Michelangelo Antonioni only ever ventured into the world of American filmmaking once in his career, a time when he put together the 1970 effort Zabriskie Point which was not only panned by critics, but was also a commercial disaster with the film’s only saving grace being a stellar soundtrack provided by Pink Floyd.
Antonioni was an esteemed filmmaker in his native Italian tongue, however, when he tried to transition into the glitz and glamour world of Hollywood it was nothing short of a calamity from start to finish. It took over four years for Zabriskie Point to reach the screen from when pre-production began and, on top that, a prolonged delay after filming began. The budget for the project became stretched over the setbacks and it was later estimated to have surpassed $7million in total.
At the time of release, Roger Ebert panned the film in the Chicago Sun Times, writing: “The director who made Monica Vitti seem so incredibly alone is incapable, in Zabriskie Point, of making his young characters seem even slightly together. Their voices are empty; they have no resonance as human beings. They don’t play to each other, but to vague narcissistic conceptions of themselves. They wouldn’t even meet were it not for a preposterous Hollywood coincidence.”
The film only managed to recoup a fraction of that budget back at the box office, taking home a mere $1 million which spelt an end to Antonioni’s career in America. However, there was one thing from the film that still survived the test of time and that is the incredible soundtrack which the Italian filmmaker commissioned from Pink Floyd. However, somewhat bizarrely, the record was never given its own release despite its magnificence.
The filmmaker was actually offered ‘L’America’ by The Doors when the band were in the studio for L.A. Woman. However, the track wasn’t to Antonioni’s taste so he instead rejected their offer. His girlfriend, Clare Peploe, played a huge part in Antonioni turning his attentions to Pink Floyd for the score and, after he heard her copy of Ummagumma, he quickly became infatuated the psychedelic group.
The band, thankfully, agreed to his request to score the soundtrack but Antonioni, being Antonioni, meant that only three songs created by the English band ended up in the film. Instead, the director filled out the soundtrack with music by Fahey, The Youngbloods, Roy Orbison, The Grateful Dead, Patti Page and more.
Unsurprisingly, because of Zabriskie Point arrived as a major flop, there was no appetite at the time for the complete recording of the original the Pink Floyd soundtrack to be commercially released and, subsequently, has only existed in dissonate sporadically released pieces.
It’s an interesting insight to hear the songs that were never given the audience they deserved at the time, especially as the early Gilmour era of the band was such a formative time in their history, a moment Pink Floyd transitioned into the group that we all know and love.
Check out the 12-track YouTube playlist of the tracks Pink Floyd created for Antonioni, below.