I was curious to see how much the film had dated as it was made in 1975. It had in some respects - costume, bell bottom jeans and so on, but cinematographically and in the editing and direction it stood the test of time well.
A war reporter on assignment in North Africa succumbs to the temptation of stealing the identity of a dead gun runner and his loot in order to transform his own life for the better. The ensuing result is either a genuine disaster or merely the dream of a dying man; take your pick!
Fine performances by Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider in an elusive drama; but which of the main characters is the passenger; take your pick!
The DVD is enhanced by a fine commentary by Jack Nicholson.
I'd heard about this but never had the opportunity to see it before this release. It was worth the wait. The cinematography by Carlo Ponti is wonderful and brings the best out of the fantastic locations. The two leads are great: it makes a nice change seeing Nicholson underplaying it for a change - a great and subtle performance. And Maria Schnieder is very effective playing against him (Did she have breast reduction between Last Tango and this?) Full of classic Antonioni images that will be imprinted on my mind for a long time to come. Recommended.
I'm not going to write a long, bloated review demonstrating how well I know this film or how auteur-savvy I am ,or repeating the usual things people say about this film, like Nicholson's quiet, concentrated performance, or the tour de force crane shot that 'wraps' things up at the end, or the long stretches typical of Antonioni where nothing yet everything appears to happen. I have seen this film innumerable times since copying it off TV when it was shown on BBC2's Film Club back in spring 1987 and have long anticipated a buffed-up DVD edition. The Nicholson commentary track is a huge bonus since he very rarely does them, and this on one of his best movies. In fact this is maybe one of the least-seen films featuring a MAJOR star ever made, especially coming from the same span in the mid-70's when Jack was maybe at his zenith and made CHINATOWN, CUCKOO's NEST, LAST DETAIL, etc. I think it is also one of Antonioni's best and not a pale imitation of his past glories as some have said, although it is way better than ZABRISKIE POINT, his American misfire.
My favourite moments in THE PASSENGER: the opening 20 mins in the stifling heat of North Africa, Jack's character Locke running off the track in his Land Rover and screaming up at the indifferent sky; him walking around a very quiet-looking London, the sound of the wind in the trees as he opens his old front door; Gaudi buildings in Barcelona; Maria Schneider asking him towards the end what he's running from, and he tells her to turn her back to the front seat, which she does, giggling then somber, and the camera takes her POV and we see just a tree-lined road receding, receding.....Maria, R.I.P. You gave a performance of great mystery and beauty.
Reflective movie about identity: An angst ridden journalist swaps passports with a dead man only to find he is now a gunrunner wanted for supplying arms to terrorists!
This is classic out-of-the-frying-pan and into-the-fire stuff enlivened by an emphasis on ones destiny apparently being unavoidable. This, even moreso, the harder one tries to control ones own fate: It would seem that what happens to us is more determined by our character than by our stars.
Jack NICHOLSON rises admirably to the difficult challenge of playing an inherently self-reflexive part. He plays a man playing a new emotional role unfamiliar to him as he himself is within the wider context of the film, as a professional film actor.
The theme of playing a part drives the narrative and inevitably leads to endless speculation and existential introspection on the part of the viewer as much as it does on the part of the characters actually involved in the drama.
When one is in hiding from who one was – and from others, in the process – one is also trying to find out who one really is. Thus, the central character flees others yet does so in a car that sticks out like a sore thumb! But the hiding aspect of this activity makes this difficult since it involves telling oneself lies about fresh starts and new beginnings – when one can only start from where one already is, nowhere else – without lies. For others, this is very confusing because it is a covert, internal attempt at change; albeit one leading to overt behavioral changes. The motivation for such an attempt can be obscure if the internal and the external share no apparent linkage.
The problem this film highlights is not the wanting to change, but trying to be someone you are not rather than who you really are. That appearance and essence must be fully integrated for change to be effective lends the movie the tragic air it has no intention of shirking.
The film also highlights a particular problem of middle class life in that it relies heavily on others for an income – teachers, lawyers, doctors, journalists, politicians, etc. So much so that if those others took their own advice these jobs would cease to exist. The service providers know this, so must conceal their resulting fears and keep those less well-educated than themselves in ignorance - or lose salary. This degrading fear leads to emotional detachment and anomie.
Such a social structure entails a lack of self-determination and affective parasitism that leads to a sense of purposelessness. It explains why such professions develop a resentful condescension aimed at those they pretend to help (& those they pretend to be better than) for the dependent relationship they attempt to conceal by that very snobbery.
The analogous colonialism shown here failed precisely because it never broadened the horizons of the well-traveled colonialists – if it had, such colonialism would have failed much sooner. It only made them believe that wherever you go, the people simply wish to be like you. Such a narcissistic and solipsistic view is simply an attempt to project ones own sameness on the world and refuse to admit that people elsewhere are different in their outlooks. Part of the issue addressed here is that White culture uses its White supremacism as a form of self-definition that, given the various failures of White imperialism, reveals the widespread emptiness of that culture.
However, you never can run from yourself, so the central character here finally realizes he has no self; and ends up searching desperately for it.
Existential angst was never better presented than here: A man learns to see, yet wishes he were still blind as he comes to realize you just cannot live someone else’s life.
Made when NICHOLSON could act anyone off the screen with just a look or a movement of an eyebrow: Halcyon days, indeed, before he became the self-parody he is today.
A good, philosophically meaningful plot -- and the visual beauty and inventiveness one has come to expect from him. Special sequences: the passage where the protagonist decides to switch identities, and the view on the dusty square while he is being murdered. Stunning colour. Well packaged, with two valuable commentaries.
WOW WHAT A FILM. DOMT THINK ITS GOING ANYWHERE FOR FIRST 30MINS BUT THEN THE STORY BECOME SO VERY ENGAGING. ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT CINEMATOGRAPHY GREAT ACTING AND AN ENDING THAT WILL WILL LEAVE YOU THINKING FOR HOURS OR EVEN DAYS. MY FAVOURATE JACK FILM. UNLIKE ANY OTHER FILM IVE EVER SEEN GET A GREAT FEEL FROM IT.
I think this is about the best of Antonioni's films together with Red Desert and L'Avventura, but entirely different of course, with actors one readily recognises if not an Art film buff i.e Jack Nicholson and Romy Schneider; spellbinding plot with typical no hope ending - like life in fact.