Amongst the vast red bleakness of hellish Saharan Africa, the grey architectural wonders of Barcelona and the lush greens of London, Antonioni’s trademark visual mastery of exploring man’s emotional relationship to his environment expands to a global scale in The Passenger. In the director’s final flirtation with Hollywood, Jack Nicholson drops all vestiges of his “ultimate movie star” persona, losing himself completely in a perfectly rendered feature-length slo-mo scream of despair, as he bounces from country to country, acquiring the beautiful Maria Schneider (Last Tango In Paris) as an erstwhile companion along the way to his impeccably-photographed oblivion. Reducing suspense to a minimum, Antonioni has crafted a curious and satisfying take on the “international political thriller”, transforming a typical genre exercise into a subdued, sublime travelogue of existential crisis.
Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975, 35mm, 126 min.