IT’S A ZABRISKIE, ZABRISKIE, ZABRISKIE POINT
(director/writer: Daniel Kremer; editor: Daniel Kremer; cast: Daniel Kremer (narrator), Rob Nilsson; Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Daniel Kremer; Public Shore Films; 2023-in color & B/W)
“Traces Hollywood’s lust for the desert.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Daniel Kremer (“Overwhelm the Sky”/”Raise Your Kids On Seltzer”), filmmaker, film historian and film archivist, directs and narrates this unconventional personal essay film, a tiny-budgeted indie that records his reaction to the 1970 American arthouse masterpiece, set in Death Valley, “Zabriskie Point,” by the great Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni.
Kremer tells us as a 12-year-old stutterer he became absorbed by the arthouse film Zabriskie Point (showing footage of himself as a boy watching his favorite pic on TV).
Many critics at the time of ZP’s release found the foreign director’s film not to their liking because his view of America as a wasteland was so foreign to them. But I lived through those times and witnessed the rapidly changing country in the 1960s as it gave way to protests over the unpopular Viet-nam war that divided the country by generations and a growing counter culture movement that was changing the American landscape.
Antonioni’s cynical view of America turned off many who couldn’t see the film as sometimes a child could innocently see. Another turn off for many were the aimless non-professional actor stars, Mark Frechette and Daria Halprin, who accidentally meet in the desert and openly screw in the sand.
ZP‘s a thought-provoking but plotless film meant for the radicalized viewer to think of the desert as a place one goes to in order to become someone else. Which was the theme of Antonioni’s The Passenger (1975), as Kremer observes.
Kremer, in a well-thought out and on point commentary, traces Hollywood’s lust for the desert beginning with Erich von Stroheim’s 1925 silent epic “Greed,” where the despotic director becomes in the desert the genius who could not be trusted.
Kremer also bangs the table for the 1963 escapist madcap Stanley Kramer film, “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” as he takes liberties to act silly and blend it weirdly into the ZP film. Kremer notes that Kramer’s film premiered just days before the assassination of JFK–a fatal event in American history, which altered forever how America looked at itself and the world looked at America.
REVIEWED ON 1/23/2024 GRADE: A