THE PASSENGER (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975)
323 Sixth Ave. at West Third St.
Saturday, December 15, 9:30, and Tuesday, December 18, 9:00
Series runs December 14-20
Nominated for the Palme d’Or in Cannes in 1975, Michelangelo Antonioni’s existential suspense thriller is a fascinating character study of a lost, lonely man. Jack Nicholson stars as Locke, a successful, well-respected journalist who is researching a story on the guerrilla movement in Chad. Life isn’t as fun and exciting as it used to be for him, as witnessed by his utter helplessness after his car gets stuck in the sand. Upon returning to his hotel room, he discovers that his neighbor, Robertson (Chuck Mulvehill), is dead — and he decides to switch places with him, to stop being Locke and instead live a completely different existence. Even when he finds out that Robertson was involved in international espionage and gun running, Locke continues the deception, traveling dangerously through England, Germany, and Spain with a free-spirited young architecture student (Maria Schneider) while his wife (Jenny Runacre) and business associate (Ian Hendry) — and the police — try to find him. The Passenger is marvelously slow-paced, never in a hurry to make no point about just what the point of it all is. Nicholson glides through the film with an unease that is as unnerving as it is intoxicating as he struggles to find his way in life, a cinematic representative of something that is within us all. The Passengeris screening December 15 and 18 as part of the IFC Center series “Road Movies: Directed and Selected by Walter Salles,” in conjunction with the December 21 theatrical release of Salles’s adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. The series also includes such films as Salles’s Central Station and The Motorcycle Diaries, Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour, and John Ford’s The Searchers.