The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger (1975) - The Culture Files Blog - Los Angeles magazine
 
 

The Essential Movie Library #28: The Passenger (1975)

Journalist Jack Nicholson trades identities with a dead man in a hotel room

Perhaps anticipating the ultimate act of reportage—Profession: Reporter is how the Italian title literally translates—from beyond the shores of the self, journalist Jack Nicholson trades identities with a dead man in a hotel room at the end of the Sahara Desert, in a movie that ends with another dead man in another hotel room, the desert outside growing ever closer. With his new life Nicholson gets more than he bargained for, including an arms deal he’s in no position to negotiate—or does he? We don’t know because we never know what the bargain is or whether, for that matter, Nicholson knows.

This is one of Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni’s great cinematic riddles, and as such is not for those who need their riddles answered but rather for those haunted by the beauty of what can’t be answered—a mystery that Paul Bowles might have written. Chaos and violence hover at the edge of The Passenger as they do for all Antonioni’s movies, the difference being that the human cipher at the center isn’t a beautiful blonde but one of the last actors who can get by on star power alone, in one of his last quiet performances, accompanied by a Maria Schneider still erotically shellshocked from being defiled by Brando in Last Tango in Paris. Recalling the conclusion of Antonioni’s own l’Eclisse, the justly famous seven-minute circular pan at the end of The Passenger nearly swallows up the two hours that precede it.

Read them all:
The Essential Movie Library #27: Singin' in the Rain
The Essential Movie Library #26: Heat
The Essential Movie Library #25: L'Atalante
The Essential Movie Library #24: Sunrise
The Essential Movie Library #23: His Girl Friday
The Essential Movie Library #22: Black Narcissus
The Essential Movie Library #21: Blade Runner
The Essential Movie Library #20: Persona
The Essential Movie Library #19: The Shop Around the Corner
The Essential Movie Library #18: Lost Highway
The Essential Movie Library #17: Tokyo Story
The Essential Movie Library #16: 8 1/2

The Essential Movie Library #15: City Lights
The Essential Movie Library #14: Seven Samurai
The Essential Movie Library #13: Lawrence of Arabia
The Essential Movie Library #12: Citizen Kane
The Essential Movie Library #11: Jules and Jim
The Essential Movie Library #10: My Darling Clementine 
The Essential Movie Library #9: Double Indemnity 
The Essential Movie Library #8: That Obscure Object of Desire 
The Essential Movie Library #7: 2001: A Space Odyssey 
The Essential Movie Library #6: Casablanca
The Essential Movie Library #5: The Lady Eve
The Essential Movie Library #4: The Third Man 
The Essential Movie Library #3: The Passion of Joan of Arc 
The Essential Movie Library #2: Vertigo 
The Essential Movie Library #1: The Godfather Trilogy

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