THIS FRIDAY night, catch Jack Nicholson in Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger (1975) at the American Film Institute. Nicholson plays an American reporter, disillusioned with his life, who takes the identity of a dead man. The new life, he finds out, involves dealing with gunrunners and Maria Schneider -- which is at least half good. The story is somewhat enigmatic, but Antonioni (one part director, two parts landscape architect) fills the film with wonderful scenes of Southern Europe and the North African desert. His final shot is beautifully mystical. The AFI screening's at 6:30. Admission is $3.50 (members) and $4.50 (non-members).
Saturday at 2:30 you can see Hungarian director Miklo's Jancso''s Elektreia (1975) free at the National Gallery of Art's East Building auditorium; it repeats Sunday at 6. Jancso' (who won Best Director at Cannes for his 1972 Red Psalm) retells the Greek myth on a Hungarian plain, with his usual prolonged and visually abundant shots.
At the Library of Congress' Mary Pickford Theater Friday at 7:30 is William Wellman's The Next Voice You Hear, screenwriter Charles Schnee's fantasy about the power of radio -- in 1950, at least. Tuesday at 7:30 it's Hitchcock's North by Northwest, featuring the immortal cast of Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, and James Mason as the silky-voiced villain.
Thursday at 7:30, it's one of the all-time great film noirs -- Jacques Tourneur's Out of the Past. Robert Mitchum pits himself against a wonderfully ruthless Kirk Douglas to win the heart of siren Jane Greer. Mitchum knows Greer's all bad, but he can't help himself. When someone tries to comfort him by saying no one is really evil, Mitchum replies, "But she comes the closest." All Pickford Theater films are free. Reservations advised. Call 287-5677.
Entertainment attorney Janice F. Hill will answer screenwriters' questions about selling their work. "Negotiating the Deal" lasts two hours, costs $15 and will be at 6:30 Thursday in the American Film Institute's third-floor screening room. For reservations call 528-6273. The event is sponsored by Women in Film and Video.