Elliptical late-period Antonioni makes a theatrical stopover before hitting a Blockbuster near you; this “preferred cut” restores seven minutes.
When his hotel-room neighbor dies, jaded reporter Jack Nicholson assumes the man’s identity — “Black Market Arms Dealer,” but The Passenger is about international intrigue like Blow-Up is about a murder. As Nicholson evades his past — with diminishing success — he takes up with Maria Schneider, whose carefully considered naïveté flatters Antonioni’s existential musings with its earnestness.
Antonioni’s pacing slackens at times, and gimmickry creeps in — Nicholson’s mid-take flashbacks clearly accomplished by him changing his shirt offscreen — though the climactic seven-minute tracking shot is a highlight of Antonioni’s career. Screen time is spent drifting towards a null point; its arrival there is, finally, its most exhilarating moment.
Opens October 28 at Landmark Sunshine