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The Sheltering Sky (1990)

1:46 | Trailer
An American couple travel abroad to revitalize their relationship. But as the trip drags on, their attempt at recovering what they once had seems futile.


Paul Bowles (book), Mark Peploe (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Won 1 Golden Globe. Another 8 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Debra Winger ... Kit
John Malkovich ... Port
Campbell Scott ... Tunner
Jill Bennett ... Mrs Lyle
Timothy Spall ... Eric Lyle
Eric Vu-An Eric Vu-An ... Belqassim
Amina Annabi ... Mahrnia
Philippe Morier-Genoud Philippe Morier-Genoud ... Captain Broussard
Sotigui Kouyaté ... Abdelkader (as Sotigui Kouyate)
Tom Novembre Tom Novembre ... French Immigration Officer
Mohamed Ben Smaïl Mohamed Ben Smaïl ... Smail (as Ben Smail)
Kamel Cherif Kamel Cherif ... Ticket Seller
Mohammed Afifi Mohammed Afifi ... Mohamed (as Afifi Mohamed)
Brahim Oubana Brahim Oubana ... Young Arab
Carolyn De Fonseca Carolyn De Fonseca ... Miss Ferry (as Carolyn de Fonseca)


The American artist couple Port and Kit Moresby travels aimless through Africa, searching for new experiences that could give new sense to their relationship. But the flight to distant regions leads both only deeper into despair. Written by Thomas Manhardt <Thomas.Manhardt@wu-wien.ac.at>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A woman's dangerous and erotic journey... See more »


Adventure | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


John Malkovich's character, Port Moresby, has the same name as the capital city of Papua New Guinea. See more »


The crew is reflected in the bus window before Port bites his tongue. See more »


[first lines]
Port Moresby: Well, terra firma.
Tunner: We're probably the first tourists they've had since the war.
Kit Moresby: Tunner, we're not tourists. We're travelers.
Tunner: Oh. What's the difference?
Port Moresby: A tourist is someone who thinks about going home the moment they arrive, Tunner.
Kit Moresby: Whereas a traveler might not come back at all.
Tunner: You mean *I'm* a tourist.
Kit Moresby: Yes, Tunner. And I'm half and half.
See more »


Referenced in Drug-Taking and the Arts (1993) See more »


Sharan Liwahdi
Written by Ahmed Rami and Riyad Al Sunbati (as Riad el Soumbati)
Performed by Om Koultoum as (Om Kalsoum)
See more »

User Reviews

The Star of the Film is The Sahara
22 May 2006 | by katiekeeneSee all my reviews

Bernardo Bertolucci co-wrote and directed the film of the classic post WW2 novel by author, Paul Bowles, who also narrates.

The opening shot (after the credits roll over 1947 New York City and a ship disembarks from its port) is of Port's (John Malkovich) face as he awakens in a North African hotel room, the same scene that opens in the novel. Debra Winger is her most attractive as his young wife,'Kit.' They are accompanied by a randy travel companion, 'Tunner.'

The "casbah" atmosphere of the Moslem city's narrow stone streets, flooded with Arab denizens, camels, livestock invites the viewer in.

As soon as the odious "Mrs. Lyle" and her sweaty, overweight son came into the fly-ridden hotel lobby in the hot sultry desert nowhere, I knew I'd love to hate them.

John Malkovich is seduced by a street-smart, young Arab who beckons him to follow through dark streets into a girl prostitute's desert tent. (live chickens inside are a wonderful touch.)

The Sheltering Sky is a good representation of the novel. The book's narrative of setting, characters, and plot is dramatically envisioned and colored by the reader's point of view and imagination. We literally make the story ours; so when we watch the film version, we tend to judge the director's interpretation seriously.

Bertolucci's vision was entertaining and realized well, especially the lead character: the vast Sahara Desert, and exotic ambiance; the cinematography was beautiful. i look forward to watching it on DVD.

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UK | Italy


English | French | Arabic

Release Date:

12 December 1990 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Sheltering Sky See more »


Box Office


$25,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$82,753, 16 December 1990

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo (35 mm prints)| 70 mm 6-Track (70 mm prints)


Black and White (archive footage)| Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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