Identification of a Woman: Criterion Collection
November 9, 2011
Identification of a Woman (1982) is often regarded as an aging auteur resting on his laurels, a minor work that won a special prize at the Cannes Film Festival but was also savaged by several American film critics. To be fair, it is not Michelangelo Antonioni at the height of his powers but rather at the twilight of them. It marked the first time in 20 years that he had shot a film in his native Italy. That being said, this film does have its moments – as the filmmaker once again depicts the existential crisis of a superficial protagonist amidst beautifully shot surroundings.
Niccolo Farra (Milian) is a film director whose wife leaves him. So, he starts an affair with a woman named Mavi (Silverio), a patient of his sister’s. One of her other lovers sends a man to warn Niccolo to stop seeing Mavi but he continues to do so. He is trying to get another film going but all he has is a vague idea and is struggling to find that creative spark that will get things going. Niccolo meets another woman named Ida (Boisson), a down-to-earth actress who he fancies as possibly the muse for his next film. She’s much more comfortable in her own skin than Mavi and he finds her confidence attractive.
The film’s show-stopping sequence involves Niccolo and Mavi escaping into the country and getting lost in a thick fog. At one point all that is visible is an ominously blinking traffic light. There’s a dream-like quality to this sequence as we see Niccolo disappear and reappear in the fog. This weather acts as a metaphor for his relationship with Mavi.
It’s tough to feel any kind of sympathy towards Niccolo – he’s a bored rich guy dealing with his own issues that aren’t all that compelling. His interactions with other affluent people aren’t all that interesting, including his affairs with women that lack the eroticism they are supposed to have. Too often it feels like Antonioni is coasting, going through the motions in a largely unengaging film, which is too bad because the actors do a good job but they have little to work with.
A rather long-ish theatrical trailer.