Professione: reporter (1975)

PASSENGER, THE (aka: Professione: Reporter)

(director/writer: Michelangelo Antonioni; screenwriters: Mark Peploe/Peter Wollen; cinematographer: Luciano Tovoli; editors: Franco Arcalli/ Michelangelo Antonioni; music: Ivan Vandor; cast: Jack Nicholson (David Locke), Maria Schneider (Girl), Jenny Runacre (Rachel Locke), Ian Hendry (Martin Knight), Chuck Mulvehill (Robertson, the Dead Man); Runtime: 128; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Carlo Ponti; Sony Pictures Classics; 1975-Italy/Spain-in English)
“A tour de force of depth and quality.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Michelangelo Antonioni (“Blow-Up”-1966″/”Zabriskie Point-1970) shoots a compelling psychological drama that can be viewed as part of a loose trilogy. It’s brilliantly scripted by Mark Peploe and Peter Wollen that plays as an old-fashioned Graham Greene type of thriller, the kind that seems pass√© for today’s slicker type of thriller. It retains Antonioni’s stylish opaqueness, minimalist dialogue, alienated characters, search for identity and filmmaking curiosity.

David Locke (Jack Nicholson) is a celebrated burnt-out British-born, U.S.-educated British television journalist in an unnamed North African country who is doing a documentary on a secret revolt by a radical group called the United Liberation Front against a dictator. Finding a globe-trotter business acquaintance named Robertson dead of a heart attack in his same hotel, Locke exchanges identities with him but soon finds out the man was a gunrunner for the leftist African terrorist group and Locke is now pursued by threatening shadowy figures and his puzzled wife Rachel (Jenny Runacre). She also enlists the help of TV producer Martin Knight (Ian Hendry) to speak to the witness who found her hubby’s body. In Munich Locke receives from the rebel agents a hugh payment for selling them arms, and goes by rental car to Barcelona. There he meets an unnamed rental car clerk (Maria Schneider) he feels comfortable enough to tell the truth and she goes along for the ride. While Locke talks of going to a remote location and starting life anew by changing occupations, she encourages him to keep Robertson’s scheduled appointments listed in his book.

The slow moving film ends with a stunning seven-minute mute uninterrupted tracking shot of Locke somewhere around Gibraltar meeting his fate in his hotel room, as all the characters in pursuit come together in the square outside his hotel.

An arty film rejected by the commercial cinema, nevertheless remains a tour de force of depth and quality. The gorgeous looking film was shot by Luciano Tovoli in England, Germany, Spain and Algeria.