The Passenger- 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 appointments. 

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.