The Seeds of “Us and Them” by Pink Floyd

The Floyd and Michelangelo Antonioni tried to work together on Antonioni’s follow-up to BLOW UP.  Although it produced the outstanding opening (“Heart Beat Pig Meat”) and climactic (“Come In, Number 51, Your Time Is Up”) songs, the band reported it was a torturous experience trying to get the Italian director to express what he really wanted from the music.  Ultimately the movie was accompanied by a mix of Floyd, Jerry Garcia and a few other artists.

Antonioni was not a big fan of film scores.  The limited use of music in his 60’s films is part of their appeal, leaving the viewer stranded in the ennui, rolling in the existential angst of it all.  (The Doors song “L’America” was dumped, too.)

I’ve seen reports that this song linked above was originally written for the clash between the police and students that leads to the hero’s stealing a plane, but apparently I’ve been wrong about this, and it was actually written for the explosion-filled climax.  Antonioni reportedly said it made him ‘sad.’

I think the reworking of “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” that’s used in the ending is perfect: “Come In, Number 51, Your Time Is Up” accompanies the super-slow-motion images of the insides of the heroine’s boss’s house exploding, a fantasy of the destruction of the capitalist so-and-so.  Antonioni wanted to end with a shot of a plane skywriting “Fuck America,” but for some reason MGM overruled him.  Instead we watch the future-ex Mrs. Dennis Hopper drive off, and hear…Roy Orbison.

Ultimately, Antonioni’s choice for the climax is magnificent and thrilling.  The use of “The Violent Scene” would be a drag on the violent imagery, which inspires a strange mix of giggles and awe as it is now.  But “The Violent Scene” would go into the Floyd’s big box o’ stuff and be resurrected as part of DARK SIDE OF THE MOON.

ZABRISKIE POINT is an acquired taste.  I have acquired it.  But if you really want to see what the above was supposed to accompany…



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