Tag Archives: Jack Nicholson

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 126 – The Passenger

A remarkably lean Jack Nicholson steals a man’s identity in an attempt to leave his life behind in The Passenger, Michelangelo Antonioni’s existentialist thriller from 1975. Though the film contains many of the raw ingredients of a Bond film or Graham Greene novel – a charismatic leading man, a beautiful European love interest, criminal activity, subterfuge and globetrotting – Antonioni cooks up a deeply atmospheric, contemplative work about identity, dispossession and escape.

In the four days between seeing the film at the BFI Southbank and recording the podcast, the film grew in José’s estimation, while Mike was captivated by it immediately, commenting on the lucid, imaginative camerawork that brings past and present together in single takes and seems to give the camera a physical presence in the film’s world, and considering the displacement of Nicholson’s character, a man living between countries and cultures. José, having watched and written on a number of Antonioni’s films back in June (links below), expounds on why he loves them and what he sees as the connective tissue of his oeuvre.

Mike describes Maria Schneider’s unnamed companion character’s similarities to the modern trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, José talks about the joy of seeing Spain in 1975, when he was but a wee nipper, and, of course, we give a few words to that penultimate shot, an extraordinary, brilliantly orchestrated long take that speaks of isolation and finality.

José’s posts on Antonioni:

L’Avventura

La signora senza camelie

La notte

Blow-up

Cronaca di un amore

The podcast can be listened to in the players above or on iTunes.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.

The Last Detail (Hal Ashby, USA, 1973)

The last Detial

A film that is beautiful and great.  I’d heard how terrific Nicholson is in it; I don’t remember reading anything on Randy Quaid; and, to me, he’s Nicholson’s equal here. He’s got this great baby face on this very tall — and at this point in his life, lanky — body and he makes you feel like giving him a hug, though he’ll probably pick your pocket whilst you do so. He doesn’t necessarily need what he steals, but he can’t help himself. He’s like a greedy and gleeful baby who simply wants more of what he likes. Quaid possesses the rare quality of looking innocent and vulnerable whilst also seeming unquestionably heterosexual. The Last Detail is also more interesting visually than generally acknowledged; each shot is thought through and planned yet unobtrusively so; you have to look at it mindfully to see how well designed it is; and to appreciate how much its mise-en-scène brings to the story it is telling. Ashby appears briefly (he’s a surprisingly tall bloke) and Carol Kane, she of the high whiny voice, a 70s Betty Boop, is any filmgoer’s delight as the young hooker. A humanist film about the injustice of the law and about the importance of kindness in the face of systemic unfairness; a film that makes one sad and hopeful; a film to love.

José Arroyo