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The Passenger

The Passenger

Director:Michaelangelo Antonioni
Cast:Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider
Release Date:1975
Genre:Drama, Foreign

Opens at the Charles April 14

By Bret McCabe | Posted 4/12/2006

Starting with 1960’s L’Avventura Michaelangelo Antonioni helmed a fascinating stretch of movies exploring existential crises in opaque narratives; fortunately, they were also each more progressively visually stunning. And while this 1975 mystery starring Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider may be the last great cinematic work the man ever creates—his movies since have become more and more effervescent and interested in nothing but naked women—what a way to go out. More elliptical and effuse than Blow-Up or even Zabriskie Point, The Passenger follows journalist David (Nicholson) in Northern Africa, where he assumes the identity of the dead man in the hotel room next door and falls into a circuitous path through Spain with an unnamed gamine (Schneider) he meets along the way. Yes, with a script co-written by cinema intellectual Peter Wollen and dating from 1975, The Passenger (released now in a longer “director’s cut”) is a marriage of pseudo-mainstream cool and agitated Leftism (the action takes places in September 1973, when Pinochet ascended to power in Chile), but it is also flabbergastingly hypnotic. Antonioni masterfully exploits the otherworldly landscape of Gaudi’s Barcelona and, in an closing shot that still baffles the senses, choreographs a ponderously slow tracking-shot/zoom out that remains one of the more jaw-dropping feats of cinematography-as-narrative coda.

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