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Themesicon: navigation pathArt and Cinematographyicon: navigation pathDeserts of the Political

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presentation might cause us to think that we are witnessing the «the ultimate in the pretentious bluff,» «ideology at its worst,» as Slavoj Zizek believes.[9] Actually, in pretending to have understood the motivation for (and views of) American counterculture, Antonioni does seem to be bluffing. His detailed knowledge of the alienated Italian middle class, which suffers from a «malaise of the Eros» (Antonioni), is used here in a surprise ending.[10] Antonioni s opinions on social revolution, hippie youth and their destructive, polymorphousperverse, anti-reform motives were publicized even during filming. Months before Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer released «Zabriskie Point» on February 9, 1970, press articles fanned the flames of expectation, discussing the film and Antonioni s «bizarre vision of our youth»[11] (Look, November 23, 1969).[12] In a 1969 interview with Charles Thomas Samuels, the 57-year-old Antonioni compared the hippies to the superstitious farmers of Calabria, to whom he dedicated his 1949 documentary film, «Superstizione.» «I believe these similarities derive from the hippies desire not to reform present society, but to destroy it and, in destroying it, return almost to antiquity, to a purer, more primordial life, less


mechanical…»[13] Hence, fantasies of the «flight from civilization» and the «destruction of civilization» go hand in hand. To the accompaniment of «Come in Number 51, Your Time Is Up» by Pink Floyd, a modern desert villa explodes in psychedelic slow-motion at the end of the film, recalling the depiction of collective ecstasy in the «love scene» in Death Valley. Key terms here are tabula rasa, new beginnings, primordial social forms, neoprimitivism.

The Desert as Laboratory

There was another time when the desert was considered to be the proper place for explosions and disappearances. In 1942, during WWII, General Patton flew over the deserts of California, Nevada, and Arizona, looking for suitable land for weapons testing. Patton «saw the desert as «vacant,» and he filled that vacancy with a Desert Training Centre spanning 16,200 square miles.»[14] Atom bomb tests were also carried out in the 1940s in the deserts of the southwest. Staging events and actions in the «empty» desert implied that such activity would have no consequences. Men and

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