I posted this same clip on 6.18.13. I’m assuming a certain percentage of the readership missed it. I may decide to re-post this clip every year at this time. It’s soothing and nurturing to watch this shot every so often. When’s the last time a long dazzling uncut shot like this was the talk of film buffs the world over? 95% of those who live for CG-driven films would never even watch a film like The Passenger and therefore never contemplate a perfect scene like this, but if they did most would sit there like metal lawn furniture and go ‘uhhm, okay…so that’s it?’ But these same spiritual journeymen would sit through the forthcoming movies based on Peeps and It’s A Small World and Barbie.
The real reason I’m re-posting is because (a) Steven Knight‘s Locke opens today and (b) Jack Nicholson‘s character is named David Locke. That’s all. For all I know there have been other noteworthy films since ’75 with a major character named Locke, but the only other Locke I know of is Terry O’Quinn‘s character on Lost.
The Passenger‘s penultimate shot consists of a seven-minute-long dolly-crane shot which begins in Locke’s hotel room, looking out into a dusty, run-down square, slowly pushes out through the bars of the hotel window into the square, rotates 180 degrees, and finally tracks back into the hotel room.
“In a DVD commentary, Nicholson said Antonioni built the entire hotel so as to get this shot.
“Since the shot was continuous, it was not possible to adjust the lens aperture as the camera left the room and went into the square. Hence the footage had to be taken in the very late afternoon near dusk, in order to minimize the lighting contrast between the brightness outside and that in the room.
“The camera ran on a ceiling track in the hotel room and when it came outside the window, was meant to be picked up by a hook suspended from a giant crane nearly 30 metres high. A system of gyroscopes was fitted on the camera to steady it during the switch from this smooth indoor track to the crane outside. Meanwhile the bars on the window had been given hinges. When the camera reached the window and the bars were no longer in the field of view, they were swung away to either side.
“At this time the camera’s forward movement had to stop for a few seconds as the crane’s hook grabbed it and took over from the track. To hide this, the lens was slowly and smoothly zoomed until the crane could pull the camera forward.
“Antonioni directed the scene from a van by means of monitors and microphones, talking to assistants who communicated his instructions to the actors and operators.”