The Passenger

New Print!

Some of Antonioni's best films have been set in the desert-Zabriskie Point, and the much earlier L'avventura, a desert island film, served his penchant for horizontal vistas and his theme of absence. In The Passenger, set and shot largely in North Africa (with a detour to Gaudí's Palacio Guell in Barcelona, among other places), Jack Nicholson portrays a London TV journalist named Locke who assumes the identity of a man, Robertson, who has died in the next hotel room. Locke is running away from being a documentary filmmaker-from the language and codes that replace knowing, the images that replace seeing. Like earlier Antonioni characters (usually played by Monica Vitti), Nicholson's Locke desires escape, and a mask, in embracing Robertson's globetrotting, increasingly mysterious persona. But he finds he is pursuing the man's death, not his life. Even the camera seems to have a will toward another world: the famous final seven-minute zoom literally draws out the exquisite torment of seeing in focus. Seeing this gorgeous film in a new print, of course, will ease the pain.

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