Identification of a Woman (1982)
Spine No. 585
Claiming I’m an expert scholar of everything Antonioni would be a mistake. I’ve seen a few of his greater works, giving me a decent floor plan of his style and usual themes. Normally, it would take me days and likely multiple viewings to understand the depths of Antonioni’s symbolism and the importance of particular shots, yet Identification of a Woman plays a different tune. Although not everything came or has come to me right away, I can courageously say he made this work much more comprehensible for we small brained few, we happy few.
Identification of a Woman follows the path director Niccolò (Milian) takes as he searches for a face, a woman’s face, to star in his next film, one in which he knows not the story or plot. The only thing more in shambles than his “search for a face” is his distressing love life, his attempts of filling the hole left by his recent divorce all end in tears and questions. It seems he is incapable of love or a clear understanding of human connection, as his solution to every problem appears exaggerated, often generalized. He dabbles on both sides of the social coin to no avail, as each woman proves similar in their conquest for love.
Doing a bit of research, I stumbled upon The New York Times‘s scathing review of Antonioni’s work calling it, “an excruciatingly empty work.” I thought some of the comments were unwarranted, as if they were merely taking the opportunity to lampoon an Italian national treasure. Clearly Identification of a Woman pales in comparison to the likes of The Passenger or La Notte – then again most films do – but this Antonioni piece finds strength in its thematic aspects, delving deep into the human condition and the pain of caring for others.
Antonioni has always made insignificance into something wonderful. A mirror, a window, a sound or a word, these tiny moments can make you fall in love with a filmmaker, coercing you back for more and always satisfying. I enjoyed the film, it brought enough to the table at an interesting pace, while exploiting the city of Rome beautifully (just a side note, I’m usually a fan of anything set in Rome). Identification of a Woman will never be my favorite Antonioni film, nor will it be the second or third, but take solace in knowing it has a great shot of being number four.
The Bonus Features:
the essay: “The Women in the Window,”by John Powers
Very rarely will I dislike the essay Criterion puts out, “The Women in the Window” only solidifies my reasoning. Powers’s essay, like most, emits useful information pertaining to character, theme, symbols and the director himself, though to be fair this kitchen sink of knowledge does come with a leaning bias – you’ll find that every essay in these booklets share that characteristic. The importance of these essays should not be understated, as their usefulness in understanding all the art house films Criterion has released can be unparalleled. This essay in particular gave me great insight into the two female characters of Identification of a Woman, exposing their societal limitations and personal identifications.
the interview: A Love of Today: An Interview with Michelangelo Antonioni
Gideon Bachmann’s interview gives phenomenal insight into Antonioni’s directional ideologies, at least in his later years. I absolutely loved the interview and what the director had to say, he brought to light many aspects of the creative process where I happen to agree. Antonioni refrains from pigeonholing his characters into tight corners of singularity, meaning there is not one way to describe his characters. On top of that, he completely distances himself from his films taking personal identities out of the process. Plus if nothing else, it’s pretty cool reading the actual words of an internationally respected legend.
Overall: The only problem with many of these Criterion films is how hard they are to find in other formats. Usually if you want to own the DVD or Blu-ray you have to go the Criterion route. Normally I would always recommend you buy an Antonioni film, but in the case of Identification of a Woman there is just not enough bonus content to justify the purchase. By all means, watch the film if you get the chance, but save your money for something better.