The most exciting movie I've seen so far, in the first half of the Sydney Film Festival, has been Zabriskie Point.
I've always wanted to see it, even though I'd read that it was supposed to be pretentious garbage. It lost a lot of money for MGM, and partially deflated the critical reputation of the director Michelangelo Antonioni.
But I loved it, and I'm hugely glad that I saw it properly on the big screen, where I could get the full impact of the sound (great use of early 70's songs) and the visuals.
It was easy to see in the first few minutes why the film was not a success in 1970. It's completely pretentious. The main two stars are rather bad actors, though I loved watching them (they look very pretty together, and nothing like the usual Hollywood stars - especially with the 70's hair). The dialogue is stilted and unnatural, trying too hard to be hip. And the political messages are far too heavily handled, it's almost insulting. It also has one of the most un-Hollywood endings I've ever seen from a Hollywood film. Downbeat is not the word. The ending is angry and negative and exhilarating and completely grabbed me.
I found myself loving the film. And it kept coming in and out of my mind for the rest of the day.
The 70's cinematography was beautiful to see. The first half of the film is set in the city, with advertisements everywhere - consumerism has taken over. And businessman Rod Taylor is getting ready to bring this 'civilisation' to the desert, by turning it into real estate.
Our drop-out leads get away from it all by going into the desert, and it's beautiful. The scenes in the desert are a bit slow, but they feel magical.
The sex scene in the desert, which turns into a kind of mass orgy fantasy of sexual freedom in the dust, looked great. Again, not the kind of thing to expect from MGM.
And then there's the killer ending.
It's an angry dream sequence, starting with Rod Taylor's desert dream house (and it was a great house - wouldn't mind it myself) repeatedly being blown up in slow motion. I was looking forward to seeing this, but wasn't prepared for how gobsmackingly gobsmacking it was. I liked that Rod both represented greedy consumerist america as well as old Hollywood (being the only old Hollywood star in the film) in this sequence. Go Rod! I think it was brave of him to take on this role.
And not only the house - a fridge, a clothing rack, shelves full of books - they're all beautifully blown to smithereens in slow-mo, with Pink Floyd getting louder on the soundtrack, till you're totally immersed in the apocalyptic vision. It was like nothing I've seen before in a film, which is something considering how often things get blown up in movies!
I'm sure this film would lose some of it's power on tv. The big screen was definitely the place for it.
Wow, man, I'm freakin' out (as they used to say)!