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Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathDeserts of the Political
Zabriskie Point (Antonioni, Michelangelo), 1970

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architectural historian Reyner Banham refers in his book about the «the Great American Desert.»[8] The following will address two of these kinds of dispositifs, which incorporate topography and technology, plans of action and scenes of collapse, politics and film.

Desert People «Zabriski Point» by Michaelangelo Antonioni

A second Italian director, Michelangelo Antonioni, was as stubborn as Pasolini in his attempt to turn deserts and other barren landscapes into constellations of cinematographic and psychological signs, although he went about this project in a completely different fashion. Films such as «L Avventura» (1960), «Il Deserto Rosso» (1964), and «Professione: Reporter» («The Passenger,» 1975) are widely varying approaches toward the desert as dream image, parallel universe, projection surface, primeval landscape, post apocalyptic world, and depiction of reality. «Zabriskie Point» (1970) marked a peak in Antonioni s exploration of desert aesthetics. At the same time, Antonioni turned the desert into an arena to display the reciprocal processes of subjectivization


and politicization. No other dramatic film had dealt so strongly with the cathartic effects that the desert had upon nineteen-sixties American youth and no other film took so much criticism for it. The desert mobilized the protagonists; Antonioni and his actors took off for Death Valley with cars, airplanes, and cameras. Their motorized roving led (at first) to collective dissipation. The famous/infamous «love scene» in «Zabriskie Point» shows the two main characters (played, or better, embodied by Daria Halprin and Mark Frechette) having sex in the sand dunes at Zabriskie Point, a scenic outlook in Death Valley that gives the film its name. The sex is hallucinatory, alluding to a utopian dimension. And the couple is not alone; the desert is libidinously populated: accompanied by the spacious sounds of Jerry Garcia s improvised guitar, other naked people enjoy a dreamlike romp in the sand. Antonioni had recruited the actors from a free theatre group in San Francisco. The desert, this supposedly most hostile of all places, becomes the setting for free love and unfettered physical pleasure. In Antonioni s film, this moment of liberation becomes an ethereal commercial for the «free love» Weltanschauung, but his manner of

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