Sheltering Sky [1990]

Master filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci applies his considerable talent to this haunting adaptation of the Paul Bowles novel. John Malkovich and Debra Winger play Port and Kit Moresby, characters loosely based on Bowles and his wife Jane, who flee New York for North Africa, where they hope to find mystical truths that will reignite the spark of their marriage. But instead they lose their moral bearings (with help from a friend, played by Campbell Scott, who has an affair with Kit) while traveling deeper and deeper into the Sahara. Before long, what started as a vacation at exotic lodgings has descended into a tour of hell, as they stumble farther and farther into an unknowable spiritual territory. Though long and at times slow-moving, the film features marvelously nuanced acting by Malkovich and Winger and visionary filmmaking that makes the landscape at once picturesque and threatening. --Marshall Fine

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