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Monday Morning Foreign Region DVD Report: "Identification of a Woman" (Antonioni, 1982)

At one point in Identification of a Woman, its film-director hero Niccolo is confronted with a demand that helps you understand one reason filmmakers the world over hate George Lucas: the character's nephew entreats him to make a science-fiction movie. At the end of Identification, Niccolo imagines that sci-fi film, with a spaceship carved out of an asteroid heading for the heart of the sun.
But Identification, in which Niccolo begins an affair with the enigmatic Mavi (Daniela Silverio), only to have her abruptly cut out on him, and then takes up with Ida (Christine Boisson) while still preoccupied with Mavi, is already something of a science-fiction film. For one thing, it features clones, of a sort; see the two Daniela Silverios in the above shot. A bit later in the film, Milian passes through a clothing store and the shot lingers on a shopgirl who's dressing up a cardboard cutout model who looks an awful lot like...a younger Tomas Milian.
The film distorts time at several junctures, most radically at the beginning, when a sullen stranger phones Niccolo to arrange a meeting, and at that meeting obliquely warns him against continuing his affair with Mavi. It is only after this scene that we see how Mavi and Niccolo met. Antonioni signals the flashback, yes, but in the most noncommital way possible—a short dissolve which in conventional film grammar usually connotes "later" or "in the meanwhile." By the time the viewer puts the pieces together, a palpable sense of disorientation has set in. The scene in which Niccolo finds Mavi has gone missing seems to exist in a temporal free-float. And so on.
Space, too, is increasingly warped, particularly via reflective surfaces, and grows ever more so as Ida and Niccolo hammer out their estrangement, and the picture draws to a close.
The synth-washes of the faux-futuristic music John Foxx wrote for the film also contribute to the unearthly, or perhaps I should say otherworldly, feel. In some notes he generously wrote for me when I asked him to comment on Antonioni's death last year, Foxx recalled, "The music was intended to be almost innocuously ersatz—like background music that might be used in an hotel or bar (somewhere those characters might meet)—a slightly elevated elevator music." He also came up with an excellent all-round description of what we might call the Antonioni touch: "Mundane becoming extraordinary through the elegant and always unexplained removal or addition of a single element—a person or what we assume to be a part of the context." In this film, which seems in many ways a deliberate step back in scale and scope from the likes of Zabriskie Point and The Passenger, Antonioni's alchemy of alienation produces peculiar, haunting effects he never achieved before, and, after his debilitating 1985  stroke, would never quite be able to ring again.
The region 2 SureFilm DVD of this film is better than presentable, but the extras advertised on the jacket copy are nowhere to be found on the disc itself.

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