Office Christmas Party
Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…
One of the most unpleasant conventions of movie shorthand is that when adults are happy they act like children. The hero and heroine fall in love, and lickety-split the camera goes all mushy and they race through the park, fly kites, feed the swans in the cemetery, and (most important of all) giggle as the mustard drips out of their hot dogs. I've yet to see one of these sequences that didn't end with the lovers buying hot dogs from that bushy-haired Italian vendor whose specialty is peddling drippy hot dogs to lovers. Turns out the guy's name is Antonioni, and watch it, you're getting that stuff all over your Berkeley sweatshirt.
Michelangelo Antonioni is a fitfully brilliant director whose best, and basic, insight is that the fashionable cultivation of boredom can break down our ability to feel and love. In the 1950s, it seemed to him, people became so shy of spontaneity that they lost the knack. His characters were so alienated and spiritually exhausted they could hardly even get through breakfast together.
We loved it. "Eclipse" (1962) had us leaving the theater feeling deliciously betrayed and alone. "Blow-Up" (1966) was even better. It was set in swinging London and left us feeling betrayed, alone, and with-it. In between, Antonioni gave us "The Red Desert" (1964), possibly the most passive and empty serious movie of the decade. That was Antonioni's thing, anyway, and he knew where he was going with it. But something (the enthusiasm young people had for "Blow-Up" maybe) caused him to fall victim to that plague of personal directors, involvement. He had been getting his material out of his own instincts, but now he decided to do a "committed" movie about American society and the radical movement.
I suspect the project itself was exactly counter to his talents. He is not remotely an activist in his personal style, and I have a notion he recoils from people who raise their voices in public disagreement. But he decided to make "Zabriskie Point" anyway and cast his lot with the militants, who cast it right back at him. This is such a silly and stupid movie, all burdened down with ideological luggage it clearly doesn't understand, that our immediate reaction is pity. His earlier films have made us think of Antonioni as vulnerable; he shouldn't have exposed himself like this.