At Zabriskie Point, United States' lowest point, two perfect strangers meet; an undergraduate dreamer and a young hippie student who start off an unrestrained romance, making love on the dusty terrain.
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An epic portrait of late Sixties America, as seen through the portrayal of two of its children: anthropology student Daria (who's helping a property developer build a village in the Los Angeles desert) and dropout Mark (who's wanted by the authorities for allegedly killing a policeman during a student riot)...Written by
Michael Brooke <email@example.com>
Michelangelo Antonioni's leftist politics made the film controversial from the start. The production was harassed by groups opposed to the movie's alleged "anti-Americanism." FBI agents tailed cast and crew members. Filming locations were besieged by right-wingers protesting an alleged scene of flag desecration, which never happened. Militant anti-establishment students worried they were being "sold out". The sheriff of Oakland, California, accused Michelangelo Antonioni of provoking the riots he had come to film. Death Valley park rangers initially refused to allow Michelangelo Antonioni to shoot at Zabriskie Point because they thought he planned to stage an orgy at the site; it was conceptualized, but never seriously considered. The U.S. Attorney's office in Sacramento opened grand jury investigations into both the film's alleged "anti-Americanism" and possible violations of the Mann Act, a 1910 law prohibiting the transportation of women across state lines "for immoral conduct, prostitution or debauchery," during the Death Valley filming. The investigation was dropped, reluctantly, when they learned that Zabriskie Point was at least 13 miles west of the California-Nevada border. See more »
Zabriskie Point, in Death Valley National Park (California, USA) is not actually the lowest-elevation point in the United States. That would be Badwater Basin, at a depth of 282 feet below sea level, which is also located in Death Valley National Park about 20 miles away. See more »
[booking a protester]
William S. Polit, protester:
Associate professor of history.
That's too long, Bill. I'll just put down clerk.
See more »
MGM president Louis F. Polk was so worried about the controversy surrounding the film, particularly the threat of an X rating, that he invoked the studio's right to the final cut and ordered Antonioni to eliminate anything that might be potentially controversial. Thus, the riots, the love-ins, and numerous other scenes and fragments of scenes were removed, leaving only seventy minutes. The film was deemed unreleasable and written off as a loss but was saved when Polk was replaced by James T. Aubrey, who thought highly of the film and restored (nearly) all of the cut scenes. See more »
Thirty two years has put in place a focus the film never had in 1970
At the time of its release, ZABRISKE POINT caused great division in film-going circles. A "wannabe classic but artless piece of empty canvas" was the view of the establishment, most critics included. To the alternative movement...a "revelation of everything that is wrong in the world today (1970)" Not too much has changed judging by the comments here, although an overall user-rating of an almost respectable 6.2 suggests an increase in the appreciation factor.
Poor old Mark Frechette and Daria Halpin as the star crossed lovers - definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time (weren't they EVERY wronged and downtrodden teenager of the period???) copped most of the flack, totally unreasonably. They were SUPPOSED to be Mr and Miss typical troubled youth, not Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara on a bender! This was an image-driven film and many flag waving americans were incensed that Italy's outre director Antonioni was given free rein to portray the angst of American youth.
Cinematically, the film was awesome. In London at the time, I saw it on its release and thought that from an objective viewpoint it was quite brilliant (admittedly, I was only 24 myself). Many have commented on its alleged self-indulgence. Yeah, well it WAS Antonioni's film - surely he was free to express his art-form in whatever way he saw fit at the time? The desert scenes have not been topped by any film since.
ZABRISKIE POINT may be shy of "masterpiece" status (mind you, who amongst is solely qualified to make THAT call?) but it is probably now, THE defining film of 70's culture. A time when acid trips, communal living, even just plain old fashioned "love" were not that easy a choice to live with!
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