Mark is a student radical. Daria is a beautiful, restless young woman. Their meeting sparks a deep passion in this visually stunning fantasia on the 60s counterculture when fate brings Mark and Daria together in Death Valley's desolate yet stunning Zabriskie Point. Daria is driving to a meeting with her employer. Mark has been forced to steal an airplane to escape from Los Angeles. The two become entranced both by each other and by the fleeting beauty of the shifting desert sands, but their time together is shattered a tragedy that will haunt Daria forever.]]>
>Not so in 1970. Zabriskie Point bombed with critics and audiences because Antonioni proved to be way out of his depth in attempting to relate to American youth and their inchoate revolution--something underscored by the irredeemably amateurish performances of unknowns Daria Halprin and Mark Frechette in the leading roles. The story, such as it is, takes its impetus from a student strike during which a police officer is shot. Whether Mark fired the shot is unclear (the editing at the crucial moment recalls the cop-killing in Godard's Breathless), but he splits. His flight into the desert in a stolen plane will bring him together with Daria, who's driving to Phoenix to meet her employer and possible lover, a real-estate developer (Rod Taylor). What transpires between these two young people has to be seen to be believed, except that it can't be believed. Nevertheless, the events of the next-to-last reel license Antonioni to tee up an extraordinary finale--a hallucinatory apocalypse in which American materialism gets what's coming to it, and the desert becomes a sunset bloom.
It's a measure of the film's miscalculation that, although the Taylor character is clearly meant to personify capitalist rapacity, the actor's professionalism is such a relief from the vapid leads that the guy comes off as sympathetic. There are also brief, welcome turns by G.D. Spradlin (future deliverer of the Apocalypse Now line "Terminate with extreme prejudice") and veteran Western player Paul Fix, whose Death Valley café becomes the scene of an astonishing Edward Hopper moment. Gold is where you find it. --Richard T. Jameson
Also on the DVD
The lone extra is the original trailer, with which, like the title song, we can only hope Antonioni had nothing to do. Over images of the prehistoric wilderness that gives the film its name, an adult voice salaciously intones: "Zabriskie Point ... where a boy ... and a girl ... meet ... and touch ... and blow their minds." Cue rock music and mass love-in. --Richard T. Jameson