The Passenger Screen 15 articles

The Passenger

1975

The Passenger Poster
  • Even with its dreaded ambiguity, there is much to admire in The Passenger, particularly in the artfulness of Antonioni’s editing and Luciano Tovoli’s camerawork. And there is even much to decode in Wollen’s script and Antonioni’s images that is perhaps not quite so literal. But like its protagonist, the film flirts with so many possibilities of what it _could_ be — a politically engaged critique of Western image-making, for example — that it never quite affirms what it _is_.

  • What dates the movie, in addition to Antonioni’s gloriously languorous style, is its politicized angst... Nicholson’s character reaches his own dead end somewhere in the vicinity of Gibraltar. Antonioni dramatizes this with a magnificently choreographed slow zoom—clearly inspired by Wavelength—over the course of which half the characters in the movie transverse the courtyard of an entropic posada. Leisurely and old-fashioned as The Passenger may be, this tour de force ending is worth the wait.

  • A masterpiece, one of Michelangelo Antonioni's finest works (1975)... Less a thriller (though the mood of mystery is pervasive) than a meditation on the problems of knowledge, action for its own sake, and the relationship of the artist to the work he brings into being. Next to this film, Blowup seems a facile, though necessary, preliminary.

  • This year's must-see picture for anyone who feels that life on this planet has become an alienating experience. What Antonioni has achieved here is a profoundly beautiful expression of the time warp into which we have all wandered in the '70s.

  • What Antonioni Gives is a distinctive and disorienting way of seeing. The Passenger has some of the boldest and most supple imagery that Antonioni has achieved in years—more memorable than anything in Blow-Up or the unfortunate Zabriskie Point. Images are charged with mystery. Locke greets a camel rider all hidden in robes and wearing dark glasses. The man moves by him, staring but not answering. He seems to signal death in his every aspect.

  • ...That might sound like a bunch of pretentious twaddle, but Antonioni is one of those rare filmmakers with the ability to express the seemingly inexpressible. Indeed, psychological anguish has seeped into the very aesthetic of this film — from the surreal architecture of Barcelona to the desolation of the North African desert. It’s the kind of textured, mesmerizing, and complex film almost nobody makes anymore, and it’s a joy to behold.

  • I remember the feeling of first watching The Passenger at a screening room on the MGM lot before its initial release, and how it overwhelmed my attempts at analysis. It infected my brain. I lost all direction to my car afterwards, hopelessly lost in the studio's parking garage; my mental compass had been switched off. It was as if, for the first time in cinema, a director had actually managed to film the unfilmable, capturing a physical reality in the process of receding, dissolving, from view.

  • It's symbolist cinema, to be decoded as you wish. It's the composition that counts, and Mr. Antonioni is no amateur. He has a nifty habit of pulling the cinematography down from the ceiling, where it had latched itself onto some worthy surface, and gliding it back into the action of the plot.

  • Whether "The Passenger" affords the keys with which to open Locke is best left to each viewer. Part of what made Mr. Antonioni's work seem so radical is its ambiguity and the director's refusal to furnish us clear signposts.

  • There's something in the restored version of Michelangelo Antonioni's last incontrovertible masterpiece for just about everybody. The archivally minded will appreciate the fact that we're finally getting to see the slightly longer European cut of this 1975 English-language film, while technical purists will rejoice in the improved soundtrack that permits us to better hear the ambient noises of both the natural and unnatural (read industrialized) worlds.

  • Perversely, it reads like a globetrotting Hollywood thriller, a tale of mistaken identity and international intrigue shot in five countries with Jack Nicholson in the lead role. There's even a car chase at one point... Yet at heart, the film grapples with the consequences of exchanging one's life for another's, a fantasy that's formed the basis for countless body-switching comedies, but has never been treated with this level of somber reflection.

  • The film hovers around several then-contemporary conflicts--including the CIA-backed overthrow of Salvador Allende--but ends in a terrain of the mind, where human beings vanish unexpectedly from the material world. Antonioni's great subject was humanity facing the profound uncertainties of modern life; approaching one of the most terrifying voids of them all, Antonioni stood alongside his protagonists, recognizing the dread and beauty of the world.

  • If this film were really only about the objectivity of a reporter, it would not have grown larger in my memory instead of receding like most films tend to do. In fact, this film largely eschews objectivity and reporting, allowing the audience unusual freedom to create an experience from the raw materials and choices made by Antonioni, his actors, and the rest of the crew.

  • An exceptional film which has for some unfair reason been deemed a lesser work of Antonioni's, it transfers an emotional quality that simply must be experienced in a theater. The film's final seven-minute shot is arguably the most quintessential cinematic ending ever committed to celluloid, and its majesty confirms that even lesser Antonioni is still superior cinema.

  • The film’s story unfolds slowly and almost majestically, with Antonioni’s architectonic signature signed with a flourish on every film frame and camera angle. Surely no filmmaker since Carl Dreyer has shown such an eye for the formal and the almost Palladian and classical balance of the human figure on a cinema screen. With an elliptical script from the director, Mark Peploe, and film theorist Peter Wollen, this is a symbolic journey from the first shot.

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