Michelangelo Antonioni had a rich and diverse career as a filmmaker, beginning in his home country of Italian, which led to the inevitable calling of
, and an eventual return to Italian films. Made in 1982, Identification of a Woman was Antonioni’s first feature set in Hollywood since 1964’s Red Desert. This return came when the director was nearly seventy-years-old, and it has the confident feel of a seasoned director. Though this may not be the best remembered or well-received film in the Italian auteur’s career, Identification of a Woman still has unique merits of its own. Italy
With age and experience Antonioni is able to bring a self-assured pace to Identification of a Woman, a film which is about a middle-aged director who has reached the point in his life where he can bring new people into his life and watch as they leave without the soul-crushing futility of youthful disappointment. When we join Niccoló (Tomás Milián) he is going through a transitional period in both his personal life and his career, and both seem to be hinged on the hope of finding the right woman. After his wife leaves him, Niccoló has two separate affairs with contrasting woman while also searching for the concept of his next feature film. Without any idea what the film is about, Niccoló is certain that it will be centered on a female protagonist.
Searching for a specific face that will inspire the story for his next project, Niccoló plasters his home office with photos of various women from magazines. Unable to find the right woman to star in his unwritten film, Niccoló proves pickier when it comes to his career choices than his personal ones. He quickly falls into an affair with Mavi (Daniela Silverio), a highly sexual aristocrat with a mysterious past and threatening friends. Despite being threatened by a man in an ice cream parlor, Niccoló becomes entangled in an affair with Mavi but is unable to hold onto her. Eventually she just disappears, leaving Niccoló to move on to an actress named Ida (Christine Boisson). Identification of a Woman was notable for its sexually explicit scenes when it was released, though they seem nearly tame by today’s standards.
Ida seems to be steadier and more reliable for a lover, but this affair is cut short but unforeseen circumstances. The difficulty Niccoló has with relationships mirrors his troubles with his film career, though these disappointments are hardly enough to shake the seasoned director. He seems accustomed to the ways of life, and even when he grows to care deeply for these women he always seems somewhat detached. It as if he has become a passive observer even in his own life.
The Blu-ray release includes a spectacular high definition presentation of Antonioni’s visually acute film, most notably enhancing the famous fog-filled drive Niccoló takes with Mavi. The disc also includes an improved English subtitle translation and the theatrical trailer. The booklet insert includes an essay by film critic John Powers and an interview with Antonioni by critic Gideon Bachmann from 1982.