Cover of "The Passenger"

Cover of The Passenger

Although disappointed with Michelangelo Antonioni‘s The Passenger (1975), Stanley Kauffmann called the film “a fairly successful high-class entertainment.”  I pretty much agree with the “high-class entertainment” part, but not with the “fairly successful” judgment.  The narrative is too weak and mystifying for any ultimate success to emerge.

The film’s premise, as described by Kauffmann, is: “a man changes identity [illegally] and tries to live a new life.”  Antonioni transcends the entertainment value by summoning something interesting:  the man who tries to live a new life (Jack Nicholson) is taking a wayward course and is doing so in a world that is even more wayward.  In fact, because of how the film was shot, his waywardness and the world’s have a way of blending.

Less than compelling, The Passenger is very compellingly directed except where acting is concerned.  Antonioni’s eye is the one to have for a travelogue-like art film.