Beyond The Clouds

Michelangelo Antonioni’s farewell feature (1995, 115 min.), combining four sketches from his book That Bowling Alley on the Tiber, is minor only by his own standards. He made it when he was 83, after a stroke ten years earlier left him partially paralyzed and largely unable to speak; to placate the film’s insurers Wim Wenders collaborated on the script and direction, but only on the brief segments linked by a filmmaker (played by John Malkovich) who roams around looking for material. (One of these segments, featuring Jeanne Moreau and the late Marcello Mastroianni, focuses, ironically, on the theme of artistic imitation.) It’s the most directly erotic of Antonioni’s features, its stories all revolving around the possibility of sex between strangers, and Antonioni takes advantage of all the existential mysteries involved. It’s also set in different parts of Italy and France (with English, Italian, and French spoken at different junctures), and Antonioni characteristically intertwines his eroticism of the flesh with an even more precise eroticism of place. With Sophie Marceau, Irene Jacob, Vincent Perez, Peter Weller, Chiara Caselli, Fanny Ardant, Kim Rossi-Stuart, and Ines Sastre. (JR)

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