Tuesday, October 18, 2005

The Passenger (Professione: Reporter)

The best of Michelangelo Antonioni's English-language films is finally seeing the light of day. Apparently a new distributor has rights to the film. The first time I saw this masterpiece was in the mid-1990s in Brussels, Belgium, under its original title "Profession: Reporter". Marxist Film Theorist, Peter Wollen, wrote the screenplay, based on Mark Peploe's story. Searing stuff about loss of identity, the media and gun running. It is a somber tale of a man who's life falls apart. The film starts in Northern Africa, with flash backs to Germany and London, then its second-half filled with beautiful landscapes of Northern Spain, and Gaudi's park in Barcelona.

This film has been next to impossible to see and/or acquire in North America as distribution here was embroiled in some kind of legal hold up. (If anyone knows the inside story on this, I'm all ears. Perhaps it had to do with the sex scenes between Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider?)

The film is an utterly sublime statement on the decay of modern life.

It is one of my favorite films period.

The copy from the link above reads:
The last, and in many people's opinion the best, of the three English language films made by Antonioni for MGM release, The Passenger has been out of circulation for many years and was not available for the National Film Theatre's recent Antonioni season. This newly-restored print, however - from new owners Sony - is well worth the extra wait, not least because it is Antonioni's original cut, previously unseen. The script offers up a story which is almost Hitchcockian, but of a kind adaptable to Antonioni's very different metaphysic. David Locke, a journalist, impulsively decides to take over the identity (or at least the passport and diary) of a stranger called Robertson who has mysteriously died in a shared hotel room somewhere in Saharan Africa. Following Robertson's itinerary, he meets up with a girl (the 'passenger' of the English title) and the pair are pursued across Europe by the police and some shadowy Africans for whom Robertson had been a gun runner. Characteristic Antonioni themes, such as the instability of identity and the fragility of relationships, are explored with unparalleled subtlety, and the film's finale is simply sublime - spectacular as in Zabriskie Point and emotionally intense as in L'avventura or The Eclipse.

Geoffrey Nowell-Smith
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni
Written by Mark Peploe, Peter Wollen
With Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider, Jenny Runacre
Country Italy-France-Spain
Year of Production 1975
Running Time 125 minutes
Sponsored by TCM

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