstrates that Europe and the United States are at slightly different stages of decline, with Americans still maintaining some of the barbarian genes that helped their ballsy ancestors conquer and tame the land. Indeed, where Antonioni’s post-WWII Italy is a place where young people are seemingly metaphysically comatose and are completely crippled by Weltschmerz and ennui, the director’s America is a seemingly socially and culturally schizophrenic open frontier on the brink of civil war where the old are nothing more than the anachronistic remnants of a dead people and culture, the middle-aged are almost psychopathically materialistic and hopelessly deracinated lemmings that live to make money and buy pointless shit that they do not need, and the young are angry and decidedly disillusioned misfits and rebels who have rejected the American dream and who are all too eager to trash the traditions and customs of their ancestors while, at the same time, pretending to care about and understand the plight of the poor disenfranchised negro. Undoubtedly, the two leads of the film are symbolic of the two anti-intellectual extremes associated with the counterculture movement, with Frechette portraying a perpetually antagonistic hate-filled nihilist with a seeming death wish whose sole political interest is destruction for destruction’s sake and Halprin playing an almost obnoxiously happy-go-luck hedonistic pothead with a high tolerance for belligerent assholes and next to nil serious political ambitions aside from the right to be ostensibly ‘free’ and to use her pussy whenever and wherever she wants to. Of course, what these two virtual opposites do have in common is that they seem to be in a state of perennial childhood, but I guess that is what someone expect from a generation of people that bought into the big lie of the zeitgeist and rejected the traditions and values of their people without having anything to replace them with, hence why many of these extremely lost individuals later embraced yuppiedom, which combines the worst and most deleterious vices of both the hippies and capitalist as reflected in the stereotypical Hollywood image of some bearded bro or slutty blonde snorting a line of cocaine off of a hundred dollar bill. Indeed, in a somewhat unwitting way, Zabriskie Point depicts all the ingredients and circumstances that would lead to the cultureless and deracinated neo-liberal multicultural void that America is today, even if Antonioni was clearly more sympathetic towards the hippies than their parents and grandparents. 

 Inspired by a true story that the auteur read in a newspaper while in the United States for the 1966 premiere of Blowup (1966) about a young man that stole a plane and was ultimately killed after making the somewhat absurd mistake of attempting to return it to its rightful owner in Phoenix, Arizona, Zabriskie Point was shot from a screenplay penned by Antonioni that was ultimately reworked by no less than three other people, including Sam Shepard, poet-cum-screenwriter Tonino Guerra, and Bernardo Bertolucci’s future wife Clare Peploe. Of course, considering the somewhat glaring aesthetic and thematic similarities between Antonioni and Wenders’ films, especially in terms of its expansive landscape cinematography, it should be no surprise that Shepard later went on to pen Paris, Texas (1984). Of course, as opposed to Wender's film where the Southwestern landscapes are symbolic of existential despair and nothingness upon nothingness, Antonioni’s flick brings a somewhat unexpected sense of utopian purity to the deserts, as if they are the one last place in America that has not been totally tainted by consumerism, materialism, and greed, hence the protagonists' almost otherworldly fuck session, which evolves into a sort of celestial orgy where sand and semen become virtually one. In fact, in Zabriskie Point the real sinister undercurrent of society is not Hades-like landscapes or rock formations but TV commercials, billboards, and manmade communities created by companies that exploit these natural places and environments and have created a perturbing pseudo-culture of innate artificiality that corrupts the sole and spirit. Indeed, in virtually every scene that is set in Los Angeles or in the lavish home of a wealthy individual, the viewer is exposed to a grotesque manmade parody of nature and natural landscapes, with the female protagonist not coincidentally being the secretary and assumed mistress of a covertly sleazy and proudly materialistic real estate executive whose company is responsible for creating a TV commercial for a new resort-like real estate development in the desert that eerily stars a mannequin family as opposed to real living and breathing people, thus underscoring the innate artificiality of what would come to personify post-WWII ‘Americanism.’

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.

 In a sometimes annoying scene that reminds viewers why hippies deserved to get their asses kicked by the cops where Antonioni seems to go back to his early roots as a neorealist filmmaker that directed semi-documentary shorts during the late-1940s through early-1950s like L'amorosa menzogna (1949) aka Lies of Love and Superstizione (1949) aka Superstition, Zabriskie Point begins with a somewhat racially-charged documentary-like scene where white student activists and negro revolutionaries argue in regard to the former’s sincerity (or lack thereof) and overall importance in terms of the so-called revolution. Indeed, after berating his white ‘comrades’ for not taking part in a strike and then advocating violence when a white girl brings up a ROTC building by responding, “All you have to do is go down to the ROTC building. . .take a bottle, fill it full of gasoline. Plug it with a rag,” an angry black revolutionary accuses the whites of being more or less posh posers who do not even understand what a real struggle is since they have never had to struggle in their entire lives. Indeed, when a swarthy and seemingly Jewish radical complains, “Yeah, man, but what if you wanna end sociology?,” the rather nasty yet refreshingly honest negro rightly replies, “Listen, man, a Molotov cocktail is a mixture of gasoline and kerosene. A white radical is a mixture of bullshit and jive.” When an assumed Jewess with a grating voice then proceeds to complain that she does not have to “prove” her “revolutionary credentials” to anyone, especially not some dumb ghetto negro, another black revolutionary hilariously replies, “You get busted for grass and that makes you a revolutionary.” Of course, when a blond male activist gets the gall to ask the Afro chic revolutionary, “Are you willing to die?,” he responds by angrily alluding to slavery and his ancestors, stating like a stereotypical race-hustling black Baptist charlatan preacher, “Black people are dying. A lot of black people have died in this country. Black people have earned this leadership in blood. We’re not gonna give it up.” At this point, the film’s protagonist Mark (Mark Frechette) abruptly stands up from his chair and stoically declares in front of all of the activists, “Well, I’m willing to die too. But not of boredom” and then walks out of the meeting, thus causing both the white and black activist to agree on something for the first time and discuss how you cannot be truly ‘revolutionary’ unless you are willing to go to meetings and work with other people.  After all, it takes a certain amount of good old-fashioned collectivist brainwashing for a group of people to be stupid enough to throwaway their lives for some futile cause.

 Quite humorously, when Mark walks out of the college commie meeting, the afro-adorned black revolutionary declares that someone should read to him excerpts from Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-tung and “That bourgeois individualism that he’s indulging in is gonna get him killed,” thereupon unwittingly revealing his sheer and utter contempt for traditional Anglo-Saxon values as if it is negative to be a free-thinking individualist as opposed to a collectivist-minded automaton like so many non-European peoples in the world.  Somewhat ironically, Mark’s so-called “bourgeois individualism” does ultimately get him killed, but what the negro does not understanding is that the protagonist is not interested in jerking off to the collected works of Wilhelm Reich or becoming comrades with a bunch of wealthy atheistic Hebrews in some pseudo-intellectual Trotskyite think-thank, as he is a hateful and antisocial individual with a sort of degenerated Faustian spirit that is only interested in destruction and wasting pigs. Indeed, as Mark later confesses to the female protagonist, he absolutely loathes the strict rules, masturbatory discussions, and conformist attitudes that plague the far-left groups that he has associated with in the past. Considering his unwavering individualism and cynicism towards just about anything, Mark seems to have more in common with a right-wing anarchist like Louis-Ferdinand Céline than some vapid dork that would embrace the anti-gospel of the Frankfurt School. When Mark is briefly arrested at the beginning of the film for causing trouble at a police station after repeatedly asking when he can bail out his roommate Monty (Bill Garaway) and then defying cops by obnoxiously yelling support to incarcerated activists, he humorously lies to a completely humorless police clerk and uses the anti-lord’s name by saying that his name is “Karl Marx” (somewhat humorously, the less than politically astute cop believes him and types “Carl Marx”). Not long after being released from prison, Mark and a friend manage to buy weapons on the spot without getting the required permits after the protagonist lies to salesman and alludes to naughty negroes destroying his neighborhood by stating, “See, we live in a neighborhood that’s, you know, borderline. You know what I mean? We gotta protect our women.” Not only is Mark able to buy a gun, but he is also given important advice, with one salesman telling him that he should not get anything “smaller than .38” and another stating just before he and his friend leave, “Say, boys. One other thing about the law, it says you can protect your house. So if you shoot them in the backyard, drag them inside.” 

 Unbeknownst to Mark, who seems totally disinterested in sex and women, a beauteous brunette pothead with a voluptuous body and sassy attitude named Daria (Daria Halprin) will practically fall into his lap in the literal middle of nowhere after he gets into a series of very precarious predicaments as a result of some absurdly self-destruction decisions that he so thoughtlessly makes. Indeed, a possible victim of watching both The Wild One (1953) starring Marlon Brando and Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause (1955) starring James Dean one-too-many times during his childhood, Mark makes the moronic decision to stuff his new revolver into one of his boots and heads to a local university after hearing on the news about a campus bloodbath involving 200 armed cops that resulted in the arrest of 25 students and 3 teachers.  Indeed, as a shameless thriller-seeker, Mark seems to see the campus confrontation as the perfect opportunity to waste a pig.  When Mark arrives at the university, he discovers that a gang of armed negro revolutionaries have taken over the campus library. Upon witnessing a cop shooting one of the negroes after they are gassed out of the library, Mark impulsively reaches for his revolver but someone unseen individual beats him to the chase and shoots one of the policemen dead, thus inspiring the protagonist to flee the university and take a city bus to its final stop at the suburban Hawthorne area where he calls his roommate Monty at a proletarian delicatessen and discovers that he has been featured on a news report and is possibly suspected of committing the cop-killing. After failing to beg the particularly portly delicatessen owner to give him a sub on credit (as the prole businessman tells the young commie, “It’s not that I don’t trust you personally. . .but if I trusted you, I’d have to trust everybody in the whole world”), Mark begins walking down a sidewalk where he sees an aircraft fly over his head, which inspires him to head Hawthorne Municipal Airport where he makes himself quite comfortable inside a small pink named ‘Lilly 17’ that he impulsively decides to steal.  When an airplane mechanic inquires about what he is doing, Mark has the gall to offer him a ride.  While he manages to getaway in the airplane, Mark’s rather ballsy thievery is unfortunately almost instantly discovered by workers at the airport as he makes the mistake of taking off in the opposite direction. 

 While Mark is having a great fun flying the plane across the desert and admiring the scenic landscapes, his future love interest Daria is in the middle of driving in her grey 1950s Buick from L.A. to Phoenix, Arizona to meet with her real estate executive boss Lee Allen (Rod Taylor), though she decides to make a pit stop on the way to meet with some hippie guru type named James Patterson that she apparently wants to learn meditation from. Although never explicitly stated, it is hinted that Daria is carrying on a fair with her rather repugnant married middle-aged boss Lee and during her road trip she decides to give him a call at a secluded bar called the ‘Rumpus Room’ where she states, “I’m in some ghost town. I just called to say I may be a little late in Phoenix.”  As an assumed result of her incessant dope-smoking, Daria is such a ditzy dame that she cannot even remember the name of the town that she wants to visit, which she simply describes to her boss as a, “fantastic place for meditation.” When Lee asks what you do during meditation, she replies in all seriousness in a fashion that demonstrates she cannot be too serious about it, “You think about things.” Ultimately, after briefly talking to the proud owner of the Rumpus Room, who immediately realizes by mere her appearance that she is a good-for-nothing hippie numbskull that has come to see the beatnik bastard that is destroying his community, Daria discovers that she is actually already in the town where her pal Patterson lives. When Daria reveals that she has come to visit Patterson, the bar owner gets noticeably agitated and complains in regard to the seemingly enigmatic guru (who the viewer never actually sees), “Well, you can tell him for me he’s gonna be the death of this town. He’s gonna ruin a piece of American history […] On account of being a do-gooder, he brought these kids out here from Los Angeles. Said they were sick. Emotionally sick. You know what that means? But if Los Angeles don’t want them, why should we want them?” Indeed, literally seconds after the bar owner discusses his great disgust with Patterson and the bad mentally ill boys that he has plagued the town with, one of the bastard broods throws a rock through a window in his bar. 

 Before Daria exits the bar and faces the dangers of the wild boys that lurk around the desert, an extremely elderly and seemingly borderline senile bar patron asks her, “Do you remember Johnny Wilson?” and when she replies “No,” he proudly replies, “That’s me. I was middleweight champion of the world in 1920.” While Daria is quite nice to the old man and enthusiastically tells him “That’s great,” she clearly has no clue what he is talking about. Undoubtedly, the self-described 1920 middleweight champion and the other drunk bar patrons, who are notably all extremely old white man sporting cowboys hats, are symbolic of the old and authentic America before Hollywood contrived a pseudo-culture when real frontiersman, outlaws, and farmers were still civilizing the land and wasting injuns. Undoubtedly, it seems Mark was born into the wrong time period, as he has more in common with the old cowboys of the past that battled red-skinned savages and hunted herds of buffalo than the wimpy armchair intellectuals that enjoy sitting around cafes and discussing the dubious theories of some anti-Occidental Jewish intellectual quack. As for Daria, almost immediately after leaving the Rumpus Room, she soon finds herself being taunted by a pack of wild white and mestizo prepubescent boys who initially hide from her but then consider gang-raping her. Indeed, after following the boys around the almost ominous desert while trying to ask them where their guardian Patterson is, the boys eventually aggressively form a circle around her like a pack of feral dogs and then their assumed leader asks, “Can we have a piece of ass?” While Daria tries to find humor in the borderline surreal situation and replies, “Are you sure you’d know what to do with it?,” she immediately decides to flee the town in her car without even meeting up with Patterson after the boys begin to collectively paw at her panties and pussy. With their hippie guardian Patterson being nowhere to be found while the half-crazed pack-minded kids destroy property and attempt to gang-rape grown woman at a rather premature age before their balls have even dropped, one might assume that these hippie-raised misfits are symbolic of the first generation of social defectives that were brought up after all of America’s customs, traditions, and morals were being bulldozed by the spoiled buffoons of the baby boomer generation. 

 While making her way to Phoenix after being nearly vaginally pillaged by a gang of playfully pernicious preteen savages, Daria receives a delightful surprise that causes her to gleefully shriek like she is on the verge of an orgasm when Mark proceeds to dangerously fly over the hood of her car and almost crash into in the process. Indeed, Mark initially noticed Daria’s delectable figure while she was parked on the side of the road and adding water to her car radiator, so he decided to do a little bit of aggressive flirting with her via airplane. When Daria decides to park and get out of her car so that she can get a closer look at the anarchistic aviation action, she has to duck and lie down on the desert sand so that Mark does not crash the plane into her. While Daria is somewhat irked by Mark’s reckless and potentially quite deadly behavior, she is filled with joy when he throws her a red nightie from the plane window. When Daria eventually gets back in her car and begins driving again, she is delighted to see that Mark has parked his plane and is waiting for her at a shack owned by an eccentric old man who seems to have taken a liking to the male protagonist.  Indeed, Daria had no clue that the seemingly half-deranged aviator of the plane was a handsome devil, so her panties probably become completely soaked when she first sees him as indicated by her rather flirtatious behavior and somewhat salacious ‘please-fuck-me’ smile.  After smirking at him like she wants to jump pussy-first onto his cock while warmly thanking him for the nightie but reluctantly informing him that she cannot wear it since it is for the “wrong sex,” Mark takes advantage of the situation by telling her that he is in a “little bit of trouble” and then asks her for a ride so that he can get gas for his plane. While Mark confesses to stealing the plane because, to quote the protagonist, he “needed to get off the ground,” Daria does not seem to care too much that he is a fugitive (in fact, it seems to turn her on) and gladly gives him a ride, though they naturally take a temporary detour so that they can get to know each other a little more.  Indeed, after driving for a little bit, the two stop at Zabriskie Point—“an area of ancient lake bed deposited 5 to 10 million years ago”—where they ultimately go to wander aimlessly around the geological formations and flirt with one another. After revealing to her that he was a forklift driver as of yesterday and was kicked out of college after breaking into the dean’s office and reprogramming the computer so that he “made all the engineers take art courses,” Daria informs him that she heard on the radio that a student activist killed a cop. When Daria reveals that “the guy who killed the cop was white,” Mark attempts to shrug it off by replying “Oh, white man taking up arms for the blacks, huh? Just like old John Brown,”  thus reflecting his playfully sardonic sense of humor.  Needless to say, Daria is quite enamored with Mark's crude charm and seems to have only stopped at Zabriskie Point so that he can fuck her there.

 When Daria offers Mark a joint, the protagonist reacts somewhat unexpectedly by complaining about how one of the commie groups that he associated with attempted to force him to quite dope-smoking and then remarks, “I wasn’t really in the group. I just couldn’t stand their bullshit talk. Really bored the hell out of me. But when it gets down to it, you’d have to choose one side or the other.” While Daria seems as dumb as dames come, she exposes the inconsistency in Mark’s logic by replying, “There’s a thousand sides, not just heroes and villains,” to which he less than confidently retorts like a child that knows it is wrong but will not admit it, “Point is, if you don’t see them as villains, you can’t get rid of them.” Of course, it is quite obvious at this point that, like many people of his generation, Mark is just a hopelessly confused young man that is into destruction for destruction’s sake and he has no real argument as to why he wants to destroy the system aside from vague pseudo-moralistic sermonizing.  Indeed, Mark is filled with a lot of hate and rage, but he does not quite seem to know why, but he does know that acting like a criminal gives him some minor relief from his suffering. Naturally, even a happy-go-lucky pothead like Daria can only endure so much of Mark’s pathological negativity and cynicism and proceeds to mock him by proposing that they play a “Death Game” involving attempting to kill as many animals as possible and eventually each other after he hurts her feelings by describing the desert as being like “death.” At this point, Mark seems to slightly shed his abrasive tough guy exterior and contrarian attitude and begins focusing on aggressively flirting with Daria, who naturally laps up the much-desired attention. Indeed, it does not take long after he begins touching her fairly tanned thigh and unbuttoning her blouse that Mark manages to delicately defile Daria in the desert in what ultimately evolves into a surrealist orgy where a number of hippies involved in twosomes and bisexual threesomes surround the protagonists. Notably, this somewhat haunting dust orgy was performed by the experimental theatre group The Open Theater, hence why the film production was investigated for supposedly violating the Mann Act, even though it is clearly simulated sex that resembles really preposterous performance art (though it should be noted that a member of the group, playwright Jean-Claude van Itallie, who is best known for the satirical counterculture play America Hurrah, went on to direct the homo hardcore flick American Cream (1972) under the pseudonym ‘Rob Simple’). Ultimately, the inconveniently sandy lovemaking session gets so passionate that Daria finishes virtual stranger Mark off with a very loving blowjob that makes it quite clear that the female protagonist loves sucking cock. After they finish making love and get dressed, Mark peacefully states to Daria, “I always knew it would be like this” and when she asks “Us?,” he replies “The desert,” thus contradicting what he said earlier about the area.  Unfortunately for the female protagonist, Mark's seemingly orgasmically otherworldly sand sex with Daria is not enough for him to reconsider executing his seemingly suicidal mission.

 While heading back to Daria’s car, Mark is forced to hide behind a red porta-potty when a police officer shows up and begins questioning the female protagonist. Although Mark prepares to shoot the cop while hiding behind the portable toilet with his revolver in his hand, the police officer luckily leaves, though Daria subsequently realizes that he is the supposed fugitive cop-killer after she notices his gun. Although he admits he is innocent even though he actually wanted to waste the pig, Mark refuses to listen to reason and flee the state with Daria, who has good reason to keep him by her side since she now seems to be quite infatuated with him and surely cannot handle the thought of never being able to feel his throbbing rump-splitter inside her fleshy wet orifice(s) again. Of course, Mark remains firm in his desire to take the possibly deadly “risk” of flying the plane back to its rightful owner, even joking, “Sure. You don’t borrow someone’s private plane. . .take it for a joyride, and never come back to express your thanks.” Before heading back, Mark has Daria and the old hermit with the shack help him paint the plane with conspicuously crude psychedelic imagery, including tits on the wings and silly stereotypical hippie slogans on the side like “SUCK BUCKS” and “NO WARS.” Not surprisingly, Mark is quite self-satisfied in regard to his preposterous paint job, stating that some people might think that it is not a plane but instead a, “Strange prehistoric bird spotted over the Mojave Desert with its genitals out.” When Mark finally flies away in the plane, Daria waves goodbye in what is, unbeknownst to her, her last farewell to the hateful hippie hunk that managed to make her get wet in the most driest and most arid of regions. Meanwhile at the airport, tons of cops, media whores, and spectators have crowed around the area, though they have no clue that the villain plans to come back. When Mark finally arrives at the airport and prepares to land his rather obnoxious looking plane, he is bombarded by no less than four police cruisers. When Mark rams his plane into one of the patrol cars while attempting to drive in the grass so that he can escape, he is shot and killed instantly by a trigger-happy cop in what is arguably the most fittingly anticlimatic conclusion to arguably the briefest and most anticlimatic chase scene in cinema history.  Indeed, Mark dies in a quite impotent fashion for a no less impotent ‘political’ cause.

When Daria eventually hears about Mark’s death on her car radio while parked on the side of the road in a region inhabited by gigantic cacti, she develops a forlornly haunted expression on her face, rocks her body back and forth for a little bit while she is staring at the ground, and then abruptly jumps inside her car and drives away as if there is some kind of emergency. Despite everything that has happened, Daria still decides to honor her boss Lee’s wishes and drives to his luxury desert home in Phoenix. In what is indubitably another absurd stereotypical leftist attempt to link American capitalism with National Socialism, Lee’s desert home bears a striking resemblance to Hitler’s home Berghof in the Obersalzberg of the Bavarian Alps near Berchtesgaden, Bavaria, Germany. When Dara finally arrives at Lee’s lavish pad, she is disgusted to see three opulent middle-aged whores chatting and sunbathing by a pool and proceeds to put her head under a small manmade waterfall and cry, as if she hopes the water will obscure her tears. After briefly grieving for her handsome prince, Daria watches from an outside window while maintaining an expression of complete and utter contempt as Lee and a half a dozen other business men in suits negotiate about a big real estate deal involving the building of a suburban development in the middle of the desert. When Daria goes inside the house and Lee finally notices her, the superficially charming capitalist approaches her and informs her where her bedroom is while completely ignoring the forlorn expression on her face. While Daria proceeds to walk to her room, she barely even looks inside and instead decides to abruptly leave the house without even saying a word to anyone after a young American Indian maid smiles at her.

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.

 Notably, in his January 1, 1970 review of the film where he gave it a pathetic two out of four stars, lifelong committed leftist Roger Ebert complained in regard to what he saw as the major flaw of Zabriskie Point, “The fact is, Antonioni has no feeling for young people. In his European films, he allowed his characters to behave mostly as adults. But in "Zabriskie Point" we get kids who fall in love and act like kids (running up and down sand dunes, etc.) and the sight is even more depressing than adults doing it. He has tried to make a serious movie and hasn't even achieved a beach-party level of insight.” As far as I can tell, it seems that Ebert was either not completely paying attention to the film and/or refused to accept the damning insights Antonioni clearly offers because, aside from depicting an inordinately naturalistic and sensual desert romance between two individuals that clearly have great organic sexual chemistry, the film hints more than just a couple times that these young hippies are nothing more than extremely confused overgrown child who do not seem to understand, let alone care enough to understand, as to why they do the glaringly stupid things that they do. Indeed, while the protagonist is depicted as a rightfully angry and confused young man who has some much pint up hatred and rage that he does not care where or how he channels to the point where he is completely willing to throw his life for something that is so meaningless (hence his absurd rationalizations like, “Point is, if you don’t see them as villains, you can’t get rid of them”), the female protagonist is a sort of perennial teenybopper and shamelessly self-indulgent pothead princess who takes nothing seriously and simply lives to perpetuate her desire for perpetual pleasure (notably, at one point when she is asked if she does secretary work, she replies while sounding stoned retarded, “Well, it’s not something I really dig to do. I just work when I need the bread”).  In that sense, despite being complete opposites in terms of personalities, it is no surprise that the protagonists seem like practical soul mates during their rather erotically eventful date in the desert as they are both intrinsically impulsive individuals that take a visceral approach to life, though it is surely fitting that their relationship was as brief and fleeting as it was. While the protagonists more or less seem to literally fall in love at first sight, they are both far too damaged, immature, and whimsical to sustain anything resembling a healthy long-term monogamous relationship, which was quite typical of that zeitgeist, despite whatever romantic bullshit that a hippie sympathizer like Ebert wants to believe.  Indeed, the counterculture movement just gave naturally impulsive and self-destructive individuals an excuse to kill themselves faster as the short life of Frechette and countless other famous and non-famous individuals of that exceedingly excremental era readily reveals.

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.

-Ty E

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