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The Sheltering Sky

3.8 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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(Sep 03, 2002)
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Editorial Reviews

American artist couple Port (John Malkovich) and Kit (Debra Winger) Moresby are drawn by desire and destiny to travel through Saharan Africa, attempting to recapture the love the once shared.

Special Features

  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
  • All-New Digital Transfer

Product Details

  • Actors: Debra Winger, John Malkovich, Campbell Scott, Jill Bennett, Timothy Spall
  • Directors: Bernardo Bertolucci
  • Writers: Bernardo Bertolucci, Mark Peploe, Paul Bowles
  • Producers: Jeremy Thomas, William Aldrich
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Unknown), French (Unknown)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Portuguese, Japanese, Georgian, Chinese, Thai
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: September 3, 2002
  • Run Time: 138 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000696IB
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #47,296 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Sheltering Sky" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape
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.
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Format: DVD
I couldn't find the edition I read of "The Sheltering Sky" here on [...] but my copy includes an introduction by Paul Bowles written a year or so before he died. In the introduction, he says "the less said about the film version, the better."

(His only other comment about the film was to mock the filmmakers for trying to make Debra Winger look like his wife Jane and sell the story as a thinly-veiled account of their trip into the Sahara...a trip that Bowles swears he never took with Jane).

I'd seen the movie before reading the book and was intrigued with the story enough to read the novel. Then I watched the movie again. The film is certainly more interesting if you've read the book. That's probably because you can follow the inner thoughts and feelings (or lack of feelings) of the characters, something you'd only have to guess at while watching the film otherwise. It seemed to me that some really good dialogue was left out of the film between Port and Kit, especially in their final scenes. (That some of this dialogue was given to the author during his cameo at the beginning and end of the film didn't make it any easier either).

I love John Malkovich but I think he's not really right for Port. Port comes across (to me) as a vain, handsome but empty man stubbornly trying to free himself from his privileged existence. Malkovich is too intense and interesting, too unpredictable to be a pretty boy foolishly blundering through the Sahara to shake himself off. He's a great actor but his talents obscures this character (again, my opinion).

And I've really learned to appreciate Debra Winger. She really is one of this country's finest actresses, taking on some really tough roles and making them work.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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.
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Format: DVD
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].
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