rated - HOT! HOT! HOT!
Michelangelo Antonioni is a great favourite of mine. I love his
leisurely pacing, his characters so tired of life and unable to
communicate with one another, his attention to landscape and
architecture, his use of walls and windows. The Passenger has not been
available to see for years, and now a cinema release precedes the DVD
release which will happen shortly, for its 30th anniversary. But
you've got to see Antonioni at the cinema. You need to see all
that bleakness and emptiness on the big screen.
The passenger is its English language title. In Europe, it was
called Occupation: Reporter,
which describes the main character, Locke (Jack Nicholson, in a
fantastic existential performance. He made this film during his
glory days, when he was slim, cute and dangerous. He had just
filmed The Last Detail and Chinatown and was made One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest the
same year as The Passenger (1975).
What a run!
Here he's perfect as David Locke, successful TV journalist who is
trying (without success) to film some guerrillas in northern Africa
(Chad?). But he feels his work is superficial, and despairs of
getting an interview or making a doco that is not coloured by his own
prejudices - even his own self. So when a man of similar build and
looks dies in the next hotel room, he impulsively decides to switch
identities. It's a mad idea, of course, but he's a desperate
man. The man whose identity Locke steals (an early case of
identity theft) turns out to be a gun runner - for those very same
guerrillas. So of course, we can never ever know anyone - a
favourite Antonioni theme.
Much gallivanting around various countrysides and cityscapes
follows. Barcelona features - and in particular Gaudi's
buildings. In one of these Locke (now calling himself Robertson)
picks up luscious Maria Schneider, and they manage to avoid Locke's
wife and producer who are trying to locate Robertson in an effort to
find out more about Locke's "death", while trying to keep Robertson's
This is a stunningly beautiful - and of course mysterious - film, and
it is worth the price of admission just to see the famous final
tracking shot in which a camera goes in and out of a window into a town
square where people do various things that we can't quite hear or
understand, and a learner driver gets in the way. It is one of
the stunning shots that Antonioni always manages to include in his
films - most notably L'Eclisse.
If you missed it at the cinema, get the DVD, but watch it in the dark
on the biggest screen you can! I'm just loving the films of the
60s and 70s at the moment. We weren't afraid of loose ends then.