Master filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci applies his considerable talent to this haunting adaptation of the Paul Bowles novel. John Malkovich and Debra Winger play Port and Kit Moresby, characters loosely based on Bowles and h... more »is wife Jane, who flee New York for North Africa, where they hope to find mystical truths that will reignite the spark of their marriage. But instead they lose their moral bearings (with help from a friend, played by Campbell Scott, who has an affair with Kit) while traveling deeper and deeper into the Sahara. Before long, what started as a vacation at exotic lodgings has descended into a tour of hell, as they stumble farther and farther into an unknowable spiritual territory. Though long and at times slow-moving, the film features marvelously nuanced acting by Malkovich and Winger and visionary filmmaking that makes the landscape at once picturesque and threatening. --Marshall Fine« less
"Director Bernardo Bertolucci is the perfect choice for bringing Paul Bowles incredible novel -- one of the most finely crafted of the 20th century and one of my favorite books -- to the screen. Debra Winger and John Malkovich are fine as Kit and Port -- spoiled, bored, EMPTY Americans 'travelling' (NOT tourists) in Morocco just after WWII. Their journey -- one of self-discovery and an attempt to bring some life back into their marriage -- turns from one of idle fascination with an exotic culture (one in which Bowles, the author, immersed himself long ago, one which he loved unabashedly) turns into a trip to hell. Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.Campbell Scott is also good in the role of their friend Tunner, and the Lyles -- the fawning Eric and his intolerably superior mother -- are every bit as disgusting as they seem. Some viewers have found these latter two portrayals to be a bit 'over the top' -- but they're completely irritating characters, whining and complaining constantly about the conditions in which they chose to place themselves. They are the biting fleas you cannot remove from your sleeping bag, no matter how long you search for them.Filmed on location in the African desert, the film resounds and shines with Bertolucci's touch -- if it seems long and slow in places, those characteristic accurately portray the atmosphere of life in desert Morocco. The unbelievable heat would tend to slow things down a bit. The director's use of camera angles, light, and those long, slow, sweeping shots are masterful and perfect. Bowles was consulted every step of the way -- a sign of the respect held for the author and his work by the director -- and he even appears in the film and supplies narration.I am amazed that a film of this scope, made by a director of Bertolucci's stature, with two of the most critically acclaimed actors of our time, has not appeared on DVD. There's a wonderful documentary called DESERT ROSES: THE MAKING OF 'THE SHELTERING SKY' that would make a nice piece of bonus material for a DVD release. When the film was shown on BRAVO, that network had the good taste to run the documentary along with it. There's also a fine documentary on Bowles available from Mystic Fire Video, PAUL BOWLES IN MOROCCO, that gives an informative portrait of this literary giant."
Maria Álvarez Folgado | castellar del valles, barcelona Spain | 03/09/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"this film has a haunting quality which makes it almost frightening. Although the young American couple, who are protagonists of this film, travel deeper and deeper into the North African desert in search of a self-revelation that will help them save their relation, they only find self-destruction. In the midst of the frightening nothingness of the inmense landscapes, and the still more frightening nothingness of the increasingly evident impossibility of communication (and not only with the natives), each of them feels compelled to confront what they really are, to look inside themselves. What they see there finally destroys them in a shattering moment (superbly performed) of true, if unbearable, revelation. A very good film, although it doesn't follow many of the aspects of the novel that would help the audience to understand better this story."
"No Names, No Dates, Just Pieces Of Broken Pottery" ~ The Di
Brian E. Erland | Brea, CA - USA | 01/05/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Synopsis: Rich, dissatisfied American couple, Port Moresby (John Malkovich) and his wife Kit Debra Winger), travel to exotic North Africa hoping adventure will renew some interest in their failing marriage. The two travelers temporarily become a trio with the addition of fellow American George Tunner (Campbell Scott). George however turns out to be more of a tourist than a traveler* and they soon part company as the Moresby travel deeper and deeper into the vast, arid landscape. The desert experience turns out to be more than anticipated and those who survive will be forever changed. In the final analysis isn't that what a adventure is supposed to accomplish?
`The Sheltering Sky' released in '90 boasts a soundtrack of wonderfully ethnic music and some of the most beautiful cinematography you could ever hope for. Unfortunately in my opinion the plot falls short of delivering the full existential, introspective nature of the storyline. Artistic to a fault but it doesn't generate any interest in the chararacters. `The Sheltering Sky' is well worth a watch for the scenery alone, but it certainly would be a difficult repeat viewing for me.
*[A tourist is someone who thinks about going home the moment they arrive, whereas a traveller might not come back at all]."
FINALLY AFTER 12 YEARS, "THE SHELTERING SKY" ON DVD!
earthvolunteer | Atlanta, Ga. USA | 09/03/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some love it and some hate it, but it is nearly impossible to deny that this is compelling filmmaking. Yes, the film does have many different elements from Paul Bowles' novel, but Bertolucci's work is equally mesmerizing and carries one on the same strange journey into north Africa.Some see Debra Winger as miscast in the role of Kit. I think the three stars, Malkovich, Winger and Campbell Scott are nearly perfect in the film and lend great credibility to this esoteric telling of a complicated and deteriorating relationship. This is one of those films where, in addition to the three leads, there exists a fourth central character...the land itself. If you want to feel as if you have journeyed through the colorful canyons, dusty cities and great desert regions of northern Africa (not always in first-class comfort, mind you) "The Sheltering Sky" will take you there. Don't try too hard to make sense of everything which is happening externally and internally to the characters, as the storytelling is often elliptical, just absorb the simultaneous beauty and tragedy of this unique experience."
Rates in my top five of the last 40 years
Patricia Dowd (firstname.lastname@example.org) | California, USA | 10/08/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For some reason no one seems to see this as a period piece, for it is, but without the usual saga styled story or moral lesson. Instead it is a sensitive story of the inadequasies of relationships, especially with young marrieds, and the pathos of both male and female sexuality. That it is also set in a country where nothing has changed for centuries makes the pureness of the period all the more poignant."