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Sheltering Sky, The (70mm)

Following the spectacular success of his epic The Last Emperor, director Bernardo Bertolucci was given the opportunity to adapt Paul Bowles’s The Sheltering Sky. Published in 1949, Bowles’s existentially bleak yet wholly fascinating first novel is about educated, somewhat jaded American intellectuals journeying through North Africa and being confronted by an immensity of experience they cannot read or understand. This journey into emptiness is visualised with intense beauty by Bertolucci, who has the advantages of a strong cast and a brilliant cameraman in Vittorio Storaro. John Malkovich and Debra Winger are excellent as Port and Kit Moresby, the unconventional couple whose ten-year marriage begins to unravel while their opportunistic travelling companion looks on. Insisting that they are travellers rather than mere tourists, Port and Kit seek out the exotic and the dangerous. They are searching for their true selves, but these civilised westerners are overwhelmed by the vast, inhospitable desert and its alien culture. Storraro’s stunning images make the desert as beautiful and harsh as Freddy Young did for David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia, and this excellent 70mm print does full justice to his work.
U.K.-Italy, 1990. Colour. Dolby stereo. 138 mins.

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