Edited By Christopher Brown and Pam Hirsch
5 The Artifice of Modernity: Alienation by the Pool Side in the Cinema of Michelangelo Antonioni
A long sequence of billboards and advertisements at the beginning of the film sets the tone for an exploration of alienation and artifice in Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1970 Zabriskie Point. These images, so plentiful as to screen out the real nature of Los Angeles, include garish calls for the spectator to ‘get away from it all’ and to enjoy a thousand products in a dizzying collage of consumer culture. Shortly thereafter the female protagonist Daria (Daria Halprin) introduces us to the Sunny Dunes Corporation. Daria is working as a secretary in the land development company even though it is not ‘really something that she digs to do’, as she explains to the manager Lee Allen (Rod Taylor). Allen’s colleagues are soon to be seen pensively studying a promotional film for a Sunny Dunes complex of homes to be built in the desert. The film features miniatures of the development together with Barbie-like dolls ‘acting’ the part of future residents. Sunny Dunes represents a move from the ‘borderline’ of the city to the old desert frontier, now safely behind the defensive lines of the white middle class. Here people will be able to live in isolation and full modernity. The epitome of this combination is the ‘private pool’, a symbol for the dream of being able to ‘enjoy life’ outside of the meddlesome public sphere. But the pools in the Sunny Dunes...
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