Leonard Cohen: Bird on a Wire
Palmer's film is that rare concert doc that isn't for established fans only.
There is an emptiness in the films of Michelangelo Antonioni that the director seems to love more than the people who intrude upon it. His films are never crowded. Even "Blow-Up," set in London, or "La Notte," in Milan, seem barely inhabited; he is drawn to spaces empty of people, save a few characters who wander irresolutely through in search of -- well, of nothing. They do not want to find, but to seek.
"The Passenger" (1975) begins with a man in a North African village
surrounded by desert. He hires a boy to lead him out into the wilderness, and then a man appears to lead him further still and abandon him. Emptiness surrounds him. The man returns to the town alone. He is David Locke (Jack Nicholson), a journalist who was seeking an interview with guerillas rumored to be somewhere in the
His hotel lacks the usual comings and goings. There is a clerk, and one other resident, a man named Robertson (Charles Mulvehill). They have had a conversation about nothing much. Locke enters Robertson's room and finds him dead. Without premeditation, he exchanges identities with the corpse. He swaps their passports, switches their clothes, tells the clerk there of the dead man, and in London it is thought that David Locke is dead. His wife (Jenny Runacre) and associate (Ian Hendry) begin to edit the footage he took in the desert.
They are looking in the footage for David Locke himself, just as the photographer in "Blow Up" seeks a corpse he thinks he sees on the grass of a park. The more intensely these characters look, the less they see. The new Robertson meanwhile decides to meet certain appointments that the old Robertson had made; this takes him to Munich and a meeting with representatives of the guerillas. He finds he is a gun dealer.
Locke (we will call him that) meets a young woman (Maria Schneider), whose name is never given; in the credits she is The Girl. She joins him on his travels. He has no plans -- neither his own, nor Robertson's. "What are you running away from?" she asks him as they drive in a big American convertible. "Turn your back to the front seat." She does, sees the road receding behind her, and laughs.
This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...
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