Antonioni’s “The Passenger” Gets Fascinating New Blu-ray Release

Indicator Series’ limited edition Blu-ray of Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Passenger is the perfect keepsake of filmmaker’s mid-career masterpiece, giving new and old audiences a chance to experience it like never before.

Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger

It’s one of the most acclaimed films of all time and features a brilliant Jack Nicholson at the height of his powers. The Passenger, Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1975 film as part of a three-picture deal with producer Carlo Ponti and MGM that saw him deliver Blowup and Zabriskie Point, follows Nicholson’s journalist, David Locke, as he assumes the identity of a dead man while working in Chad, unwittingly impersonating an arms dealer with connections to rebels fighting a civil war in the country.

Michelangelo Antonioni's The PassengerNow making its Blu-ray debut in the UK, this essential work from one of cinema’s most renowned and celebrated film artists is accompanied by an array of fascinating and insightful extra features including a commentary track with Jack Nicholson recorded in 2006, a brand new audio commentary with film historian Adrian Martin, and newly recorded interviews with Steven Berkoff in which the actor-writer-director remembers working with Antonioni and Jenny Runacre in which the South African-born English actor recalls the film’s production.

The commentary from Nicholson is perhaps the most significant feature on this new Blu-ray. In his review of the limited edition release, Carr writes: “What comes through [the commentary track] more than anything is his love of the work. Anecdotes, cinematic tangents and words of wisdom inform, enlighten and respect his audience. He never talks over things of importance and is careful to enrich rather than diminish key moments. Antonioni’s film may well be considered masterful, but played alongside the Nicholson commentary it becomes something else entirely. “Jack” the jumper is banished and in his place we have an erudite, accomplished and knowledgeable actor openly sharing his admiration for a friend and process he clearly misses dearly.”

The film, which Carina Chocano of the Los Angeles Times described as “a stark study of existential alienation”, is also presented on Blu-ray with old interviews with Antonioni in which the filmmaker dissects various elements of the film. This includes Antonioni discussing The Passenger in an archival interview conducted at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival, a featurette called Antonioni on Cinema from 1975 in which the acclaimed filmmaker discusses his philosophy of cinema, and a 1985 mini-documentary called The Final Sequence in which Antonioni analyses The Passenger’s much-celebrated climactic sequence.

Martin Carr, in his five-star review on Top 10 Films, praised Antonioni’s ability to coax one of the great performances of Jack Nicholson’s career out of him. Carr writes: “On the face of it, Antonioni’s preoccupation with identity and human observation is very simple, yet through Nicholson and Maria Schneider he is able to craft a film of arresting impact.”

Even though The Passenger arrived late in Antonioni’s heyday, as Penelope Gilliatt of the New Yorker writes, it’s one worth beginning with if you’re new to the filmmaker. She said, “Earlier Antonioni films have often seemed studied, but not this one. Its details are easy and apropos.” Adds Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian eloquently puts it, the film is a “classic of a difficult and alienating kind, but one that really does shimmer in the mind like a remembered dream.”

Powerhouse Films released the film on its Indicator Series range of Blu-rays on March 19, 2018. You can read our review here. A full list of extra features is listed below.

• High Definition remaster
• Original mono audio
• Alternative presentation with original Italian Professione: reporter titles and credits
• Audio commentary with actor Jack Nicholson (2006)
• Audio commentary with screenwriter Mark Peploe and journalist Aurora Irvine (2006)
• New audio commentary with film historian Adrian Martin (2018)
• Jenny Runacre on ‘The Passenger’ (2018, 15 mins): new interview in which the South African-born English actor recalls the film’s production
• Steven Berkoff on ‘The Passenger’ (2018, 11 mins): new interview in which the actor-writer-director remembers working with Antonioni
• Profession Reporter (1975, 5 mins): Michelangelo Antonioni discusses The
Passenger in an archival interview conducted at the 1975 Cannes Film Festival
• Antonioni on Cinema (1975, 5 mins): the acclaimed filmmaker discusses The Passenger and his philosophy of cinema
• The Final Sequence (1985, 13 mins): Antonioni analyses The Passenger’s much-celebrated climactic sequence
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing Limited edition exclusive 40-page booklet with a new essay by Amy Simmons, Antonioni’s production notes, archival interviews with Antonioni and Nicholson, and film credits

About the Author
Rory Fish has loved movies since he can remember. If he was to put together an "all time" top 10 of absolute favourites it would have to include North By Northwest, 12 Angry Men and Sunset Boulevard.

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    Mark Fraser Reply

    Not sure I’d say Nicholson’s career was in its fledgling stage when this movie was made. At this point he’d been making films for 15 years and – by 1975 – he’d been Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actor once and Best Actor three times; this before winning the big gong for Cuckoo’s Nest in 1976. Furthermore, by 1975, he was big enough to receive top billing with Warren Beatty (in The Fortune) and, a year later, with Marlon Brando (The Missouri Breaks). This all leads to one thing – by the second half of the 1970s he was in fact a bona fide Hollywood superstar. No doubt the producers of The Passenger hoped this would give the film some box office gravitas given Antonioni’s big early 1970s effort, Zabriskie Point, was a dud.

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    Rory Fish Reply

    Hmm… You’re right. The first 12 years of his career are as much a blur to me as they probably are to him. I’ve amended the above.

  3. Avatar
    Mark Fraser Reply

    I’m sure he had a great time – Hollywood was probably a lot of fun when Roger Corman was making movies.

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