PROFESSIONE: Reporter - Film (Movie) Plot and Review

(The Passenger)

Italy-France-Spain, 1975

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

Production: Compagnia Cinematografica Champion (Rome), Les Films Concordia (Paris), and C.I.P.I. Cinematografica (Madrid); Metrocolor, 35mm; running time: 126 minutes. Released March 1975, Italy. Filmed on location in England, Spain, and Germany.

Producer: Carlo Ponti; screenplay: Mark Peploe, Peter Wollen and Michelangelo Antonioni, from an original idea by Mark Peploe;

Professione: Reporter
Professione: Reporter
photography: Luciano Tovoli; editors: Franco Arcalli and Michelangelo Antonioni; sound: Cyril Collik; sound editors: Sandro Peticca and Franca Silvi; sound mixer: Franco Ancillai; production designer: Osvaldo Desideri; art director: Piero Poletto; costume designer: Louise St. Jensward.

Cast: Jack Nicholson ( Locke ); Maria Schneider ( The Girl ); Jenny Runacre ( Rachel ); Ian Hendry ( Knight ); Stephen Berkoff ( Stephen ); Ambroise Bea ( Achebe ); Jose Maria Cafarel ( Hotel manager ); James Campbell ( Stregone ); Manfred Spies ( Tedesco ); Jean Baptiste Tiemele ( The African ); Chuch McVehill or Mulvehill ( Robertson ); Angel del Pozo ( Police inspector ); Narcisse Pula ( African's accomplice ).



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* * *

After the general confusion prompted by Zabriskie Point , Michelangelo Antonioni's previous feature, Professione: Reporter (distributed in the United States as The Passenger ) met with critical and popular acclaim. This success may have been due as much to the cast as to either a new "transparency" in Antonioni's direction or a suddenly acquired sophistication of the filmgoer. Though Professione: Reporter , like Zabriskie Point and for that matter any of Antonioni's previous films, de-emphasizes classic cinematic narrative in favor of the presentation of an essentially static/dramatic situation through experimentation with expressive elements specific to film—thereby remaining what the general public would see as a "difficult" film: "nothing happens" with which one can "identify"— Professione: Reporter' s stars, Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider, were two of 1975's biggest box-office draws. Their appearance guaranteed the film a degree of financial success (necessary after Zabriskie Point ), but also introduced a marked artificiality into the fabric of the film's fiction—Jack Nicholson virtually plays himself, all the more emphasized by the implausible turning point of the film's plot: the Nicholson character gives up his own identity to assume the identity of a man who happens to die and happens to resemble him. The presumption that such an arbitrary exchange of identities might be either workable or desirable seems to comment on the nature of acting; and later in the film when Maria Schneider finds a gun in Nicholson's luggage, he takes it away from her with an ironic monotone "no" which cannot fail to recall, intertextually, yet another gun, the one Schneider used to kill an even bigger box-office draw, Marlon Brando, in the film that made her famous and which is no doubt responsible for her appearance in this film, namely, Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris (1972).

But the real interest in Professione: Reporter lies in its groundbreaking technique, one that explicitly works in opposition to the film's narrative continuity and impression of reality, effects that both mainstream critics and the general public expect of any feature film. The most discussed technical innovation concerns the film's next-to-the-last seven minute-long continuous traveling shot which moves foward into the frame at an almost imperceptible rate and which impossibly passes through the narrow iron bars of a window and into a courtyard only to come back to the same window to look through the same bars to view the same Nicholson the shot first framed but which upon return finds him dead. This shot is emblematic of a radical strategy Antonioni has since pursued in an even more global fashion in Il mistero di Oberwald (1979) and Identificazione di una donna (1982), whereby elements taken to belong exclusively to filmic technique, elements such as camera movement, framing, point of view, sound, and image tone, which are normally considered to be neutral vehicles for the transparent expression of a narrative—find themselves emphatically motivated, bearing the principal burden of signification in the face of an increasingly banal "story." Such is the case in Professione: Reporter. Preparing the ground for these later films, and perpetuating a research Antonioni has engaged since the films of the early 1950s, the innovative technique of Professione: Reporter proposes nothing short of the fictionalization of technique itself.

—Kimball Lockhart

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