Originally released in 1975, The Passenger is, at its basic level, a suspense story about a man trying to escape his own life. This existential film is a portrait of a journalist who is tired of the grind. He’s played by Jack Nicholson in all his 1970s cinema glory. One day the reporter exchanges his identity with that of a dead man. The movie was shot on location and takes Nicholson on a fascinating journey through North Africa, Germany, Spain, and England.

During an interview about this intense work, Antonioni said that he considered “The Passenger my most stylistically mature film. I also consider it a political film as it is topical and fits with the dramatic rapport of the individual in today’s society.”

As with all of Antonioni’s output, the surface plot structure is a device hiding many other dimensions. With spectacular imagery – you wouldn’t expect anything less from the director – the audience witnesses a powerful study of the human condition. This is a movie about what people believe, or hope, or fear about their ultimate destiny. Cinematically, you will be thrilled by the seven minute closing sequence.

In addition to Nicholson, The Passenger also stars Maria Schneider, who played opposite Marlon Brando in Bernardo Bertolucci’s legendary Last Tango In Paris, another iconic work of the fabled 1970s, the last true era of motion picture glory. The Passenger is based on an original story by Mark Peploe, who co-wrote the screenplay with film historian Peter Wollen and Antonioni. The version that will be show at the Market Arcade will the director’s cut that was originally shown in Europe under the title Professione: reporter. Hopefully, you will have read this article before Tuesday. If not, the movie is also out on DVD, but there’s something about the theater experience that enhances the existential nature of the goings-on. So if you end up watching it at home, turn off all the lights and watch it alone.

The men had their say in Brokeback Mountain, and the now the women have a chance to draw in the crowds with Imagine Me & You, a sweet romantic comedy about that magic moment when love blossoms. In this case the love is lesbian-oriented, and the ladies don’t have to ride horses and herd sheep to be interesting. The movie’s tagline is: There Goes The Bride. Set in an upper-middle class London, the film asks the always popular “oops” question: what if the guy the bride married isn’t as appealing as the woman who provided the flowers? Ooops.

The movie is as light as air, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I enjoyed it. I laughed a bit, delighted in the breezy dialogue, and found pleasure in the wonderfully photographed London scenery and cheery pacing. Screenwriter-director Ol Parker has concocted a frothy comedy-of-manners that turns the standard cinematic romantic triangle on its head. On her wedding day, Rachel (Piper Perabo) seems ready to commit to true love with Heck (Matthew Goode, who can also be seen in Woody Allen’s sublime murder drama Match Point). Things go awry when flower shop owner Luce (pronounced Lucy) offers a bit more appeal.

Imagine Me & You goes on its merry way as Rachel and Luce get closer, Heck is clueless as to what’s going on, Rachel’s tight-assed mother and milquetoast father quibble and quarrel as they sip drinks and live a deluxe life, and Heck’s best guy friend thinks he can bed any lovely bird in town. In the fantasy world that exists in Imagine Me and You, everyone seems to live and work within a few blocks of each other. In fact, there are moments when London seems populated by the same dozen folks and nothing else happens except for what goes on in and around the flower shop. Many features have succeeded by keenly defining the locale, and the device succeeds here as well. Imagine Me & You is a well-acted light comedy that is never showy or overly absurd. It has been plastered with a ridiculous R-rating, and you all know why. It’s the lesbian thing, Jake. In this case, the lesbian connection is a very good thing indeed. Which love conquers all? See the movie to find out.

Richard Price’s dense novel has been turned into the film Freedomland and the big shock is that Price himself wrote the screenplay that seems more like the primer for a course in genre screenwriting than anything else. Actually, it’s actually more of a Chinese restaurant menu kind of thing. Stay with the movie and you’ll experience a social message film, a thriller, a mystery, a family melodrama, and a horror feature. Spooky old house? Nah, how about a spooky old abandoned loony bin? That loony bin is the first place Julianne Moore should look after her automobile gets car-jacked and her kid’s in the back seat. Moore plays a former druggie who lives in a low-rent white suburb that exists next to a low-rent black suburb. That she has a nice car is an ooops moment. Anyway, enter Samuel L. Jackson’s proudly black detective and societal bridge-builder, Eddie Falco’s gang of vigilante mothers who stalk child kidnappers, and enough sociology blather and detective story cliches to last a lifetime. For good measure, Moore’s character has a brother who is also a cop, so we get conflict between white cop and black cop. And we also wonder about why Moore is so manic and if her brother is hiding something. Or maybe she’s hiding something. Well, somebody’s hiding something.

Director Joe Roth has seen to it that everybody gets a good acting scene and that the movie hits all the thematic notes, including takes on motherhood (good), drugs (bad), race relations (important), police ethics (shaky) and infidelity (a clue). By the time the audience is taken to Freedomland, which is the name of the decrepit children’s mental asylum, they should be ready for anything. If this film were a comedy, it would work best if the men of Monty Python were involved. Price and Roth’s have delivered the worst kind of drama, a civics lesson disguised in so many shapes that eventually the whole enterprise becomes formless.

Freedomland is unnecessarily long and eventually unravels like a poorly woven sweater. Watching it, I did appreciate the chance to create my own movie from the myriad plot threads, and I’m happy to report that my movie was better. But I do want to know why Jackson has to yell in all of his films? In mine, he was cool, calm, and collected. Of course, Roth and Price have made it so that Jackson has to chase down many, many clues and character, which, I guess, makes the yelling understandable. By Michael Calleri Movie Editor

One of the greatest movies many of you have never seen is The Passenger, an extraordinary film from director Michelangelo Antonioni. The movie will be playing in Buffalo for one day only, Tuesday, February 21, in the new Digital Space at the Market Arcade Cinemas downtown. Show times are 4:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m., and 9:30 p.m. The programmers of the Digital Space (one of the Market Arcade’s auditoriums) are a New York City-based company that is leasing and converting rooms to digital projection in independent movie theaters around the country. They run the Digital Spaces as a repertory cinema; therefore, movies come and go in the blink of an eye. You have to stay alert and keep in touch with the theater to know what’s being shown. I’m not too happy that the films scheduled are moving in and out with lightning speed. You may already have missed one of the best movies of 2005, Cache and the groundbreaking Steven Soderbergh work, Bubble. They both deserved longer runs, but you can’t blame the farsighted owners, Dipson Theatres. They have nothing to do with the programming.