Christine Boisson, Tomas Milian, and Daniela Silverio in Identificazione di una donna (1982)


IDENTIFICATION OF A WOMAN (Identificazione di una donna)

(director/writer/editor: Michelangelo Antonioni; screenwriter: Gérard Brach; cinematographer: Carlo Di Palma; cast: Tomas Milian (Niccolo), Christine Boisson (Ida), Daniela Silverio (Mavi), Marcel Bozzuffi (Mario), Enrica Antonioni (Nadia), Carlos Valles (Close-up man), Lara Wendel (Girl in swimming pool), Veronica Lazar (Carla); Runtime: 130; Iter Film; 1982-Italy)

“A lugubrious story.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The great Italian director, Michelangelo Antonioni (“Red Desert”/”L’Avventura”/”Blow Up”), presents a lugubrious story about an Italian film director Niccolo (Tomas Milian) who is searching for a woman to star in his next film. Niccolo is also looking for an attractive woman to replace the wife who recently divorced him. Identification of a Woman was not released in American theaters until some 20 years after the film was made. The moody atmospheric film moves at a snail’s pace and the main characters are not the nicest of people, making it difficult to sympathize with them. It could be said that this was one of the director’s more trying melodramatic efforts. But the stylish photography is beautiful — his use of Mediterranean shades of yellow, orange and brown to paint its outside location shots gave the film a pleasing feel. He used blue colors to give the indoors shots a more sobering look.

For Antonioni, contrast is the heart of life: as sometimes things go good, sometimes things go rotten.

What gives the film a certain sense of elegance, underlying its ennui, is that the director is aiming all his guns at pointing out how alienated modern society has become, how people not only can’t communicate with strangers but they too often are not even tuned into the ones they are with.

In the opening scene Niccolo is warned to stay away from the ‘woman.’ The man refuses to identify himself or say who he is working for. That woman is Mavi (Daniela Silverio), a socialite Niccolo is currently seeing. Niccolo is anxious to find out who she knew that might be doing this, but his search is done in such a half-hearted way that it creates little tension.

The film’s main purpose is not the mystery, but in showing the difficulty it is to have a successful relationship in these civilized times. Everyone’s life seems to be too complicated.

To show how alienated modern man is, there is a philosophical question posed by a disgruntled Mavi to her lover, “If man didn’t exist, would God exist?

It’s a film stuck on ideas and metaphors, dragged around by a static story, desperately trying to show how cold the world has become. Yet it is a film from the master director Antonioni covering his favorite theme of alienation and he is someone whose poorer films are still worth seeing, as there is always some nugget to be found. The nugget I found is that the director is suggesting that in this “age of alienation,” it is more fun and realistic to make a childlike fantasy film than an idealized love story.