Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Once again: The Passenger, 1975

THE PASSENGER: This melancholy, languid and hypnotic existential anti-thriller by Michelangelo Antonioni, one of the great Italian directors, stars Jack Nicholson as a soul-sick television reporter on assignement in the North African desert, who decides to assume the identity of the dead man in the hotel room next to his and decides to see where it leads him. The dead man turns out to have been an arms dealer - and Jack is soon up to his neck in danger as he travels around Europe meeting arms dealers, with the carefree girl who travels with him, while his wife and colleagues want to meet the dead man who they think was the last person to see him alive .... it all comes together in that astonishing final sequence. We like Antonioni a lot here, as per the many posts on him and his films, as per label. 

THE PASSENGER (or PROFESSIONE: REPORTER) does not crop up much in the television schedules these days, so when it does one has to have a look, or as I did, record it to look at again (the dvd with Jack's commentary is filed away).  This is what I wrote about it last time: - with more at The Passenger label).

Movies one becomes obsessed by: at different times I was obsessed about EAST OF EDEN, and then about THE MISFITS, and BLOW-UP and KLUTE, and then the 1954 A STAR IS BORN and 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY etc - and those favourite Hitchcocks, Michael Powells, Wilders, Mankiewiczs, Hawks etc. When I was 30 in 1975 I became as obsessed about Antonioni's THE PASSENGER as I did about his Monica Vitti films and BLOW-UP (ZABRISKIE POINT not so much), THE PASSENGER has another screening today on our Film4 channel as part of its Jack Nicholson season. 
My 1976 review,  see Passenger label

I was dazzled by THE PASSENGER then in 1975 and, as per The Passenger label, had a full page analysis of it published in a film magazine of the time, the very good FILMS ILLUSTRATED which gave readers a page each issue to talk about a film - quite good in that pre-internet pre-video age (whereas now we can write to our heart's content about whatever it is we want to...). The tone of the article makes me wince a bit now, but hey - it was 1975 and I was 30! (the full text is at the Antonioni label). Then the next year I became obsessed about TAXI DRIVER and OBSESSION and ....

Back to THE PASSENGER: Antonioni began shooting his anti-thriller (co-scripted with Mark Peploe) in 1973, with locations in Africa, Germany, London and Gaudi's Barcelona ... it finally emerged in 1975. It remains a key '70s movie for me but was probably overshadowed by Nicholson's mega-hits of the time like CHINATOWN and CUCKOO'S NEST ... Jack in that check shirt and green combat trousers in that riveting African section at the start still looks as iconic as Hemmings in the white jeans in BLOW-UP (and after the cluttered muddy look of a modern film like MAGIC MIKE the clean sharp clear photography here is an absolute dream). I must play the Nicholson dvd commentary ...

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