Cinema: Tragedy Is Their Destination

Bertolucci makes a bleak, beautiful film of The Sheltering Sky

Ever since its publication in 1949, Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky has been praised for its portrayal of a modern married couple afflicted with ennui, malaise, anomie -- the chic social diseases that Americans of the postwar era picked up from French intellectuals. But the novel has another ghoulish attraction: it maps out the all-time nightmare itinerary for the innocent abroad.

Port Moresby (John Malkovich), the protagonist of Bowles' story and of the swank, sexy, bleak and very beautiful film that Bernardo Bertolucci has made from it, is traveling with his wife Kit (Debra Winger) and an upper-class twit of a...

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