49 The Passenger

Discuss Blu-rays released by Indicator and the films on them.

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franco
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#76 Post by franco » Wed Apr 26, 2006 5:29 pm

Here is an excellent post on the subject. I love the author's reading of the ending; he makes me appreciate the film much more.

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#77 Post by Dylan » Wed Apr 26, 2006 7:05 pm

An interesting interpretation, and I agree until he gets into the spirit thing, which for me personally is too easy of a way out of it. I think what's going on is far more complex and psychological (and unsettling) than that, but then again, maybe I'm just a different kind of interpreter.*

What I think he's certainly onto, though, is that the entire final shot is the first time in the film the artist is taking us out of the plot and into his mind. The final shot is completely Antonioni's prowess, seemingly delivering the entire point of the film in an artistic and rather psychological visual statement, similar to what I believe he is doing with L' Eclisse" and "Blow-Up" (which is my favorite ending of his). But even so, this ending does feel more distant to me personally; for me it's sort of in between the endings of the aforementioned.

*ENDING SPOILER: this could also be because I found the ending rather unsettling. Locke has died exactly the same unpronounced way, in seemingly the same position, as Robertson did. A genuine chill went over me when they said Locke was dead, and that is what ultimately forced me to think about everything in the film up until the final shot again. As soon as I see it again I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say. Until then, other comments are most welcome.

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#78 Post by david hare » Wed Apr 26, 2006 7:59 pm

It is a great film which will yield more and more with each viewing.

I was more or less pleasantly surprised by the print/transfer. The screencaps frankly looked awful, but viewing (at least on a tube) is a much better experience. From memory, this was a typical Eastman 70s print anyway, with none of the ravishing visuals of either BlowUp or ZP. But I think they've done a good job with what I suspect were poor elements.

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#79 Post by David Ehrenstein » Thu Apr 27, 2006 10:51 am

It's a really great film -- even more timely now than when it was originally released. The key moment for me is when the interview subject takes the camera away from Nicholson and films him.

The ending is of course amazing -- obviously very much influenced by Michael Snow. But Antonioni makes it something of his very own.

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#80 Post by david hare » Thu Apr 27, 2006 5:31 pm

Yes the camera seems to abandon indentity and wander into another dimension. It's incredibly beautiful.

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#81 Post by Gordon » Sun Apr 30, 2006 5:51 pm

I viewed the film again this week, acquiring the excellent Sony DVD. I find the film extraordinary on every level and was going to post a short essay on the film, but something stopped me; it was a question: Instead of stealing Robertson's identity, what should Locke have done with his life at that point?

What should have he done?
Last edited by Gordon on Sun Apr 30, 2006 6:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#82 Post by david hare » Sun Apr 30, 2006 6:24 pm

Can he do anything?

At a purely narrative/character level his whole personality seems frozen into inertia. As DE pointed out, the shot of the African General taking over his camera and filming Locke while asking him to read his offensive questions again is crucial. Even when he "assumes" the identity of the gun runner you never see him DO anything other than at the most passive level. Thus he collects the catalogue from a locker and simply follows the diary. He's just like Hemmings in Blow Up who walks through his life without affect and ends up with a mime troupe playing an imaginary game of tennis.

But that's narrative. The great single take that departs from him alive, wanders through a minimal constellation of sub-performances with no clear meaning, and ends with his corpse seems to me to take the movie into an almost metaphysical level of observation. All about "seeing", viz Locke's tale about the blind man who could then see, and killed himself. Or his instruction to Schneider to look backwards from the car, when she asks him what he's running away from.

So to try to answer your question, I have absolutely no idea what he might do or should have done. Does he even have any choice?

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#83 Post by Gordon » Sun Apr 30, 2006 7:47 pm

Interesting thoughts, David - or is it Robertson? :wink:

Locke isn't living an 'authentic' life, in Sartre's sense. The only point in the film where he exerts his will power on Life, is when he swaps identities, but then he expects Fate to bring him 'riches' and peace mind. Locke needed to "go up to the mountain and get himself focused", as Grandpa Sam Reaches says of Mr Magoo in Thunderheart. Instead, Locke ends up "under the volcano" - in a labyrinth. He follows the road, but doesn't know where it ends.

Maybe, he should have made a mandala.

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#84 Post by david hare » Sun Apr 30, 2006 7:54 pm

Not Robinson, Flixy's the name. (It says so on my passport.)

Yes - it's interesting Locke, like Daria and Mark, traipses into the desert on a search for truth or facts but gets nothing. Then he takes another journey through another identity, and ends as nothing. Like the last scene of l"Eclisse, only landscapes and architecture survive blithely indifferent to life, with life itself only a possible memory.

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#85 Post by ellipsis7 » Mon May 01, 2006 5:15 am

Doppelgangers everywhere...

There's an excised scene in Munich where Locke/Robinson walks in to a restaurant/cafe and is greeted by someone who appears to know him (as one of his personas), Locke/Robinson plays along, but at the end of their encounter it is not clear if whether either of his selves knows this person, nor is he... Beautiful!

(So the return of flixyflox?!...)

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#86 Post by david hare » Tue May 02, 2006 5:32 am

Quien sabe?

God this is a ravishing movie. Elipsis you've reminded me how much with that extract from the Antonioni complaints. How old were you when you first saw this? What was your state of mind (so to speak?)

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#87 Post by ellipsis7 » Tue May 02, 2006 6:12 am

I was at boarding school in England - ultra liberal 70's coeducational - and was a projectionist for films on 16mm, while designing stage lighting for plays by Brecht, Ionesco Becket etc...... That's when my love of arthouse film over straight entertainment fare was established... I found THE PASSENGER et al fascinating, whereas the more mainstream fare served up by some Gina Lollobrigida obsessed teacher bored me...

Indeed round this time I caught Fellini's SATYRICON, which I remember really enjoying... I appreciated the overripe imagination and manifested gay sensibility (as I do now) although personally I am straight...

My copy of the new PASSENGER DVD just arrived - so am relishing it, while despatching my old Imagica disc to the discard bin... Essential also is the Grove Press book of the script, one of 16 Antonioni related books on my shelf!

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#88 Post by david hare » Tue May 02, 2006 6:36 am

Yes, dont discard the Imagica too soon. You might find the Sony a bit dark (not to quote Dave Kehr.) But it's extremely good. Really good.
And Satyricon is still a great movie. It''s only Fellini's sole gay movie. Made by a straight director with enormous passion. (This alone makes it both moving and magical to me.) And even with discipline at that lazy stage of his career. I adored it and still do. THIS needs to be resurrected into a thread!

Not to sound de trop but I think it's possibly the ONLY gay movie made by a straight director and crew that has a genuinely gay and straight appeal. (And is one of his best, en tous cas.) But this probably depends on the times - the late 60s and early 70s.

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#89 Post by Lino » Tue May 02, 2006 10:48 am

I have my doubts about Fellini's "straightness"... but there's no shadow of a doubt about my unconditional love of Satyricon! Agreed, it's one gorgeous movie and it deserves its own thread.

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#90 Post by leo goldsmith » Tue May 02, 2006 2:18 pm

In the interest of getting this thread back on topic -- and in the interest of being a turd in the Antonioni punchbowl -- I'm going to venture that I found this film profoundly boring (in the full sense of that phrase: boring in a way that borders on profound) and Nicholson to be quite ill-suited to the film. He seems to be practically yawning through his part, which may be oddly appropriate, as his character is by no means the most energized person imaginable (his proactivity in identity-theft notwithstanding). This is not to say that the film is without worth -- indeed, much of it is quite interesting -- but it strikes me as a very dated and pale cousin to many similarly themed films of the mid-70s, especially those of filmmakers like Trinh and even Mulvey and Wollen themselves. These filmmakers/theorists seem to be genuinely concerned with the politics of perspective in cinema (and the possibility of dialogue), and are not simply holed up in an effete, Western strawman's POV.

Which brings me to:
davidhare wrote:Yes the camera seems to abandon indentity and wander into another dimension. It's incredibly beautiful.
Maybe I'm taking you too literally, but does this not undermine the type of argument that Peter Wollen himself makes? Or to put it another way, can the camera abandon identity? Isn't the whole point that it cannot? And if it can't, what's the "point" of the climactic shot?

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#91 Post by ellipsis7 » Tue May 02, 2006 2:37 pm

I think the camera switches identity, or certainly changes perspective, in that closing shot, rather than abandons it (which isn't really possible)... I think that's what makes the scene so remarkable...

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#92 Post by leo goldsmith » Tue May 02, 2006 2:45 pm

ellipsis7 wrote:I think the camera switches identity, or certainly changes perspective, in that closing shot, rather than abandons it (which isn't really possible)... I think that's what makes the scene so remarkable...
Can you be more specific? Whose identity does it adopt/shift to? How does it do this (or how do you know it does this)?

Not trying to be an asshole, just curious what and how this shot conveys to people, and why they find it so goshdarn transcendent.

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#93 Post by ellipsis7 » Tue May 02, 2006 2:54 pm

It starts in Locke's space as an intimate to and sharing in that space which he appears to control, dominated and lived in by him, then moves way from the salient supposed centre of action to find other centres of action outside, before the arrival of the police car draws the camera into their space and thence back into the bedroom sharing their, the outsiders perspective (now also taken by Maria Schneider and Jenny Runacre, the 2 women in Locke/Robinson's life) looking into the space where Locke is now a stranger, an other, indeed extinct... It does this with ellipsis of of the most significant action - the death of Locke - the central character in the drama, and what happens - life goes on independently of this or any other individual existence...

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#94 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Tue Jun 20, 2006 1:04 pm

Time Out has a nice article by Mark Peploe who worked on the film and offers his recollections making it: http://www.timeout.com/film/news/1213.html

memorable excerpt:
Many wondrous things happened along the way. On one occasion Antonioni asked me to write a piece of additional dialogue for Maria Schneider. Without reading it, she rolled it into a ball, popped it into her mouth, and ate it.

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#95 Post by denti alligator » Fri May 23, 2008 12:36 am

How, exactly, was that penultimate shot achieved? Couldn't have been a set, so how'd the camera just float through those bars (or is this a naive question)?

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#96 Post by miless » Fri May 23, 2008 12:52 am

From what I've heard, they built that hotel to Mr. Antonioni's specifications (and, supposedly, it's still there). The bars were on hinges and they merely moved them away when the camera got too close to see them (this was done often in old hollywood with windows and tables often parting to make way for the dollies).

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#97 Post by martin » Fri May 23, 2008 12:59 am

EDIT: miless has already answered...

It was somewhat reminiscent of the technique used whe the camera goes through the "Rancho" sign in Citizen Kane. The shot in The Passenger was extremely complicated for a number of reasons and took eleven days to prepare.

The take is explained in detail in several Antonioni-books, like Rohdie p. 146-7.

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#98 Post by miless » Fri May 23, 2008 1:08 am

You can also see a similar shot in Lang's M where the camera goes through a big pane-glass window (that one, however, is very noticeable because they left the glass in and you can see the edge of the pane move across the screen)
an early shot of a dolly through a table in citizen Kane (in the childhood home with Agnes Morrehead), as well, utilized this technique.

The amazing part of that shot in The Passenger is that it continues to move around outside for minutes, and all in the age before steadicam.

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#99 Post by ellipsis7 » Fri May 23, 2008 4:13 am

Yes, the bars opened out as described... The 7 minute shot took 11 days to shoot, MA only being able to shoot between 3.30 & 5.00 pm 'because of the light, which at other hours would have been too strong', finally achieved 2 good takes on the 11th day.... The camera, gyroscopically balanced, was suspended from a ceiling mounted track inside, along which the cameraman pushed it till it exited the window... MA: 'Behind the hotel there was a huge crane, more than a hundred feet high, from which hung a steel cable. Once the camera was outside the window it left the track and was simultaneously hooked onto the cable. Naturally, the shift from a fixed support to a mobile one, such as a cable, caused the camera to bump and sway, while a second cameraman, experienced in this work, took over. This is where the gyroscopes came in: they completely neutralized the bumping and swaying.' The movement outside traced a figure of eight, eventually turning in to look in the window from the exterior...

Image

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Re: The Passenger (Antonioni, 1975)

#100 Post by dad1153 » Sat May 09, 2009 9:17 pm

Caught this on DVD recently. My first Antonioni film (yes I know, shame on me for not yet seeing "L' Avventura") and what do you know, Nicholson's David Locke character could be construed as a continuation/extension of his "Five Easy Pieces" Bobby Dupea character. Nicholson dials down his 'Jack' persona considerably in "The Passenger" (except for one outburst when his Jeep gets stuck in the African sands), almost to the point one feels Locke is sleepwalking through his fantastic European takeover of David Robertson's personality/life. Maria Schneider (the Penelope Cruz of the 1970's) is both fetching and hilarious as the muse-type figure that Locke relies on for moral support and assistance when his charade begins to unravel. Like Bertolucci's better work ("The Last Emperor") Antonioni lets the camera do most of the storytelling, capping the movie off with that amazing uninterrupted shot (with ambiguous ending to boot) that I'll be damned if I understand but haven't been able to get off my head since I saw it. James Cameron owes the Antonioni state some royalties for stealing the Nicholson/Schneider 'flying' shots (when they're driving) for his soapy "Titanic" flick.

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