Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider, Jenny Runacre, Ian Hendry, Steven Berkoff
Director: Michelangelo Antonioni
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
A burned-out journalist assumes the identity of a dead man and embarks on a dangerous charade, including meetings with gun runners and an affair with a mysterious young woman. Originally released in 1975, Sony Pictures Cl... more »
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Antonioni style and mood
R. Swanson | New Mexico | 01/12/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I find it hard to judge this film objectively. I think it's something you either like or you don't--like sushi. I don't like sushi but I do like Antonioni, maybe for superficial reasons -- the style, the visuals, the beautiful actors, shots of exotic places. Maybe there's nothing wrong with liking a film for how it looks.
The story is quite good--better than most of A's stories. A man, tired of his life, grabs a chance to be someone else and then discovers that he can't escape himself after all. It's a good theme, worthy of exploring and A. does it masterfully. The title, The Passenger, reminded me of Camus' short novel, The Stranger. Both "heros" are basically observers, unable to connect meaningfully with life. The Stranger takes place in Northern Africa, too, and again we see a European searching for something in a culture that's very different from his own.
A young, trim Jack Nicholson is a pleasure to watch and Maria Schneider is appropriately mysterious and appealing at the Girl. She delivers her lines badly but that adds, maybe to the foreign feeling of the film.
Mostly it's a mood that Antonioni spells...it's almost as if he is a musician and you leave the theater with the tune stuck in your mind, playing over and over. Here, it's the images that stay with you...quite lovely. He tells a sad story but tells it so beautifully that it's the beauty that you're left with."
Cosmoetica | New York, USA | 09/21/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Michelangelo Antonioni's 1975 film, The Passenger (Professione: Reporter in Europe, and at one time called Fatal Exit), written by Antonioni, Peter Wollen, and Mark Peploe, is a terrific film that falls just shy of some of his truly great films like La Notte, L'Eclisse, and Blowup. That's because, despite Antonioni's usual visual brilliance, daring use of silences, and a unusually reserved performance from Jack Nicholson- one that is a bit of true acting, from long before he started phoning in performances; it is mild, void of memorable tics or quotes (save a humorous taking of Christ's name in vain in a German church that he reflexively apologizes to the air for, such as in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, The Shining, or Batman), the film grinds to an emotional and narrative halt whenever Maria Schneider (no relation) appears onscreen. Simply put, she's not that good of an actress- which is why she faded after the 1970s, in her first post-Last Tango In Paris role, and she's not even particularly physically attractive, even in a European sense. No, her sorry and dull performance is not enough to torpedo the film like the weak last half of L'Avventura does that film, but it is enough to keep the film from the pantheon. The Passenger was also Antonioni's third English language film, after Blowup and Zabriskie Point. Music is almost wholly absent in this film. Seeing is all important in Antonioni films, and the effect of such silences is jarring. Antonioni's use of silences and spaces in the film frame reminds of the visuals of Vermeer's paintings, usually set in rooms that exude silences.
The tale, what little there is of it, is very similar, from a macro perspective, to that in Blowup, in that much of what seems to be is not. The central character, Dave Locke (Nicholson), leads a shallow, anomic life as a documentary film reporter from England- who speaks with an American accent because he was educated in the States, a silly contrivance, who is trying to make not break news of a supposed war going on in an African country that is home to a pink desert with black mountains- perhaps Chad?, but instead of stumbling on to a mystery, as in Blowup, the lead character is the mystery. He impulsively switches places with a dead man, named Robertson (Charles Mulvehill) in a hotel room adjoining his, who could be a veritable doppelganger- the first of many coincidences in this film, after he has to walk back when his vehicle gets stuck in the desert after he goes to film rebels for a documentary. Such synchronicities are a major theme. The problem for Locke is that the ringer is a gun runner for the rebels in the meager little civil war that the country is enduring. This is the set up. However, this is all done with a bravura touch- as Locke stares deeply into Robertson's unblinking dead eyes, as if absorbing his identity, as a flute plays- the rare intercession of a soundtrack. The black Africans at the hotel never question Locke's claim that he is Robertson, despite not speaking with a British accent, as Antonioni nicely inverts the racist belief that all blacks look and sound alike, as the blacks cannot distinguish between two white men.
The film was beautifully shot by Luciano Tovoli in France, Spain, and North Africa and is shown in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The Sony Classics DVD transfer is excellent, although not quite as pristine as the DVD for Blowup, despite being a decade younger. The only extra features are the film's trailer, and the film commentaries by Nicholson, and one with Peploe and journalist Aurora Irvine. Nicholson seems to have recorded his commentary with a sore throat, and goes for long minutes without a word. He does have some insight, but overall the lack of insight into the film or its making makes the track seem superfluous. Nicholson may have done it only because he owns the rights to the film and felt his name on a commentary track could add to the film's DVD sales. Peploe adds some interesting technical comments, as well as letting us know that an interesting scene of ants walking up a wire in the African hotel was scripted.
That many dense American critics and viewers do not respond to Antonioni is sadly predictable, and an illustration of their frenetic MTV-level need to be spoonfed every possible detail and interpretation of a work of art, rather than engage it, imbue it, and find satisfactory answers to such queries on their own. Antonioni subverts such lowest common denominator expectations with ease and glee, and The Passenger is a terrific illustration of that claim, chock with its ellipses in time and narrative, as well as proof that film was the last century's most important and defining art form, well beyond writing or music, whose heydays were in earlier centuries. Its flaws are minors, but the things it offers to those willing to take from it are major. I say, be greedy.
Edmonson | Canada | 12/07/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The premise of "The Passenger" is interesting, as Jack Nicholson's character (David Locke) decides to swap identities with a dead man who is an arms dealer. This leads David on an adventure across Africa and Europe picking up where the dead man left off. This film reminded me of "The Sheltering Sky" with it's sense of hopelessness as David seems trapped in an alien world that he doesn't really understand as he drifts about without any real sense of a goal. The ending is brilliantly conceived as Antonioni shows why he is the master of the slow pan."
A journey into the soul...
Andrew Ellington | I'm kind of everywhere | 03/17/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Michelangelo Antonioni. What can I say? I mean, I haven't seen a lot of his work (I've only seen 4 films) but I certainly admire his vision as a director. He is always true to himself first, which is one of the first requirements for any auteur. Yes, I've mentioned in past reviews that I am not a giant fan of his work. I absolutely loved `La Notte' but found myself indifferent to both `Blow-Up' and `L'Eclisse'.
`Professione: Reporter' is, by far, my favorite of the films I've seen from him.
While the film is wrapped up in the genre of an international thriller (and semi-romantic love story), the film is more of an intelligently disguised character study. Delving into the subject of self-discovery, Antonioni's masterpiece truly understands that underlying desire dwelling in all of us.
The film tells the story of David Locke, a reporter working in Africa. When a fellow traveler by the name of David Robertson suddenly dies, Locke decides (almost impulsively) to take on the man's identity. This allows Locke to completely leave his old life (husband, father, journalist) and start over. Locke knows nothing about Robertson, but he has his datebook and so he starts using it as a guide to his new life, taking meetings and slowly putting the pieces of Robertson's life together. Soon, Locke uncovers the dangerous business Robertson was a part of, but he's far more concerned about his former life catching up with him.
The film is truly intense, but it is the more human elements that prove the most haunting. Locke represents every individual who has ever wanted to just walk away and start over. His life isn't horrible, but his just unsatisfied with where he is headed. He longs to find something that gives him a feeling of purpose. By wandering aimlessly into another mans life, Locke has found that rush he was looking for. In a conversation had towards the end of the film, Locke recounts his interactions with a blind man who had undergone a surgery to regain his sight. He mentioned how the man was at first elated, but soon began to fear everything he never knew existed. He became sheltered and reclusive and eventually killed himself. That story adds layers to the character of David Locke, for it helps us to understand his mindset, which is not that uncommon or unique. The fact is that this world is not a nice place, and even when things are going well for us, sometimes we can find ourselves derailed just by comprehending the world's darkness.
Jack Nicholson is one of my favorite actors of all time, and here he is magnificent. I loved Maria Schneider in `Last Tango in Paris', and while I found her a tad ragged in this film, she embodied her character nicely. Jenny Runacre was, in my opinion, the films star performance. It is a small but pivotal role (that of Locke's wife) and she smolders on the screen.
This film is truly a directors vision, and it carries with it Antonioni's aesthetic, but it is certainly a film that all can enjoy. Don't be afraid that this will be an artsy film, for while I won't say that it is commercial, I will say that it is accessible."