As mentioned in previous columns, we’d been having a bit of a problem getting people to shut the hell up during the films. And being that I’d decided to show a comparison program of neo-realist style films dealing with social unrest in the ‘60’s, I was somewhat concerned that no one would be paying attention and that the effect of my compare and contrast programming would be completely lost on the rabble. So I deliberately “forgot” to send the email reminder, resulting in a scant 7 people to start with.
The program for the evening was a collaborative effort between my husband and me. I had been trying to get him to watch Haskell Wexler’s seriously underrated “Medium Cool” for pretty much the duration of our relationship. He had been meaning to check out Antonioni’s “Zabriskie Point” for almost as long. Since they both seemed like variations on a similar theme from two very different perspectives, it seemed like a perfect match. I would have tons to write about and there would be hours of brilliant political discussion… or so I hoped.
Predictably, as people started to show up, they all needed to know what the films were since they hadn’t bothered to check the schedule. Being that no one save Ken from the store knew anything about either movie, it was pretty much just as well.
Will was happy because Ken had managed to drag his butt out, meaning that Will was no longer the newbie. However, my husband pointed out that it wasn’t really fair to make Ken a newbie since he was already the newbie at work, so Will was stuck with the title for yet another week. But, Ken did get some razzing for almost killing himself in front of our house by being The World’s Worst Driver.
Since we’d both heard that “Zabriskie Point” ends up sort of underwhelming, we decided to show it first and then kill with “Medium Cool”. Things started off promisingly enough. It had a great ambient rock soundtrack with songs by Pink Floyd and the Grateful Dead although we all agreed that when it comes to either band it really depends on the song. Nick declared the soundtrack even better than that of “Master of the Flying Guillotine,” which if you’ve seen “Flying Guillotine” is high praise indeed.
There was also a good deal of “revolutionary” style rhetoric and a cool hand-held camera aesthetic. But then, there was Mark, played by Mark Frechette. While admittedly rather easy on the eyes in a dreamy, pretty boy kind of way, he very obviously was not an actor. While I will accept that this may have been Antonioni’s intention, Mark’s complete inability to even pretend to speak English like a human was extremely distracting. Sadly, in a bizarre bit of life imitating art that I found while trying to figure out the guy’s name, Mark was actually arrested for armed robbery shortly after “Zabriskie Point” was released and died in prison in a weight lifting “accident.”
The first scene dealt with Mark’s frustration with a revolutionary group on campus. Graeme commented that this was why you don’t get a bunch of anarchists together in a room: nothing gets decided. There were laughs for the cops calling a college professor a “clerk” (academics in the house!) and more laughs for the first stop after getting out of jail: the gun store. There was also some marveling at how easily the “revolutionaries” were able to get a gun without a permit by simply emphasizing their need to “protect (their) women”.
Then Mark gets into a situation where he believed to have killed a police officer and is forced to take to the road. Actually, it’s never really clear whether he’s aware that everyone thinks he shot the cop, at least not right away. But his first instinct is still to take off, and this is where the film starts to take a turn for the meandering and silly. I found myself having to explain Antonioni, without ever actually having seen an Antonioni movie all the way through. But being that I knew the director’s name, I was still the most qualified person in the room to bluff through such things.
Somewhere on the road Mark meets up with some hippie chick (Daria Halprin) who’s out to protest against her boss/father’s development in the Arizona desert, which led to some very entertaining vitriol from Corinne, who both loathes and despises the entire state. Especially Phoenix.
Graeme meanwhile was losing patience. “Where’s this all going?!” he bellowed. We tried to explain that it was a neo-realist thing, but truth was we were lost too. Much time was spent trying to determined what Daria was on, or just shouting “You’re a stoned out hippie!” whenever she tried to think. And then, with a good deal of sappy “free-love” lead up, Mark and Daria get to making sweet sweet love in the desert and it turns into some kind of wild Burning Man orgy with dozens of copulating couples magically appearing in the desert dust to offer support and encouragement to Mark and Daria. Or something.
Nick pointed out that we all should have been on acid and peaking at that point, but the rest of us were preoccupied with the horrible thought of sand up the crack. My husband and I stewed about how the hippies had f****d up the youth movement of the sixties and I got very excited about people seeing “Medium Cool.” Everyone had tuned out. Then Brendan made an off-handed comment about how Daria could “totally blow something up with her mind” while she stared at the show house in the middle of nowhere. And it happened. Not once, not twice, but 13 times! To the William Tell Overture! And then the movie ended.
To get over the crushing disappointment of what could have been a really great realist film had it not turned into a hippyfied-art-wank-fest we opted to cleanse the pallet with a little “Rubber Johnny.” For those of you who didn’t pick up the Chris Cunningham Work of Director DVD, you probably won’t have any idea what I’m talking about. The completed film was interesting to start with. Utterly horrifying and as Corinne described it, “abusive on the eyes.” Then it turned into a techno video and I stopped caring.
After that, Ken took off, as did Mike and Bob leaving 8 people to enjoy “Medium Cool.”
The evening continues in part two of ENTER THE DEN OF SIN: DAMN YOU STINKING HIPPIES!>>>