(out of 5)
Michelangelo Antonioni’s first completed feature after suffering a stroke in 1985 ended up being his last, with only the short in the Eros omnibus completed after this one. It tells four stories of romance, all of them curated by John Malkovich as a filmmaker who explores the possibilities of love in cinema while flying in an airplane and looking out his window. In the first, Kim Rossi Stuart and Inés Sastre are drawn to each other but separated by his desire to attain unattainable perfection in lovemaking. Then Malkovich himself is obsessed with Sophie Marceau after she reveals that she killed her father, while Peter Weller stars in the third as a man navigating between his wife (Fanny Ardant) and his mistress (Chiara Caselli). In the fourth story, Vincent Perez is a man who becomes entranced with a young woman (Irène Jacob) he follows to church. Marcello Mastroianni and Jeanne Moreau pop up for a cameo at some point, suggesting that we are catching up with the couple from La Notte, but even their stellar presence can do nothing for what is such a surprisingly mundane experience. The man who made stunningly personal and passionate epics in the sixties finds himself still physically adept at directing cinema despite his compromised situation (with Wim Wenders on hand to direct some segments as well) but emotionally very removed from the tales he is telling (based on his own novel). It’s possible he would have done better to make a film more connected with his current perspective rather than trying to recapture youthful passions that he seems to find nothing magical or inspirational in. You know you’re doing a bad job of telling a tale when you make even Fanny Ardant come off trite, and unimaginative casting like Jacob as, yet again, the girl who exists on a delicately innocent, almost ethereal plane, is just sleep-inducing. Antonioni completists will want to check it out, but otherwise it’s not much to speak of.
Sunshine, France 3 Cinema, Ciné B, Cecchi Gori Group Tiger Cinematografica, Road Movies Zweite Produktionen, Canal+, Arbeitsgemeinschaft der öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Degeto Film, Centre National De La Cinematographie, Eurimages, Wim Wenders Stiftung
Screenplay by Michelangelo Antonioni, Tonino Guerra, Wim Wenders, adaptation and additional dialogue by Francesco Marcucci, based on the book The Bowling Alley On The Tiber River by Michelangelo Antonioni
Production Design by Thierry Flamand
Costume Design by Esther Walz
Toronto International Film Festival: 1995