Combustible Celluloid
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With: Tomas Milian, Daniela Silverio, Christine Boisson, Lara Wendel, Veronica Lazar, Enrica Fico, Sandra Monteleoni, Marcel Bozzuffi, Gianpaolo Saccarola, Arianna De Rosa, Alessandro Ruspoli, Carlos Alberto Valles, Sergio Tardioli, Itaco Nardulli, Paola Dominguin, Pier Francesco Aiello, Giada Gerini, Luisa Della Noce, Stefania D'Amario
Written by: Michelangelo Antonioni, Gerard Brach, Tonino Guerra
Directed by: Michelangelo Antonioni
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Language: Italian with English subtitles
Running Time: 131
Date: 05/23/1982

Identification of a Woman (1982)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Inspiring Actress

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

By 1982, the great Michelangelo Antonioni no longer received much love. His great films (L'Avventura, Red Desert, Blow-Up, etc.) were in the past. What he had done lately was the flop Zabriskie Point (1970), the little seen The Passenger (1975), and then The Mystery of Oberwald (1981), a strange, early experiment in shooting on video.

Identification of a Woman (1982) comes closer to classic Antonioni, exploring his favorite themes, such as the elusiveness of identity, but doing so with a new eroticism. In France, both Cahiers du Cinema and Positif magazines chose it as one of the ten best movies of the year, but it apparently did not find U.S. distribution until 1996.

Tomas Milian stars as Niccolo, a film director searching for the perfect actress for his next film. He begins relationships with two women and can't seem to find a handle on what he's looking for.

The film abounds with physical manifestations of this confusion, from Niccolo setting the alarm off in his own apartment in the film's opening scene, to the stunning sequence where Niccolo and Mavi (Daniela Silverio) drive through the fog. They argue and she gets out of the car, but Niccolo can't find her again.

One amazing shot has a giant truck suddenly emerging from the fog like a ghost. Antonioni shows plenty of sex scenes between Niccolo and his girlfriend of the moment, but they're purposely done to look stylish and cold, rather than hot and sweaty. Niccolo is not the warmest and friendliest of protagonists; part of the reason he can't find what he needs is that he's so closed up and abrasive, which also makes him interesting.

Identification of a Woman is not an easy film, but it's a most welcome addition to Antonioni's canon. Ten years ago, Facets released it on a VHS cassette, and I have never seen the film on DVD. Now the Criterion Collection provides us with a new DVD and an amazing new Blu-Ray, which restores the film's pristine compositions to their rightful glory. Besides an uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-Ray, a trailer, and a liner notes booklet that includes an interview with Antonioni and an essay by John Powers, extras are skimpy.

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